07 Aug 2022

Sale of the decade at Mount Congreve

MOUNT Congreve in Waterford is familiar to most people in South Kilkenny because it can be viewed directly across from the Kilkenny side of the River Suir close to Mooncoin.

MOUNT Congreve in Waterford is familiar to most people in South Kilkenny because it can be viewed directly across from the Kilkenny side of the River Suir close to Mooncoin.

Ambrose Chrisitan Congeve who lived their for nearly 50 years and only died last year aged 104, restored the house, gardens and farm in magnificent manner.

The contents of the house will be sold by Mealy’s of Castlcomer next week in what promises to be the sale of the decade. It is one of the largest events of its kind this year and reflects favourably on Mealy’s and their standing in the world of fine arts.

The auction will be held at Mount Congreve on Tuesday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 11 at 10.30am sharp each day. There will be three public viewing days (admission by catalogue only, €25 per catalogue, admits two): on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm and on Monday July 9 from 10am to 5pm. The gardens will not be open to the public unfortunately, but along with the outdoor marquis, the public will have access to much of the house itself.

Lot 200, is 70-piece collection of antique Staffordshire salt-glaze ceramics that were personally collected by Lady Charlotte Schreiber and are estimated between €40,000-60,000. The collection is of historical significance.

Lot 492 is a shell grey saloon type Rolls Royce Phantom VI from 1969. The car is unusual because there were very few made and they were mainly used by Royalty (Kate Middleton was driven to her wedding in one of these).

Lot 911 is a Chinese Famille Rose alcove vase and Cover from the Yongzheng period. It was owned originally by the Viscountess Harcourt, G.B.E. and the estimate is between €20,000-30,000.

Lot 992 - A Louis XVI ormolu-mounted amaranth, tulipwood, marquetry and parquetry cylinder bureau, circa 1780. Apart from being a spectacular piece, this bureau was originally owned by members of the Rothschild family, namely Constance de Rothschild, Lady Battersea (d. 1931) and Lionel de Rothschild, Esq., O.B.E. The estimate for the bureau is €15,000-25,000.

A George III giltwood mirror circa 1760 is estimated between €15,000-25,000

Ambrose Christian Congreve, only son of Major John Congreve and Lady Irène Ponsonby, was born in 1907. Having worked for Unilever in England and China, he married in 1935 Marjorie Glasgow, whose father was one of the two founders of Humphreys and Glasgow. After his marriage Mr Congreve joined the firm, and in 1935 he took over its complete management; he remained chairman for many years, greatly expanding its capabilities. In 1965 he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Civil Division), and in 1967 was elected an honorary member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, an acknowledgement of his unique contribution to British chemical engineering.

On taking over Mount Congreve he fully restored and modernised it, taking up residence there in 1968. He also progressed the development of the gardens, which had been a lifelong interest. He had begun planting with his father in his late teens, inspired by Lionel de Rothschild’s garden at Exbury. Lorry-loads of plants arrived, carriage paid by de Rothschild, including the newly discovered Rhododendron sinogrande. In 1955 Mr Congreve began to make large clearings in the woodlands to create the necessary conditions where the plants thrive.

The garden comprises around seventy acres of intensively planted woodland garden and a four-acre walled garden, and is said to have the largest collection of plants grown out of doors in Europe. In 1987 Mr Congreve was awarded a Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society, and in 2001 a gold Medal by the Horticultural Society of Massachusetts, who classified Mount Congreve as a Great garden of the World. Mr Congreve also developed the farm and bred a large dairy herd of Friesian cattle.

The garden, nursery and farm have given employment to many, in good times and in bad, and Mr Congreve was respected as an employer who would value and reward loyalty and honest work. A conscientious member of the Anglican Communion, Mr Congreve devoted considerable financial resources down the years to the improvement of the local churches, in particular Waterford Cathedral and Kilmeaden Parish Church.

Mr Congreve died on 24 May 2011 aged 104.

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