Fine antiques from a distinguished Irish country house are to be offered at auction by Lawrences in Crewkerne in April.
Fota House is the centrepiece of a 780-acre estate covering the idyllic Fota Island in Cork Harbour. The former home of the Smith-Barry family (Earls of Barrymore since 1627), the house was originally a modest lodge but became the main residence of the family in the 1820s and was expanded by the eminent Regency architects, Sir Richard Morrison with his son Vetruvius.
John Smith-Barry (1793-1837) oversaw Fota’s transformation from a hunting lodge into an elegantly-proportioned mansion of over 70 rooms. Later generations developed fine gardens and an arboretum within the land.
The last member of the Smith-Barry family to live in Fota House was the Hon Dorothy Elizabeth Bell (1894-1975) daughter of Arthur Smith-Barry.
Following her death, the estate was sold to University College Cork. The house and gardens are now open to the public and, since 2007, they have been under the care of the Irish Heritage Trust.
Treasures from the family collection include a George IV dining table (£4,000-£5,000), a set of 11 Irish Victorian hall chairs in walnut (£4,000-£5,000) and a fine Indian hardwood table cabinet (£1,500-£2,000) but the pictures provide an interesting glimpse of the lineage of the family.
There are early 18th Century portraits of the 4th Earl of Barrymore and of his wife, Lady Elizabeth, estimated at £2,000-£3,000 apiece; a pair of Regency watercolour portraits by Robert Scanlan depicting John Smith-Barry and his wife, Eliza, estimated at £800-£1,200 for the two. These show them standing on the Fota estate with a glimpse of their family yacht Columbine moored in the waters of Cork harbour beyond.
In addition, a charming oil painting by John Cordrey of a famous trotting mare, Phenomena, is guided at £2,000-£3,000. The horse won many wagers for her owner after demonstrating her remarkable stamina, such as running 19 miles in under one hour. Even when aged 23, the mare could run nine miles in just 28 minutes. Cordrey’s oil shows her on a road near Cambridge, the location of her greatest successes. The family hatchment is offered at £200-300. It shows the motto “Boutez en Avant” or “Push your Way Through”. This encouragement to stubborn determination is not reflected in the elegantly pensive features of the Hon. Geraldine Smith-Barry, whose striking 1895 portrait by George Elgar Hicks is expected to make £4,000-£6,000.