ONE of the county’s most idlylic period homes houses was the subject of a Supreme Court case last week. Magnificent Brownsbarn House, close to the River Nore between Thomastown and Inistioge next to the bridge of the same name has been the subject of litigation for the last number of years.
The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of businessman James Stanley in a dispute with his former partner over the ownership of the property. It ruled that Brownsbarn House is held by a company in trust for Mr Stanley, the former chairman of Bula Resources (Holdings Ltd).
Mr Stanley, with an address in Moscow, Russia, had brought High Court proceedings against his ex-partner Mary Kieran (aka Mary Crawley), with an address at Brownsbarn House, and against River Properties Ltd, with registered offices in the British Virgin Islands.
He sought a declaration he is the beneficial owner of the lands and premises at Brownsbarn House or, alternatively, a declaration that Ms Kieran held the issued share capital in the company in trust for him.
In 2007, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy dismissed his claim. She ruled he had adduced no documentary evidence of the legal or beneficial ownership of the shares in the company and the amount of control given by him to Ms Kieran over the property was not consistent with his claim to be beneficial owner.
She found there was a 10-year delay in registering the lands. She noted the case proceeded in the absence of the company and said the failure of Mr Stanley to adduce any evidence of the company’s current incorporated status, its membership and directors, was “difficult to comprehend”.
Mr Stanley appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court on grounds including Ms Justice Laffoy had made inferences and findings against him that, he argued, she was not entitled to make. He argued there was insufficient evidence to rebut the presumption the property was held by Ms Kieran and the company by way of a trust in favour of her.
The court heard Ms Kieran and Mr Stanley cohabited between 1983 and 1994. He claimed the property was purchased in 1989 for £235,000 and conveyed to the company, the share capital of which was registered in her name, and held in trust for him.
In 2000, he asked her to join with him in mortgaging the property but she refused, he claimed. Ms Kieran intended to dispose of the property without reference to him, he also claimed.
In her defence, Ms Kieran, representing herself, denied that Mr Stanley bought the house in either her name or the company’s name in trust for him. She argued he was prevented from asserting any claim on the property because she had lived with him as a common- law wife, acted as his personal assistant in business affairs and was entitled to the sole and beneficial interest in the property.
The Supreme Court found Ms Kieran held the shares of the company in trust for Mr Stanley and also held the property in trust for Mr Stanley. Ms Justice Susan Denham said the High Court had erred in setting aside the express evidence of Mr Stanley.
The detached two-bay two-storey over basement double gable-fronted High Victorian Gothic-style country house was built 1856-63, incorporating the fabric of earlier house, pre-1749, on site which was part refenestrated.
It was built as a shooting lodge for William McDougall JP (c.1810-1875) in the unmistakable style of Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (1828-99) in conjunction with Benjamin Woodward (1816-61) recalling a contemporary (1865) scheme by the partnership at Turlough Park (House), Turlough, County Mayo.
Making a dramatic visual impact the construction in bands of granite and sandstone exhibits expert stone masonry while refined embellishments including dressings in locally-sourced limestone enrich the robust Ruskinian Gothic-style architectural design theme of the composition. It historic connections with the Roth (Rothe), the Nixon, the Lambert, the Holden, the Blackburne, and the Teighmouth families.
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