Friday, 28 February 2020

Westport House


This is a junior branch of the noble house of BROWNE, Barons Kilmaine, which is supposed to have sprung from a common ancestor with the extinct Brownes, Viscounts Montagu; though some suggest that the family sprang more immediately from the Brownes of Betchworth Castle, Surrey.

WILLIAM BROWNE, of The Neale, County Mayo, whose will is upon record in Dublin, was father of

RICHARD BROWNE, head of an independent company in the service of ELIZABETH I.

On the division of Connaught into counties by Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1565, Captain Browne fixed his abode at The Neale, County Mayo, of which county he was appointed first High Sheriff.

He fell in the act of quelling a riot in his official capacity, and was succeeded by his son,

JOSIAS BROWNE (c1579-1634), of The Neale, who was succeeded by his son,

JOHN BROWNE, who was created a baronet in 1636, designated of The Neale, County Mayo.

Sir John married Mary, daughter of Sir Dominick Browne, Knight, of Galway, and had issue,
George, ancestor of the Barons Kilmaine;
JOHN, of whom presently;
Sir John's second son, 

JOHN BROWNE (1638-1711), a colonel in the service of JAMES II, and one of the capitulators of Limerick, where (being originally bred a lawyer) he had a principal hand in drawing up the celebrated articles of capitulation.

By his second wife Maud, daughter of Theobald, 3rd Viscount Bourke, he had two sons and three daughters: Bridget, Lady Athenry; Elizabeth; and Elizabeth.

Colonel Browne was succeeded by his elder son, 

PETER BROWNE, who wedded Mary, daughter of the Rt Hon Denis Daly, one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland.

He died in 1722, and was succeeded by his son,

JOHN BROWNE (1709-76), MP for Castlebar, 1744-60, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1760, in the dignity of Baron Mount Eagle, of Westport, County Mayo.

His lordship was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1768, as Viscount Westport; and further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1771, as Earl of Altamont.

He wedded, in 1729,  Anne, daughter of Sir Arthur Gore Bt, and sister of Arthur, 1st Earl of Arran, and had issue,
PETER, his successor;
Arthur, colonel in the army;
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

PETER, 2nd Earl, who married, in 1752, Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Chief Justice Kelly, of the island of Jamaica, and had issue,
Denis, a privy counsellor;
Anne; Elizabeth; Charlotte.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son, 

JOHN DENIS, 3rd Earl (1756-1809), KP, who wedded, in 1787, the Lady Louisa Catharine Howe, youngest daughter and co-heiress of Admiral the Earl Howe, by whom he had an only son, HOWE PETER.

His lordship was created, in 1800, MARQUESS OF SLIGO.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Christopher Ulick Browne, styled Earl of Altamont.
The 6th Marquess was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Mayo, from 1914 until 1922.

WESTPORT HOUSE, near Castebar, County Mayo, ancestral seat of the Marquesses of Sligo, is located west of the Shannon and is one of Ireland's most historic country houses open to the public.

It was designed by the famous architects Richard Cassels and James Wyatt in the 18th century.

Westport House enjoys a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, wonderful gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Achill, Clare Island and Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick. 

It was built and is still privately owned by Lord Sligo, a direct descendant of the 16th century Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.

During the 1500s, Grace O’Malley was a famous Pirate and “Queen of Connaught”.

After her death, a report stated that for forty years she was the stay of all rebellions in the West.

She was chief of the O’Malley Clan and ruled the seas around Mayo.

Grace O’Malley had several castles in the West of Ireland and it was on the foundations of one of these that Westport House was actually built.

There is still an area of her original Castle in the basement of the House (now known as the Dungeons) which is on view to the visitors.

A bronze statue of Grace O’Malley by artist Michael Cooper is situated on the Westport House grounds.

The original house was built by Colonel John Browne, a Jacobite, who was at the siege of Limerick, and his wife Maud Bourke.

Maud Bourke was Grace O’Malley’s great-granddaughter.

The House then had no lake or dam, and the tide rose and fell against the walls.

The east front of the House as it is today was built in 1730 by Colonel John Browne’s grandson, 1st Earl of Altamont, who hired the famous German architect Richard Cassels.

It is built with the finest limestone taken from the quarry south of the estate farmyard and was executed by local craftsmen. 

Richard Cassels also designed Carton, Hazelwood, Russborough and Leinster House.

Westport House was completed by James Wyatt, who also laid out the town of Westport. 

On the south face of the House is the date 1778 and inside many of the ceilings, cornices and fireplaces are examples of his finest work.

The Large Dining room is perhaps the finest remaining example of his work.

The doors are mahogany, brought back from the family estates in Jamaica. 

There are still a number of original James Wyatt drawings on show, together with some of his son’s, Benjamin Wyatt, who also did some work in the House.

There are several architecturally stunning rooms on show, complete with original contents, most of which have a long association with Ireland and are of particular interest.
Among the pictures are portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds of the 1st Earl of Altamont; the Rt Hon Denis Browne, brother of the 1st Marquess and a member of Grattan’s Parliament, by Beechy; Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess, who spent four months in jail for bribing seamen in time of war, to bring his ship, full of antiquities from Greece to Westport.
The 2nd Marquess was a friend of GEORGE IV and the poet Byron.

There is also a portrait of Admiral of the Fleet the Earl Howe, father of the 1st Marchioness of Sligo, by John Singleton Copley.

Other Artworks include a magnificent collection of landscapes painted in the locality by James Arthur O’Connor.

Other artists such as Chalon, Barret, Gibson, Opie, Brooks and Lavery are part of the collection.

There is also a collection of waxwork figures by Gems Display Figures, which are a tribute to the literary, arts and music achievements of the West of Ireland.

Other original items on show in Westport House, of particular interest, include a fine collection of old English and Irish silver, including 18th century Irish ‘potato’ or dish rings, Waterford glass, a library with many old Irish books.

A Mayo Legion Flag was brought to Ireland by General Humbert when he invaded the country in 1798 and has ever since been at Westport House, which was occupied by his troops.

Westport House was opened to the public for the first time in 1960 and since then has welcomed over four million visitors.

Westport House and grounds were sold in 2017 to a local business family, committed to investing and maintaining the current facilities which are a major tourist attraction.

Mayo County Council has acquired forty acres of the estate which are expected to be retained in their current form as part of the setting for the house.

First published in June, 2011.  Sligo arms courtesy of European Heraldry.


Anonymous said...

Lord B, do you have any idea what happened to Hollymount House and gardens outside Downpatrick? By some accounts it was one of the finest demesnes in the locality, but disappeared some time in the 19th or early 20th century. I can find no record of it, other than it having been in the possession of the Fordes. The house and gardens were much more extensive than those of nearby Ballydugan House. VC

Timothy Belmont said...

I'll investigate! :-)

Anonymous said...

Good luck with it! It seems to have passed through the hands of Prices and Savages too. Some of the remaining woodland is apparently publicly owned, but it is far from the beaten track. VC

Unknown said...

I well remember my first visit to Westport House in the early '80s. Being a member of the National Trust, I was used to a particular type of property presentation. Imagine my shock when during the (self guided) house tour I was only able to view some of the rooms through the open top of a door which had been sawn in two, the bottom acting as a barrier to prevent entry! However, on reflection, I calmed down having accepted that the family were doing their best to maintain the wonderful old house and keep it for future generations.

Garvagh said...

Sadly, Westport House may be sold by the family. Let us hope this can be avoided.

magillpeter said...

Westport House and grounds have now been sold. The house has been acquired by a local business family who are committed to investing and maintaining the current facilities which are a major tourist attraction. Mayo County Council have acquired forty acres of the estate which will hopefully be retained in their current form as part of the setting for the house.

Garvagh said...

I visited Westport House most recently in April this year. It is looking very good, in the main.