Many lots in sale from Charles Acton's home


In what is likely to be the last major sale of the season, Mealy's will offer around 1,400 lots of furniture, paintings, silver and general items next Tuesday and Wednesday at its auction rooms in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

This is a tremendously varied sale with fine antique furniture standing cheek by jowl with reproduction pieces and a fascinating array of small items mixed in with plenty of downright bric-a-brac. Most of the smaller items - the silver, china, glass and so on - will be disposed of on the first day with the more valuable furniture, paintings and garden furniture coming up on Wednesday.

Almost one third of the lots come from a single source, the estate of the late Charles Acton who was for many years music critic of The Irish Times. The Acton family came from Kilmacurragh House in Co Wicklow, a large Georgian house that is now owned by the OPW, which has plans to restore the house and garden and open them to the public.

Although the Actons left the house about 20 years ago and moved to Foxrock in Dublin, they kept a good deal of the furniture, including a monumental George III mahogany bookcase with Gothic-style glazed doors that is expected to fetch £12,000-£15,000. It was given to the Actons by the Synge family of Glenmore Castle in Co Wicklow, and at 11 feet wide and 10 feet tall, it really needs to go to a similarly grand home.

No less imposing is lot 928, a very ornate Irish Victorian oak library bookcase made in Derry and purchased originally by the Bishop of Derry. It carries an estimate of £3,000-£5,000. The highlight of the sale in terms of quality is lot 1136, a very fine Irish mahogany kneehole writing cabinet being sold, we are told, by a Gentleman of Title. A similar piece can be seen in the furniture collection at Malahide Castle and it also bears a strong resemblance to the Adare Cabinet, purchased in recent years by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Dating from around 1750, the cabinet with its mirrored doors and eagle perched between its carved swan neck pediments, is likely to be targeted by English dealers who see Irish antiques as good value at present because of the strength of sterling. This could push the price well beyond the rather conservative estimate of £20,000-£25,000. There is also strong interest, according to George Mealy, in an 18th century Irish terrestrial pocket globe, once part of a collection of globes at Kilmacurragh. Measuring just three inches in diameter, it was made in 1750 by William King of Dublin it is enclosed in a fish skin case lined with celestial charts. The estimate is £4,000-£6,000 which, again, could prove conservative.

Among the less expensive furniture lots are several attractive library chairs, plenty of tea, card and occasional tables, sets of dining chairs and a nice George IV period dining table by Gillingtons of Dublin at £2,500-£3,500.

Among the smaller lots are curiosities galore, from carved Chinese ornaments to animal heads, leather gun cases, swords and sabres as well as card cases and paper knives, seals and shoe buckles, with estimates varying from £50 to £500. Those with less to spend can forage through the bric-a-brac, with plenty of boxed lots on offers. Take lot 314, "comprising a Nazi helmet, various thermos lamps, brassware and the contents of a wardrobe". It is bound to be just what someone wants! The sale can be viewed tomorrow from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and all day Monday.

Serious furniture buyers may already have spent their money before next Tuesday, if they are planning to drop by Mullen's auction Monday evening. "It's the best collection we have managed to put together this year," he says of the sale's core items which include this attractive satinwood, harewood and marquetry bow front commode attributed to Hicks. It is expected to make up to £15,000. Other notable lots are: a George II mahogany breakfront bookcase with astragal glazed doors estimated at £4,000-£6,000; a Regency rosewood card table valued at £2,500-£3,500; a fine Edwardian mahogany inlaid bookcase on chest, £7,000-£10,000; a pair of 19th century Continental pot cupboards with marble tops and blind panelled doors, £2,400-£2,800 and a Victorian walnut library table which could fetch up to £4,000. With antique French furniture becoming increasingly popular there should be good interest in lot 288, a pretty pair of French gilt and tapestry bergere armchairs carrying an estimate of £2,800-£3,500.