Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Russborough House


This family was anciently seated at Whitfield, Northamptonshire, from whom descended

HUGH LEESON, of Culworth, Northamptonshire, who was engaged as a military officer in Ireland in 1680.

Mr Leeson settled there and made an advantageous marriage to the daughter of one of Dublin's leading aldermen, marrying, in 1673, Rebecca, daughter of Alderman Richard Tighe, Mayor of Dublin.

Having retired from the army, he acquired Lot Five, South Saint Stephen’s Green (‘Leeson Walk’).

Mr Leeson became an eminent brewer and property developer.

He was buried about 1700, and was succeeded in his commercial pursuits by his youngest son,

JOSEPH LEESON (1660-1741), who wedded, in 1695, Margaret, daughter of Alderman Andrew Brice, and had (with other issue),
JOSEPH, his heir;
Anne, m to Hugh Henry;
Martha, m to Richard Cooke;
Joyce, m to Sir Robert Blackwood, 1st Baronet.
Mr Leeson left a very considerable inheritance to his son, estimated at £50,000 (£100 million in 2014) plus £6,000 per annum (£1.2 million in 2014).

He was succeeded by his only son,

JOSEPH LEESON (1701-83), MP for Rathcormack, 1743-56, who, was elevated to the peerage, in 1756, in the dignity of Baron Russborough.

His lordship was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1760, as Viscount Russborough, of Russellstown, County Wicklow.

Joseph, 1st Earl of Milltown

He was further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1763, as EARL OF MILLTOWN.

His lordship married firstly, in 1729, Cecilia, daughter of Francis Leigh, and had issue,
JOSEPH, his successor;
BRICE, succeeded his brother;
Mary, m the 2nd Earl of Mayo.
He wedded secondly, in 1738, Anne, daughter of Nathaniel Preston, by whom he had a daughter,
The 1st Earl espoused thirdly, in 1768, Elizabeth, daughter of the Very Rev William French, Dean of Armagh, and had further issue,
Cecilia; Florence Arabella.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son

Joseph, 2nd Earl of Milltown

JOSEPH, 2nd Earl (1730-1801), MP for Thomastown, 1757-61, who died unmarried, when the family honours devolved upon his brother,

BRICE, 3rd Earl (1735-1807), who wedded, in 1765, Maria, daughter of John Graydon, of Dublin, and had issue,
Joseph (1766-1800), father of JOSEPH, 4th Earl;
His lordship was succeeded by his grandson,

JOSEPH, 4th Earl (1799-1866), KP, 1841, who married, in 1828, Barbara, second daughter and co-heir of Sir Joshua Colles Meredyth Bt, of Greenhills, County Kildare, and had issue,
JOSEPH HENRY, his successor;
EDWARD NUGENT, succeeded his brother;
HENRY, succeeded his brother;
Barbara Emily Maria; Cecilia Mary.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOSEPH HENRY, 5th Earl (1829-71), ensign, 68th Regiment of Foot, 1848-51, ADC to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was succeeded by his next brother,

EDWARD NUGENT, 6th Earl (1835-90), KP PC, who wedded, in 1871, the Lady Geraldine Evelyn Stanhope, second daughter of the 5th Earl of Harrington, in a childless marriage.

His lordship was succeeded by his brother,

HENRY, 7th and last Earl (1837-91), Barrister, Kings Inn, Dublin, 1860, Vice-Chamberlain, 1859-62, Chamberlain, 1862-74, to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Following the death of the 7th Earl, a grandson of the Hon John Leeson (2nd son of the 3rd Earl), claimed the succession to the earldom. He died without male issue in 1905.

The earldom of Milltown was then claimed by his 2nd cousin, Robert William Frederick Leeson, a grandson of Captain the Hon Robert Leeson (3rd son of the 3rd Earl).

He died unmarried in 1908, and since that date no further claimants have come forward.

It is possible that there are living male line descendants of the Hon Robert Leeson, 4th son of the 1st Earl, in which case the earldom of Milltown should be regarded as being dormant rather than extinct.

RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE, County Wicklow, is one of the finest and grandest stately homes in Ireland.

Is situated near the Blessington Lakes, between the towns of Blessington and Ballymore Eustace, and is reputed to be the longest house in Ireland, with a frontage measuring 700 feet.

Russborough is an example of Palladian architecture, designed by Richard Cassels for Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown and built between 1741-55.

It comprises seven bays and two storeys over a basement; Palladian style, with quadrant Doric colonnades linking to seven-bay two-storey pavilion wings, themselves linked to outbuildings by walls with rusticated arches topped with cupolas.

The walls are of dressed granite, with a central feature to the main block consisting of a pediment supported by four three-quarter Corinthian columns with swag mouldings between the capitals, whilst the wings have three-bay breakfront centres with Ionic pilasters.

Each of the three blocks and the colonnades has a parapet surmounted with urns, and behind each parapet is a slated hipped roof with broad granite chimneystacks to the main blocks.

Within the colonnades are arched niches with Classical statues.

Russborough ca 1824, from an Engraving by John Preston Neale 

The entrance consists of a largely glazed timber door with semi-circular fanlight-like eyebrow window above, and is reached by a grand flight of stone steps with the piers of the balustrade topped with urns and heraldic lions.

The windows are generally flat-headed and filled with three over three and six over six timber sash frames. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

The house is surrounded by an extensive, but largely unadorned, demesne and approached at a right angle from the main avenue to the north-east.

The interior of the house contains some ornate plasterwork on the ceilings by the Lafranchini brothers, who also collaborated with Cassels on Carton House.

Russborough has housed two fine art collections, begun with the Milltown estate, whose collection was donated to the National Gallery of Ireland by the widow of the 6th Earl.

Sir Alfred Beit Bt bought the house in 1952 where he housed his own family's collection, comprising works by many great artists, including Goya, Vermeer, Peter Paul Rubens and Thomas Gainsborough.
This collection was since robbed four times, in 1974 by an IRA gang including the heiress Rose Dugdale, in 1986 by Martin Cahill, in 2001; and in 2002 by Martin Cahill's old associate Martin Foley.
Two paintings, Gainsborough's Madame Bacelli and Vermeer's Lady writing a Letter with her Maid, the latter probably the most valuable painting of the collection, were stolen twice across the thefts, although each was subsequently recovered.
The Beit collection has donated many of its works to the Irish state but a substantial proportion of the paintings have been returned and been made available to view by the owners, the Alfred Beit Foundation.

Russborough remained in the possession of the Earls of Milltown until the 6th Earl's decease.

On the death of Lady Milltown in 1914, it passed to a nephew, Sir Edmund Turton, who rarely stayed there.

On Turton's death in 1928, his widow sold the house to Captain Denis Bowes Daly in 1931.

Sir Alfred Beit Bt bought Russborough in 1952 from Captain Daly to house his art collection and in 1976 established the Alfred Beit Foundation to manage the property.

The foundation opened the historic mansion and its collections to the Irish public in 1978.

Sir Alfred died in 1994 but Lady Beit remained in residence until her own death in 2005.

In 2010, a fire severely damaged the west wing and caused part of the roof to collapse.

No art was damaged, being removed along with furniture to allow for restorations to the west wing.

Initial examinations of the damage suggested an electrical fault from wiring in the roof may have sparked the fire.

In recent years, farmers' markets have been held on a regular basis in the grounds of the house.

Leeson Street in Dublin is named after the Earls of Milltown.

Former Dublin residence ~ 17 St Stephen's Green (now the Kildare Street Club).

First published in August, 2013.   Milltown arms courtesy of European Heraldry.


Demetrius said...

Beit Hall for students of Imperial College is by the Royal Albert Hall and tonight is the Last Night Of The Proms. When we were in the Arena at The Proms for a Last Night a time or two we stayed there.

Gooseberry said...

James Lees-Milne’s diary entry for July 1974 has a most interesting account of the raid earlier that year by terrorists to steal art at Russborough as recounted to him over dinner by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit. Most vicious, but fortunately the Beits survived, the pictures were recovered and justice was done on the perpetrators.