Westport House: The tale behind the sale

The Mayo mansion saw decades of tension between its owners and the town they created

Westport House in Co Mayo, home to the Browne family since the 1700s and one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, was put on the market for €10 million. Video: Enda O’Dowd

On the last day of January, at the historic Westport House, in Co Mayo, there was a press conference to announce the surprise news that, almost a year after the house and its grounds had gone on sale, they had been bought. The sellers, the sisters Sheelyn and Karen Browne, were photographed standing between the new owners, the brothers Owen, Cathal and Harry Hughes. Sheelyn Browne is shaking hands with Cathal Hughes.

The Browne family, whose history with the house and estate goes back to 1730, had only the previous day learned of both the sale and the identity of the buyers. It clearly took considerable courage and grace for the sisters to stand in the public eye that morning. They had to greet the new owners – who run the international Portwest clothing company – with civility, knowing that the sale was an end to the financial nightmare the family had been enduring for years, while processing the fact that this was the end of their centuries-long link to the house and estate.

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