|About The House
Russborough House was built in 1741 by Joseph Leeson, the son of a wealthy brewer in Dublin. The architect was Richard Castle, a great promoter of the Palladian style of architecture in 18th century Ireland. The house took approximately 10 years to build. Russborough is widely considered to be Richard Cassells ’s finest achievement, it was also his last as he died before Russborough was completed. It is generally acknowledged that the house was finished by Francis Bindon, a successful artist and architect from Ireland’s mid-Georgian era.
Russborough is built of silver-grey granite which came from a quarry at Golden Hill, situated just outside Blessington. The front façade is the longest in Ireland, 700 feet end to end. However, only seven bays are given to the central block which is joined to wings by colonnades. In the front of the colonnades there are statues which are almost certainly original to the house, having been brought back from Italy by Joseph Leeson.
Decorative urns embellish the roof-line of the central block, colonnades and wings, and at the front steps, two lions display the heraldic shields of the Milltowns.
The house itself, which possesses a most welcoming and homely atmosphere, gradually comes into view as one approaches from the east wing side along a formal beech avenue.
Russborough’s interior is highly ornamented and wonderful to behold. The main rooms downstairs in the central block are adorned with magnificent baroque plasterwork. Stylistically, the ceilings in the music room, saloon and library are almost certainly by the Lafranchini brothers.
The entrance hall with its Doric frieze and controlled geometrical design of the ceiling contrasts considerably with the main staircase hallway where the rococo plasterwork abounds with irrepressible enthusiasm. The doors, dados, and main staircase are hand-carved from Cuban and San Domingo mahogany. The chimney-pieces are all original to the house.
Italian marble and Kilkenny polished limestone grace several rooms with Thomas Carter of London chimney-pieces enhancing the tapestry room, music room and saloon.
In 1763 Joseph Leeson gained the title, Earl of Milltown. The house stayed in the Milltown family right up to the 6th Earl. It then passed to a nephew, Sir Edmund Turton whose widow subsequently sold the house to Colonel Denis and Mrs Daly in 1931.
Sir Alfred and Lady Beit bought Russborough in 1952, chiefly to hold their art collection, which is presently in storage. The major paintings belonging to the Beit Collection (Vermeer, Metsu, Goya etc.) are on view in the National Gallery of Ireland.
In 1976, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit most generously gifted the house and the renowned art collection to Ireland by establishing the Alfred Beit Foundation. In 1978 the house opened its doors to the public.