Grand country sale at Slane

Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 01:00

Decorative items from Carrigglas Manor in Longford are some of the many lots on offer at the Adams country sale

ONCE A YEAR, fine art and antiques auctioneers Adam’s decamps from its base overlooking the tamed wilderness of St Stephen’s Green, Dublin and sets up shop in the Co Meath countryside.

The venue for its Country House Collections auction on Tuesday is Slane Castle, where three days of viewing begin at 11am this morning.

Lord Henry Mountcharles isn’t selling up but is simply hiring out his ancestral home for the occasion. There will be stewarded parking in the castle grounds and catering in the dungeons. Wear warm clothing and carry a hip-flask. Irish castles are always draughty.

The annual event attracts large crowds – from Ireland and overseas – and has produced some spectacular results in the past.

In 2010, a riding whip owned by the Empress of Austria, found in the attic of a Co Meath house, made €37,000 – over 1,000 times the estimate. And last year, Chinese collectors, who had travelled especially to Slane, sparked a bidding battle for a cracked Ming dish which had been valued at €3,000 but sold for €310,000.

Conforming to Downton Abbey’s always pithy Dowager Countess of Grantham’s dictum that “nothing succeeds like excess”, the all-day auction will feature over 700 lots – including furniture, porcelain, pictures, silver and Persian rugs from various country houses.

Many of the lots come from Carrigglas, a Co Longford mansion owned by the Anglo-Irish Lefroy family who sold the estate during the boom.

In 2006, grandiose plans were launched by the then Minister for Finance Brian Cowen for a €160 million development to transform Carrigglas Manor into a luxury, 96-bedroom hotel surrounded by a Retief Goosen-designed golf course and 322 houses.

Two years later the project collapsed and the unfinished housing estate, in the middle of nowhere, has become a “ghost estate”.

Now the contents of Carrigglas, including several portraits of rather stern-looking Victorian members of the Lefroy family, which have survived centuries of upheaval, are destined to find new owners.

Among the highlights are: a painting titled A River Landscape with classical ruins and numerous figures and animals by Willem Van Der Hagen (died 1745) estimated at €20,000-€30,000; a George IV mahogany centre table, made circa 1840, with an inset black and patterned grey marble top, given to celebrate the completion of Carrigglas Manor by the Italian branch of the family who owned the Carrara marble quarries (€10,000-€15,000); and a set of four Irish George III silver entree dishes, made in Dublin 1811, by James Scott, retailed by West’s, the domed covers engraved with a crest and coat of arms (€8,000-€12,000).

Among the non-Carrigglas lots in the auction are a 19th-century hunting trophy which is likely to attract interest from the huntin’, shoot’ fishin’ set.

The Westmeath Challenge Urn, a silver trophy made in London in 1834 by silversmiths Charles Reily and George Storer, is decorated with images of the Westmeath hunt in full flight and is estimated at €10,000-€12,000.

An Irish George II pine and oak side table with a Siena marble top, originally part of the furnishings of Drumcondra House, Dublin, home to 18th century aristocrat Sir Marmaduke Coghill, has an estimate of €5,000-€8,000.

Adam’s Country House Collections auction at Slane Castle, Co Meath, Tuesday, October 9th. Viewing today, tomorrow and Monday.