Rare carved walnut suite dating from 19th century

Furniture was created by Strahan for Viscount Doneraile of Doneraile Court

A rare carved walnut suite of furniture dating from the 19th century is now on display at O'Sullivan's Antiques on Francis Street in Dublin. It was created by Robert Strahan of Henry Street in Dublin in 1840 for Viscount Doneraile of Doneraile Court in Co Cork.

The suite comprises of a centre table, six side chairs, a pair of large library chairs, two tub armchairs and a stool that converts to a prie dieu. All the upholstery is in original Moroccan hide, and each of the 12 pieces bears the Strahan stamp and label

Doneraile Court is one of Ireland's most stunning estates. Dating from 1720 it was inhabited by the St Leger family, who remained in residence until 1969, when the estate was purchased by the Land Commission. After a lengthy restoration by the Office of Public Works and architectural historian Christopher Moore, the property opened its doors in 2019.

Strahan and Company was founded by Robert Strahan in 1776, who provided furniture for some of the great houses of Ireland. The company exhibited at the Great Industrial Exhibition in Dublin in 1853 – the largest international event to be held in Ireland – and later was patronised by the Board of Works, who engaged the company to make high quality furniture.


It has been suggested that Strahan was influenced stylistically by the robust classicism of Thomas Hope, the Dutch and English designer who is best known for introducing Greek revival architecture, and opening his house at 10 Duchess Street as a museum due to its Egyptian room, which was later the inspiration for the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly.


The pieces are incredibly intricate, with the centre table having a marquetry border filled with cartouches and scrolling foliage. O’Sullivan’s is convinced that it was certainly the example shown at the London International Exhibition in 1862 – as an identical design is illustrated in the Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue of the exhibition.

It was acquired by the antique shop 20 years ago and has remained in storage since, so this is the first time it has been seen outside its original home since it was exhibited in London in 1862.

The suites' home of 160 years – Doneraile Court – is steeped in history. From the horse race between Buttevant and Doneraile in 1752, which resulted in the St Leger steeplechase at Doncaster, and links to writers William Makepeace Thackeray and Elizabeth Bowen, there are also tales of one of the Lords of Doneraile having travelled to France to be treated by Louis Pasteur, after being bitten by his pet fox who used to travel in his carriage. It is suspected that he actually died of rabies.

It was also home to the only woman Freemason at the time, the Hon Elizabeth St Leger, who has created significant worldwide interest amongst masonic scholars. In or about 1710, the Lady Freemason, as she is known, witnessed some part of a Masonic ceremony at her home. The jury is still out whether it was by accident or design, but she was initiated into the order by her father.