Country House Collections

Their lives and afterlives

Terence Dooley & Christopher Ridgway, editors

Hardback €45.00
Catalogue Price: €50.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-975-8
September 2021. 336pp. Large Format. Full Colour Ills. Throughout

“Focusing on county house collections, this volume, edited by Terence Dooley and Christopher Ridgway, is the latest in a series of volumes that they have edited, exploring various aspects of the country house in Ireland, Britain and further afield. The fourteen chapters that comprise Country house collections: their lives and afterlives are divided between two sections that capture the ‘lifecycle’ of country house collections, or specific items from within them, from their initial commissioning, acquisition and display, through their break-up and scattering, to their ‘afterlives’ display and consumption in new surroundings ... While the chapters exclusively focused on Ireland will be of particular interest, engagement with those that deal with other places will be profitable and provide useful contrasts, comparisons and parallels to the Irish context. Away from the Anglo-American world, Salvijus Kulevicius traces the evolving understandings and appropriations of the country house and its collections in Lithuania as the country moved from the Soviet to post-Soviet era. The narrative provides parallels with the Irish experience, with the country house now a key component of cultural tourism in the country ... this book is lavishly illustrated with over 120 high quality historic and contemporary images reproduced to a very high standard ... all those interested in country houses and the collections they house and have housed, will benefit significantly from engagement with this finely produced collection of essays”. Jonathan Cherry, Studia Hibernica 49 (2023)

"Helicopters flew in, and prices flew up.’ James Miller’s summary of the Chatsworth attic sale of 2010 sets the tone for much of Country House Collections, a fascinating series of meditations on the fate of the art-objects and artefacts that inhabited stately homes and gave them their character. The 14 essays, lavishly illustrated in colour with a good smattering of archival black-and-white photographs, have their genesis in a 2019 conference on the topic; and, like all such things, they are an eclectic bunch, ranging from gentry houses in Philadelphia and Virginia to the manors of Lithuania, and from the better-known to the frankly esoteric. (Robert O’Byrne’s piece on the creation and destruction of the library at Marlfield, County Tipperary, is a particularly captivating example of the latter.) … There is much to recommend here in the way of thoughtful, scholarly, and challenging argument. And there are some delicious asides. At Hillsborough Castle, taken over by Historic Royal Palaces in 2014, loan arrangements precluding the use of objects by state guests initially covered everything from widescreen televisions to trouser presses. Even the dinner gong had to be replaced, because under the terms of HRP museum standards, the original could not be sounded. But the prize for the best anecdote goes to James Miller, who describes how a young journalist at the legendary Mentmore sale of 1977 had the temerity to ask Eva, Countess of Rosebery, how many domestic servants she employed. ‘Young lady,’ replied the octogenarian aristocrat, ‘I can’t think why you might think that I might know." Adrian Tinniswood, Current Archaeology (NOVEMBER 27, 2021)

“There is no page in this book, from the preface by Mary Heffernan of the OPW to the personal record of archivist Lesley Whiteside which does not offer entertainment, pleasure or, at the very least, information. And that includes the index ... [it is] an imaginative audit through a succession of country houses which reads like a thriller. The essays are an inviting array of deeply-rooted knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm expressed in graceful scholarship. Such grounding brings a sense of confident fellowship so that throughout these beautifully illustrated chapters there runs the linking charm of mystery, doubt, transactions, reputation, affirmation, loss and reclamation. Here are personal stories of intense rivalry and immense wealth, of sadness, triumph and brilliantly intelligent gift-giving.” (Mary Leland, the Irish Examiner

Country House Collections: their lives
and afterlives is a gorgeously produced hardback from Four Courts Press. It may sound rather dry, but the contributions are full of fascinating detail and insights into the lives of the people, who first, built the collections and were then forced, or chose, to begin to break them up ... Collections in Britain, the US and even Lithuania are also addressed." (Joe Culley, History Ireland, November-December 2022)   

"Country House Collections: their lives and afterlives represents an important step forward in the research on country houses and estates not just in Ireland but further afield. It is the latest in an impressive body of work on country houses in Ireland and beyond collected and produced by Terence Dooley and Christopher Ridgway. This volume makes a valuable contribution to fields of art history and material culture … it is about so much more than simply the art and artefacts themselves, but rather explores them in a wider context of place and time, thus allowing us to understand country house collections as much more than set pieces but rather using them as a lens through which to explore the exchange of ideas, of taste, the influence of different ideas and of changing fortunes, and the impact of individuals and generations that did so much to shape the country house … It is the way in which this book uses its subject – the collections that adorned the country house – as a lens through which to explore wider connections, networks, movements and experiences that gives it its analytical strength and allows it to illuminate the lived experience of the country house and estate, those who lived in it and those who worked on it". Professor Olwen Purdue, Queen’s University Belfast.