Bantry House avoids selling contents

The owners of Bantry House have said they have staved off the prospect of having to auction some of its contents although the search is continuing for a longer-term solution.

Bantry House avoids selling contents

Last year the Shelswell-White family planned an auction of a number of important pieces from its collection amid severe financial strain.

The auction was due to have been held in October but was postponed because Edinburgh-based auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull, did not have the required licence.

That opens the way for fresh efforts to find an alternative method of securing the contents — including tapestries and paintings — so that they could stay in the country house.

Sophie Shelswell-White, who runs Bantry House, said visitor numbers had increased this year which had eased the financial pressure.

Efforts led by the director of Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery, Peter Murray, to find investors who would allow the collection to stay in situ were continuing.

“We have to see how that goes,” Ms Shelswell-White said. She said she was “optimistic” a solution would be found. The Irish Georgian Society has also become involved in the effort and Ms Shelswell-White said the prospect of an auction was “not on the cards”.

Instead the property is progressing with a business plan that was put together with the help of external consultants.

“I am optimistic that we can turn a bit into making it sustainable,” she said.

She said larger grant aid would help with some capital works. She said other large private houses, such as Westport House, were an example of ways in which the properties can be put to different uses, such as venues for outdoor theatre productions.

“What private houses are trying to do is to engage the community. It is everyone’s history,” she said.

She said Bantry House was also benefiting from its location on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Under the plan spearheaded by Mr Murray any benefactors would be able to avail of tax incentives. Under Section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, an individual or company acquiring and donating the Bantry House collection to the Crawford Gallery could avail of generous tax relief.

Earlier this year the Irish Georgian Society published a report on Bantry House in which it said that despite the proposed auction not going ahead, “the future of the collection remains very much in jeopardy”.

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