One of the best known stately homes in Ireland, Westport House, has been sold to the Hughes family, which operates the Hotel Westport in Co. Mayo. They say they are committed to ensuring the property is given the attention and care it deserves. They plan to spent 50 million on refurbishment and upgrading works. Mayo County Council has acquired 40 acres of the estate. The purchase price was not disclosed. Westport House had been on the market with NAMA with a price tag of 10 million.
The original house was built in the 1650s by Colonel John Browne on the foundation of Grace O’Malley’s Castle. He married O’Malley’s great great granddaughter, Maude Burke. The current house which dates largely to the 18th century was designed by Richard Cassells who also designed Leinster House and Carton. It was completed by the renowned English architect James Wyatt, who also planned the layout of Westport town. It has been the ancestral home of the Browne family for generations and was the first stately home in Ireland to open to the public in 1960. Since then it has welcomed more than four million visitors.
In an attempt to save the house for the family the late 11th Marquess of Sligo, Jeremy Brown, sold a life-size masterpiece in terracotta by Aimé-Jules Dalou for £362,500 at Sotheby’s in London in 2014. Boulonnaise allaitant son enfant (A Young Mother from Boulogne feeding her Child) was acquired directly from the artist in 1876 by George John Browne, 3rd Marquess of Sligo. It went to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottowa. Jeremy Browne had said: ‘We hope that the proceeds raised through its sale will secure the future of one of Ireland’s best-loved attractions for generations to come.”
(See posts on antiquesandartireland.com for May 2, May 21 and December 19, 2014)