New book tells tale of Prehen House

Prehen House. 3003JM79
Prehen House. 3003JM79

A fascinating new book charting the history and owners of Prehen House will be launched in the city next week.

The book, which took four years to complete, has been compiled by local author Brendan Doherty.

The publication - which includes both modern and vintage photographs - is the brainchild of the Friends of Prehen House which was first instigated in 2004 by the late Annesley Malley and the Peck family of Prehen House.

Brendan Doherty says it was Annesley Malley who first suggested the idea of a book about the historic house.

“Initially, I was asked to prepare a draft but, at that time, however, Prehen’s history was patchy and we did not have any photographs available,” explains Brendan.

“We did not even know that any existed until it was decided that a trip to Germany to visit the last survivor of the Prehen Knox dynasty would be a worthwhile endeavour.

“It was then that I that had the honour of accompanying Carola Peck on a trip to Hamburg in 2007 to visit Johann, the only son of the former Prehen Baron von Scheffler-Knox. His apartment was a like an Aladdin’s Cave of Prehen memorabilia and antiquities and he was happy to let me take some notes and copy some of his father’s old photographs.

“Letters and diaries were later found which told stories of previous generations and how they met their loved ones. Using some of this material, along with what we already knew, a rough draft was compiled, which went through various evolutionary stages until we had something we all liked.

“But it wasn’t until late last year that we finally acquired the necessary permissions, as well as the funding, to complete the project. The book was then re-edited and updated over the winter and, in March of this year, it finally went to print.”

The book, says Brendan, tells the chronological story of Prehen and the three families that have owned it and is “entirely based on facts and original first hand knowledge”.

In the introduction to the new book, Tim Knox - a Prehen Knox descendant - describes his ancestral home as an “atmospheric place”.

Visitors to the house, he says, will find a “secret, overgrown elysium... with its great dark-stone house, handsome, but somewhat forbidding, commanding sweeping views over the river.”

Prehen House was owned by his ancestors between 1740 and 1914 and was, says Tim Knox, rescued in 1971 - “after years of neglect and dereliction by Julian and Carola Peck who came to live here with their young family”.

He says the Pecks’ “courage and vision” revived Prehen, “filling it again with family and friends”.

According to Carola Peck, the house has had to withstand the ravages of time.

She says: “In 1971, there was a hole in the roof the size of a grand piano and now the secret passage is on the point of collapse. Yet, here it is today, a strong, impassive, dignified stone house of ashlar and quoins cut in stone.”

It is Julian and Carola’s second son, Colin, who now oversees what is left of the once grand Prehen Estate. He opened the house to the public in 2004.