The last vestiges of the Big House


The build-up to the eagerly anticipated auction at Mount Congreve begins today with the first viewing

VIEWING GETS underway at noon today for next week’s two-day auction of the contents of Mount Congreve in Co Waterford. Given the quality and quantity on offer – over 1,100 lots – the sale is attracting interest from collectors in Ireland and overseas.

Among the highlights is a pair of china cabinets, made of Spanish walnut and inlaid with tortoiseshell and ivory. They contain a collection of Staffordshire salt-glaze ceramics, assembled by Lady Charlotte Schreiber, an ancestor of Ambrose Congreve, the late owner of the house. She was a Victorian aristocrat who travelled Europe collecting china and rare fans, and she donated much of her collection to what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design in London.

The two cabinets are being sold as one lot and the estimate is €40,000-€60,000. Individual fans have estimates ranging from €150-€700.

Classic car collectors will be keen to see a rare Rolls Royce Phantom VI – a shell-grey saloon-type luxury car described as “50 horse power” with an “8-cylinder 6230cc engine” and bodywork by Mulliner Park Ward, the London bespoke coachbuilder. The Phantom VI was an “ultra-exclusive model” made from 1968-1991 and only 374 were built for customers including royalty, governments and, the very, very rich.

This example was imported to Ireland by Ambrose Congreve in April 1969 and registered in Co Waterford. The registration plates bear the IK letters once used to denote the county before the introduction of W and WD symbols. The estimate is €30,000-€50,000 and not the lower price range printed in the catalogue.

Collectors of rare books have a treat in store. Hundreds of leather-bound antiquarian books, many with fine bindings and plate illustrations, will go under the hammer on the second day of the auction.

An album of rare and very early photographs of “Ancient Egypt” taken by THG Fermor in about 1855 is estimated at €5,000-€7,000. The collection contains 32 albumen prints (each approximately 20cm by 25 cm) with handwritten captions of views including the Obelisk at Luxor and the temple at Karnach (sic).

Other highlights include a second-edition, two-volume copy of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (1755); €2,000-€3,000. A six-volume large folio edition of The Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, (1802), is €400-€600.

The diversity of subjects and titles is intriguing and the travel books, especially, are wonderful. A first Dublin edition of Capt Cook’s Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (three volumes published in 1784) is estimated at €500-€700.

Travels through the Southern Provinces of the Russian Empire in the Years 1793 and 1794 (two volumes) by PS Pallas is €1,200-€1,600.

A Voyage Made Under the Orders of The Admiralty in His Majesty’s Ships Isabella and Alexander by the Arctic explorer Capt John Ross is estimated at €850-€1,250. The book, published in 1819, contains wonderful coloured plates including a superb image of a polar bear plunging into the sea from an iceberg.

Many of the “trophy” lots in the auction have estimates in the thousands or tens of thousands. But there are items with relatively modest prices – see the panel (right) with a sample selection of 10 lots with estimates under €200.

The sale is being conducted by Irish auctioneer Mealy’s in association with Christie’s of London. Anyone unable to travel to Co Waterford can bid online as the auction will be broadcast live at the-saleroom.comand

The catalogue can be viewed at However, entry to both the viewing and auction is by catalogue only. It costs €25 and admits two people.

Top lots to watch

1069 A Regency “Carlton House” desk €80,000- 100,000

200 The Schreiber collection of Staffordshire salt-glaze ceramics €40,000-€60,000

492 Rolls Royce Phantom VI€30,000-€50,000

911 A Chinese Yongzheng vase €20,000-€30,000

985 A cabinet reputedly owned by Marie Antoinette €20,000-€30,000

999 Bookcase owned by Princess Mary €20,000- €30,000

984 Suite of giltwood and tapestry-seat furniture €15,000-€30,000

27 George III giltwood mirror €15,000-€25,000

992 Louis XVI ormolu-mounted bureau €15,000 -€25,000

19 An 18th-century chandelier €15,000-€25,000

10 lots under €200

107 A pair of late 19th-century Dresden sweetmeat groups €80-€150

120 Engraving (after T Raulino) €40-€60

333 A silver inkstand (London, 1903) €150-€200

429 Metal strong box, 19th century€100-€150

467 Victorian dressing-table mirror€80-€120

488 A cast-iron garden bench €100-€150

511 Old metal-bound steamer trunk€50-€80

957 A Chinese soup-plate, Qianlong€80-€120

1074 18 china coffee cups and saucers €100-€150

1114 Hunting saddle by Gidden of London €100-€200