Mountbatten's old wardrobe and a classic car in Kilkenny sale

Fonsie Mealy’s summer sale includes objects from Carton House and Morristown Lattin

Lot 451, Lady Kildare’s writing desk

Lot 451, Lady Kildare’s writing desk

 

Country house auctions serve as a reminder of just how much the nitty-gritty detail of “upstairs, downstairs” life continues to fascinate us – and there’s a wealth of detail to be found among the 900 lots of Fonsie Mealy’s two-day sale at the Chatsworth auction rooms in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, this week.  

The auction will include objects from such prestigious houses as Carton and Morristown Lattin in Co Kildare, Albert House in Co Sligo and Spire Hill, once home to the Odlum flour-milling family. There’s a wardrobe that belonged to Lord Mountbatten, and two gilt-framed portraits from Kilmacurragh in Co Wicklow.

Lot 286, high sheriff’s uniform
Lot 286, high sheriff’s uniform

“These houses were owned by the merchants and wealthy families of the 18th and 19th centuries, and a lot of the items have been in family possession ever since,” George Fonsie Mealy says. “They represent every activity and interest in every room in the country house, from the silver in the dining room to the children’s toys in the nursery, from Grand Tour objects such as Old Master-style paintings to jewellery, taxidermy and garden statuary.”

Among the pieces that came from the Fitzgerald family – and were once to be found at Carton House in Co Kildare – are a set of inlaid Regency period chairs (lot 458, €200-€300) and a 19th-century mahogany writing desk on square tapering legs with castors; inside one of the drawers is the inscription “Carton – Lady Kildare – 634” (lot 451, €800-€1200). 

Eight-day chronometer timepiece
Eight-day chronometer timepiece

Another grand house in Co Kildare is Morristown Lattin - now owned by barrister duo Eddie Walsh and Constance Cassidy, who also own Lissadell in Co Sligo. Built in 1692 by the Lattin family, who had been granted lands in Ireland in the 13th century, it passed by marriage to the Mansfield family, who lived there until 1982. The Mansfield men were highly involved in the military – of five 19th-century brothers, one was killed at the battle of Sevastopol in 1855 and two served as majors of the Kildare and Dublin militia. The eldest of that generation, George PL Mansfield (1820-1889), was deputy lieutenant and high sheriff for Co Kildare. 

Hence the presence in the auction of a number of military uniforms from the family’s collection, including a Kildare militia red coat, with velvet collar and cuffs and silver-plated buttons inscribed with shamrock motifs (lot 290, €700-€1,000); a high sheriff uniform, comprising bicorne, trousers, jacket and belt (Lot 286, €400-€600), a first World War Green Army-issue coatee from the Berkshire Regiment (lot 292, €180-€220); and a rare deputy lieutenant red court coatee with black trousers (lot 291, €400-€600).

Silver box presented to Thomas Packenham
Silver box presented to Thomas Packenham

French baron

Another Mansfield daughter married a French naturalist and geologist by the impressive name of Baron Jean Baptiste Louis d’Audibert de Ferussac. His equally impressive shell collection is to be found in two lots: lot 768 (€500-€700) contains hundreds of shells in two table cabinets, while lot 769 (€1,250-€1,750) is a walnut cabinet with brass carrying handles, which contains the baron’s most treasured molluscs – and at least two tiny seahorses. 

Several generations of Mansfield children, meanwhile, must have played with the carved and painted rocking horse, which still has its original hair (lot 677, €400-€600) – and a motorised toy car, a model of the wildly famous Blue Bird used by Malcolm Campbell to break the world land speed record in the 1920s and 1930s (lot 222, €180-€220). Slightly slower – but equally stylish – is a 1963 Morris Minor in sky blue, with a leather interior, which came from Spire Hill and the Odlum family (lot 335, €2,000-€3,000).

There is a large amount of silver in the sale, including a collection of Irish Georgian silver sugar tongs (lot 67, €1,200-€1600), a George II English sauce boat (lot 32, €700-€900) and a George III Freedom Box by Alexander Ticknell, Dublin, 1797, presented to Thomas Packenham for “brave and spirited conduct” in a naval battle on June 1st, when the British under Lord Howe defeated a large French fleet (lot 43, €4,500-€6,500). 

Lot 677, wooden rocking horse
Lot 677, wooden rocking horse

Among the furniture is a simple George III table with plain top and frieze adorned with a single scallop shell (lot 485, €2000-€3,000), an elaborately carved side table with a green marble top (lot 469, €3,000-€5,000), an early 18th-century chest on four high bun feet (lot 470, €2,000-€3,000) and the Mountbatten wardrobe in stained oak, which made its way from Classiebawn Castle, Mullaghmore, to Albert House in Sligo (lot 702, €180-€220). Also from Albert House is a rare mid-19th century eight-day chronometer timepiece by Dent of London, which has been in the ownership of the Martin family for more than 80 years (lot 482, €10,000-€15,000).

Paintings

There is a large number of paintings in the auction, including work by Mark O’Neill, Liam Treacy, AE (George Russell), Frank McKelvey, William Orpen, Grace Henry, James Humbert Craig and Maurice Canning Wilks. Family portraits include a head-and-shoulders portrait of Lady Hermione Dunscombe, Duchess of Leinster (lot 452, 350-420) and three portraits of unnamed ladies from Kilmacurragh House, Co Wicklow (lots 512-514, €300-€400 each). 

Lot 281, carved pillar with brown bear cub
Lot 281, carved pillar with brown bear cub

There are artworks of all shapes and sizes, from a large gilt-framed harvest scene with peasants enjoying a picnic by Theobald Michau, Antwerp (lot 48, €7,000-€10,000) to a tiny pen-and-ink drawing by Jack B Yeats called The Big House, an original illustration for his own novel Sailing, Sailing Swiftly (lot 443, €1,500-€2000). The first president of the US, George Washington, is portrayed twice – in a half-length portrait (lot 474, €1,200-€1,800) and a white marble bust (lot 475, €3,000-€4,000). There’s also a rare signed photograph of Francis Bacon by Daniel Farson (lot 421, €800-€1,200).

Lot 470: early 18th-century chest on four high bun feet
Lot 470: early 18th-century chest on four high bun feet

It’s almost impossible to sum up the diversity of the material in this auction. Lot 261 (€1,000-€1,500) is a complete collection of Evergreen die-cast models depicting social life in the 19th century. Lot 580 (€2,000-€3,000) is a Gothic-style two-tier table made from Valentia slate. And lot 281 (€700-€900) is a carved pillar, for use as a jardiniere or lamp stand, with a taxidermy brown bear cub climbing up one side.  There you have it, folks: the simple, bare necessities of life in an Irish country house. 

  • For online catalogue, viewing times and bidding details see fonsiemealy.ie