John Foster helps to prop up historic houses by uncovering valuable heirlooms that the families can sell. He visits the Kavanagh family at Borris House in Ireland.
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Even in Britain's grandest houses, belts are tightening
as the deepest recession since the war bites.
Some are battling for survival as decay takes hold,
threatening their future and our very history.
Morgan inherited the estate just as the credit crunch hit.
With heritage grants scarce, they're faced with a stark choice.
It'd break my heart to see those go.
To preserve these precious places, will they sell the family silver to save their stately?
I've no intention on my watch of seeing this building deteriorate.
This is John Foster. He's had 20 years as a fine arts and antiques specialist.
He's bringing his expertise to try to throw these treasured properties a lifeline.
15,000 front row. All done at 15,000? All done.
This week, Borris House in southern Ireland desperately needs some new ideas.
The owners have already abandoned one wing entirely
and the remaining grand rooms are under constant threat
of damp and damage.
You dread finding dry rot, slates blown off, storm damage.
If they don't find a new income,
this imposing and important house could soon be history.
The village of Borris is in rural Ireland, 70 miles from Dublin.
It's actually quite a pretty little village.
The McMurrough-Kavanagh family built this model village
and the Borris estate stretches right into the heart of it.
I'm really intrigued as to what we're going to find here.
Country houses in Ireland over the years have taken a real battering.
Which means the ones that are left are hugely precious
and really need looking after.
Their family records go back to 1169.
Our family goes back pre-Norman.
Unfortunately it was one of ours that invited them in
and caused the last thousand years of strife.
When Morgan Kavanagh is not apologising for his ancestors,
he's kept busy running the 600-acre estate.
I try and divide my time 50% to the farm,
sort of 50% to the house and the events,
trying a little bit of everything to keep the place going really.
It's all our jobs, my parents and Sara and I, we spend every minute of our lives, really, here.
It's a great place to live and bring up children.
We're very passionate about the place.
Morgan inherited the job from his father Andrew two years ago.
His parents will soon hand over Borris House
to make way for Morgan, Sara and their four children.
Really looking forward to moving in here, yeah. We desperately need more space.
We've totally outgrown our house, with four children under seven.
That's the only slightly daunting prospect -
they seem to have a tendency to draw on everything they possibly can.
We just try to maintain normal family life...
without them totally destroying the whole house in the process!
It is very important that our children grow up in the house.
So that they have a love for it as well.
Because if they don't, they're never going to want to live here.
You know, and then what happens to it?
It's called Borris House, but it's actually more of a castle.
It looks Georgian in style.
Built in 1731, this 50-room grand house
is an important building in Irish history.
Despite heritage grants for some repairs,
it costs £200,000 a year to run and it's experiencing tough times.
Issues with this wing, the nursery wing.
That needs an awful lot of money put into it really to restore it.
Up here with these chimneys - they've become quite unstable.
The church has given us a lot of problems over the last ten years.
The Kavanaghs have asked John Foster to try to help their efforts
to fund restoration work.
You must be Morgan.
Stunning, isn't it? Those views - unbelievable.
-It's a great view.
-And that's some coat of arms there.
Yeah. "Siochain agus Fairsinge." The Kavanagh motto.
-What does that mean?
-"Peace and plenty" in Irish.
Anyone who knows about Kavanagh history, we weren't particularly peaceful.
Really? THEY LAUGH
-I can't wait to see inside.
-Come on in.
Morgan has a plan.
He wants to bring more tourists to Borris
and wants a visitor centre to bring in more funds.
It will cost £80,000. He's applying to get half in grants
but hopes he and John can raise an initial 20,000
to stabilise the old building and kick-start the project.
John's job is to find antiques that will appeal to the market
to raise funds without losing precious family heirlooms.
-Very much built to impress, this room.
-It really is.
The architects were a father and son team.
William and Richard Morrison.
-They finished their work here in 1812.
It is just stunning. The detail on it.
They loved playing with the shape of the room. You'll see in the drawing room as well.
-They made a circular feeling to the drawing room as well.
-I can't wait to see more.
-Come into the drawing room and we'll get started.
-Wow, another great room.
-It's a beautiful room.
-It really is.
-And the light.
Fantastic views as well.
And you're thinking of selling some things, Morgan?
Anything in particular in this room or...?
There's an interesting self-portrait by an unknown artist in the corner here.
-You're happy for me to look around?
-Yeah. And the rest of the house.
I'll get started.
The painting was inherited by the family relatively recently
but is something of a mystery.
It's clearly a self-portrait of the artist.
Actually, he's quite a dandy really.
I love the fact he's got this lady sitting here...
really in a modest pose,
rather than a subservient pose,
but it's so well painted.
I wonder if there's anything on the back.
No, no clue. No clue on the back.
There's no signature.
The reason why a portrait of the artist would be more valuable
is because if you collect that artist,
you can have Lady So-and-so, Lord So-and-so,
and then you have the artist itself. It puts the whole collection into context.
I really hope we can find out who that is.
It's an intriguing picture, but with no signature, maybe hard to value.
But what else would Morgan and Sara be prepared to sell?
If I did find some things that you were more attached to,
is there anything else that you would consider,
or is anything up for grabs really?
Not everything. I mean, anything that is integral
to the history of the house would not be for sale at this stage.
What's actually really interesting is this carpet.
The condition is excellent. And I wonder if there's...
That says, "Dining room, fine old Heriz,"
Heriz being basically a carpet from Iran.
And usually...usually they're completely wrecked
when they're in houses like this. I mean,
really, a carpet like this, you would have collectors all over the place for it.
The article that we weren't going to sell was definitely the carpet.
-It does suit the room beautifully.
OK. No carpet. But we can still look at furniture.
Really some quite gorgeous things.
What you'd expect to find in any country house would be
an Irish wake table.
The body would be laid out in the coffin
on top of a table like this.
And what's nice is basically
you should be cut from one piece of mahogany, which this is.
I mean, unfortunately, with the way the economy has gone,
a lot of Irish furniture has dropped and these have suffered quite badly.
A few years ago, this would have been quite a serious table
but, even so, it's still a great piece.,
A lot of the furniture was made for the house.
-So we'd be obviously very loath to...
So the furniture is out now too.
But what about books in the library?
Wow! It really is quite something in here!
I'm loath to sell anything as well, as Morgan said, that's integral to the house.
I'm a hoarder by nature, so I don't like the thought of selling anything, I have to admit.
I've actually sold a pair of these before.
They're known as Canova Lions, designed by Antonio Canova
for the tomb of Pope Clement XIII at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
What you would do is go and visit the tomb,
go 200 yards down the road
and you would see these in a shop window
and buy them as a souvenir piece, really.
I am very keen on the lions.
It'd break my heart to see those go.
This is a tough ask. Over the years, lots of the family heirlooms
seem to have been lost, broken and even sold off in the 1950s
to pay for massive death duties.
Now I'm going to have to push Morgan and Sara to sell items
that really mean something to them.
All we have so far is an unsigned self-portrait of an artist...
and this is just not enough.
John needs reinforcements.
He's called in antiquarian book expert Fonsie Mealy
to scour the library.
My father, when he'd walk into a room like this,
from whatever third sense it is
or fifth sense or tenth sense, I don't know,
but he would be led to the cabinet where the good books are.
Long ago, people just liked to build a big library.
They would fill it with any kind of bindings
but now the collector is looking for specific subjects.
Whatever subject he decides on, he will follow that to the ends of the Earth.
One must realise that condition is all-important
and, like with property, that location, location, location is the value of your house,
with books it's condition, condition, condition.
While Fonsie sniffs out best-sellers,
a party of Bavarian farmers has arrived for a tour.
But there's a problem -
they can't get the coach through the ancient gateway.
It was a little bit difficult.
The gate was too tight so we couldn't fit the coach into it
and we were wondering what to do.
So we took them out and let them walk here.
It's not just the Germans who want to see Borris.
Even without visitor attractions,
sight-seers from around the world are eager to see it.
You're very welcome to Borris House.
My name is Morgan McMurrough-Kavanagh and I'll just give you a brief history of the house.
The house was built in around 1590
on the site of an old Norman keep and...
Accompanying the tour is Eileen O'Rourke from County Carlow Tourism
who can also see Borris's bigger tourism potential.
Visitors need somewhere to eat,
they need somewhere to use the bathroom facilities,
and they also want to do a little bit of shopping.
So if there was a gift shop attached to what's here,
that would obviously improve things as well.
In the Great Rebellion of 1798
the house was attacked twice by rebels and was quite badly damaged.
WOMAN TRANSLATES INTO GERMAN
Establishing Borris as a tourist attraction would also benefit the wider community.
Development here would have spin-off both in the local hotels,
in the B&Bs, in the pubs and in the other heritage attractions around.
Sadly, for now, the Germans must go elsewhere
in search of tea and retail therapy.
Morgan's plan could help.
He wants to transform an old outbuilding
into a lucrative visitor centre.
So, John, this is the laundry building, the old laundry building.
We've been using it for storage for the last 20 years.
You've got plenty of wood too!
You need a bit of imagination.
How exactly would you lay all this out? What's your vision?
We would hope to have a small tea room, small shop.
The area through here would be a display area and up here as well.
The gallery area. It's a huge space at the back there. So...
These facilities would mean that tourists could stay longer
and spend more money to help with funding the restoration.
-Depressing old spot, isn't it?
Morgan's mother, Tina, has lived at Borris for 40 years.
-I think it's amazing.
-Oh, yeah, but at the moment it's ghastly.
-I mean, it was definitely built as a laundry, the way it is.
-This part here was.
-This part was.
There are somewhere... There were the big old wooden sinks around the edge.
-There's one there.
What do you think about it? Are you excited by it? It's quite a big project, isn't it?
Oh, I think it would be very exciting.
I think it's a wonderful idea. Be a great sort of focus.
Because we get a lot of people who wander in.
And it'd be a great place to send them.
-And what's the timescale for all of this?
-Well, it depends on funding!
Six months, a year, two years?
We would hope to start work in the autumn.
-Wow, so pretty soon.
-To have it ready for next...summer.
Fonsie has called John and Morgan to the library.
-How you getting on? All right?
-Very well indeed.
He's found something that's excited him.
I found this very attractive book. It's Palladio's Architecture,
which would form the cornerstone of any collection on architecture.
Printed in 1737, it should have about 211 plates in it.
I haven't counted them
but what I love about it is, it does have an attribution to the house.
Very slight, so it would have been bought by one of your forebears.
But that book, in the condition it's in,
is probably 4,000-6,000 euro.
Then we come on to this very large, wonderful book.
Alas, this one is unfortunately showing its age.
Printed in 1807, it should have 40 plates, wonderful plates.
And all of these, you must remember, were hand coloured.
And what would this one in this condition be worth?
In good condition it's between
-20,000 and 25,000.
-Wow. That's crazy.
In that condition, unfortunately,
it's what they call a breaker's copy.
Somebody will buy them to make sets of four prints,
but you're looking at maybe, for the breaker,
somewhere around 3,500-5,000.
Progress. Two possible sellers.
But will Morgan part with them?
What do you think? Shall we let them go or...?
I'm... I... I-I...
I'm going to keep this for that sort of price.
But you have to let something go.
I don't want to push you on it, but that's a lot of money sitting there.
Yeah, but, I mean, we're getting there in stages and...
the Palladian Architecture, you know,
that's going to make a contribution to the...
And if they don't? Can we consider this?
I think we're going to struggle, Morgan, to get the money, you know.
It's... That's what I'm here for - to sell stuff.
I mean, ultimately. I know it's tough on you, but...
No, that's not going to go at that sort of price.
-You're digging in?
Morgan has decided to hold on to the sporting book,
but the higher-value architecture book can be sold -
a difficult choice as it has a direct link to the house.
Before the book comes up for sale,
John has time to get some expert opinion on the self-portrait.
In Dublin, Irish art specialist David Britton is the man to help.
-Pleased to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
I'm hoping that you've been able to find something.
Well, I've certainly done my best to go and try.
From the photographs you've sent me, it's nice
to see the picture in reality.
The person I feel it is by is an Irish artist called James Sinton Sleator.
And what led that? Was it a gut feeling that you had?
He actually pained quite a number of self-portraits.
There are actually two self-portraits, one very early one
and one later one, in the National Gallery of Ireland's collection.
Another hint, too, that it could be by Sleator
is this lovely turquoise colour here.
It's an unusual colour that actually Sleator used quite a lot.
-More so in his still lives.
This shows actually Sinton Sleator
-holding Sir William Orpen's palette.
Sir William Orpen would probably be
one of the best-known English portrait painters.
-He was one of Orpen's star pupils.
-Orpen is good news.
He's unfortunately not in that league.
Even though he's rarer than Orpen, the estimate would be
5,000 euros, or £4,000
would go a long way towards Morgan's plans at Borris,
so John has entered the painting
for a sale of important Irish art in six weeks' time.
First, the book is up for sale at a grand house near Waterford.
Yesterday, they were saying they had 67 countries
bidding on the internet.
So this could only be good for our books.
I'm really excited to see how it goes.
The book being sold is rare.
John hopes it will appeal to collectors.
It's been in Morgan's family a long time.
The book was collected by Walter Kavanagh, who died in 1818.
It's actually signed by him.
It was him who used the Morrisons then, on the house,
so, he obviously had an interest in architecture.
560, I'm bid.
Another good sign is that Fonsie will be selling the book.
The bid is on the net at 560 euro. All done at 560?
And Sara has come along to bring Morgan luck.
Once, twice and for the last time...
The phone lines are ready, the bidders are keen,
and Morgan's book, lot 736, is up next.
It's the Palladio, the exceptionally fine copy of Palladio,
with all the plates.
With various commissions, we're starting at 2,200.
2,200, I'm bid. 2,200, I'm bid. 2,200, 2,200, I'm bid. 2,200...
A flurry of bids shoot it up to its 4,000 euro reserve in moments.
3,900. 4,000, I'm bid. 4,000, 4,000 and on the left,
4,100, 4,200, 4,200...
And it just keeps going.
4,800. 5,000, I'm bid. 5,000, I'm bid. 5,200, I'm bid. 5,200...
At the back of the room at 5,200... 6,000, I'm bid now.
6,000, I'm bid.
Has it reached its peak at 7,700?
7,700. At 7,700. Immaculate copy.
7,800, I'm bid. At 7,800.
-On the internet, 7,800...
-It just keeps going.
8,000, I'm bid now. 8,000, I'm bid. 8,500, I'm bid. 8,500. 8,500,
8,500. At 8,500 euros...
We sell, once at 8,500.
Twice at 8,500 and the last time, at 8,500 euro.
Thank you. 301.
Is he smiling?
Yes. THEY LAUGH
Thank you very much.
I mean, £2,000 starting bid,
-I was thinking, is it going to sell?
-But then the bidding war started and once that gets going...
The internet and then...
-Someone standing at the back and the phone bidder...
-..and they didn't want to let it go.
-It was a great result.
-Yes, that was a great result.
-A lot of money for a book.
-It really is, isn't it?
The book sold for the equivalent of £6,700.
And John negotiated a 10% trade commission.
This leaves £14,000 to raise.
At Borris, Tina's on a mission.
Do other people have things like this in their houses?
She takes care of the house's historical collections...
when she can find the keys!
I'm having another look for this key!
'It would be great to have somewhere'
where we could show people the records that we have
without them having to come into the house and, you know.
I suppose that would be rather an obvious place to put it, wouldn't it?
I mean, she doesn't look that plain there, really, does she?
Borris House holds an important collection
of family diaries and estate ledgers.
Because it's been the same family since it was built,
we have a lot of their diaries and letters.
We also have an enormous record of people in the area
and the maps of their houses,
and where they lived, and what rent they paid, and...
So, it's actually a huge social history.
Tina's sure there's something in the cupboard
that could be of interest to tourists -
if only she could find the key!
Dennis the locksmith's been called in.
-Do you think that fits better than the other one?
It's a fairly old cupboard-style lock.
It's lots of little grooves
and stuff you wouldn't see in modern locks.
After an hour of turning, twisting and filing...
Tina produces an ancient box...
There's the key of the lace!
The key fits, but now it's the lock that's out of kilter.
Keep going, Dennis!
Dennis struggles on.
In the derelict nursery wing, John's in search of forgotten treasure.
This...is terrible up here.
They've got a lovely old Victorian gentleman's wardrobe, there.
I suppose it's Joan of Arc.
And that would date, that would date from about 1890, 1900.
Usually you would expect these to be spelter,
but this one is actually bronze, and that...
It's signed, which is nice - Cordez.
I think she could do quite well.
In a house of this age, John is confident
he can sniff out items overlooked by the family.
And in the drawing room...
..Dennis, has had success.
-Well done, you're a star!
-You're an absolute star!
Didn't think I'd ever see the lace again!
The drawer is packed with...lace!
Borris Lace, made on the estate for nearly 120 years.
Its in amazing condition and very rare.
This won't be up for sale
but the family feel it's got great social history value
for the new visitor centre.
-Did you take that from this book...?
-That came from that one, yes.
-Yes, make sure it goes back there cos it's all...
-I will do.
What's the story then, Tina, with the lace?
It was started by Lady Harriet, who was married to Thomas.
Was Thomas Kavanagh's second wife.
She was actually quite an adventurous traveller,
she wasn't, like, you know, the Grand Tour people
who would just, sort of, go to see the sights and...
She did actually go to Egypt and the Holy Land
and one of the places she travelled to was in the Adriatic.
-This, apparently, is a very continental pattern.
-That's a pomegranate.
-Hm, why would she have brought that back, then?
Just as a hobby, or...?
Oh, no, she brought it back to start up a lace industry in Borris to...
You know, a cottage industry... to supplement the income
of the people living in the cottages because their...
-During the famine and...
-Oh, I see!
Between 1846 and 1851, a million Irish people died
when the potato crop failed.
Potatoes accounted for 60% of the nation's food
and tenant farmers at Borris would have struggled
were it not for Lady Harriet's lace business,
which enabled the women to learn a skill
and earn vital income in such desperate times.
Would it have given a family a reasonable income in a year?
I think so. I mean, there was a Mrs Poole who, in 1872,
had an income of £12 in the year. That would have been quite a lot.
Presumably, it would have been a good income for the estate as well?
Very little money was actually made.
The only money, really, that was made was given to the workers.
So she purely did it as... well, a charity exercise almost.
Yeah, but, you know, she probably wouldn't have seen it.
I don't think they would have seen it as a charity.
I think she would have seen it as a duty, you know?
This is lovely, to have all this,
but have you got paperwork and ledgers, and things?
-Yes, there are ledgers.
-Have we got those handy?
No, they're locked away and the key isn't working again.
Oh, the key scenario!
Money-making ventures to pay today's bills at Borris
are constantly being attempted.
Tonight there's a film club.
We usually have about 30-40 people sometimes, so...
And then, tomorrow morning, we'll have to change it back again
for the lunch that we're doing tomorrow
for the friends of the National Gallery.
So, plenty of shifting about!
Film nights, tours, weddings and events are all being held
to keep on top of running costs.
The minimum, you know, between insurance, heating costs, um...
you know, we need to be bringing in roughly about 200,000 a year.
You know, some years we get close to it and some years we don't.
Before having children, Morgan's wife, Sara, was an events manager,
so many of the money-making ideas are hers.
I just do the...I do the hard yards!
The wife comes up with the ideas and tells me what to do!
Well, Morgan inherited the estate just as the credit crunch hit,
which, of course, you know, we weren't expecting.
So, we had a few tough years, and Ireland is in a deep recession.
You know, things are very, very hard for most people at the moment.
It's a good idea, you know,
when she came in and started to do these events.
You know, she came up with ideas that we'd never really thought about.
Or maybe had thought about but had dismissed because, you know,
they were slightly out of our comfort zone, really.
So that's been a good thing.
Um, it's just doing all the work she tells you to do!
It's really all about not keeping your eggs all in one basket.
Because if that goes then you really are in trouble.
So the more different things we can do, not only is it more enjoyable
and it's more of an asset to the community as well.
Borris's big screen is a close to a cinema as the village gets
and the film night is just one way
of drawing the local community to the house.
I suppose what we really want is the place to be self-sustaining.
So again, you don't want to put that burden upon your children either.
You know, whoever will agree to take it on,
you want it to be able to wipe its own face, I suppose.
Be financially self-sustaining.
So you're not putting a burden upon them.
The small profit from the night
is enough to pay for this week's electricity bill
but goes nowhere towards on-going repairs.
More money is badly needed.
It's the day of the sale of the Sleator self-portrait.
We're here in Dublin, at Adam's Auctioneers
and with all the hustle and bustle
I think this is the best place to sell this Sleator painting.
They do such an unbelievable job at marketing this kind of Irish art.
It was here that a Jack Yeats picture sold last year
for one million euro -
the highest price paid at auction for a work of art in Ireland.
The Irish Art market has grown despite the economic slowdown
but satisfying hungry collectors is hard
as people who own good pictures are hanging onto them,
as it feels a safer investment than the stock market.
19,000. In the room at 9,500. Any advance on 9,500?
Are you all out...?
But will this lesser-known artist's work appeal?
The Sleator has to reach 3,000 euro, or £2,300, to sell.
'Lot number 69. Who will start me at 1,500 euro for it, please? 1,500.
The sale starts very slowly.
'..1,500 euro on this self-portrait.'
'By Sleator. 1,600.'
-'Thank you, 16...'
-There doesn't seem to be any interest in the room.
'Are you all out at 3,000 euro? Fair warning now at 3,000 euro...'
And it just scrapes over the lower estimate.
Let's go, shall we get out of here?
-You must be gutted, aren't you?
Target looks a long way away now. Um...didn't go well. Anyway.
-Pint of Guinness?
The Sleator sold for £2,130 after commission.
The disappointing art sale has prompted Morgan to find
something of his own to sell.
-It's a Joseph Lang.
-Hmm. It's a good maker.
-My parents bought it at auction for me for my 21st birthday.
But unfortunately it's made for a small, right-handed man.
-Oh, so it just doesn't fit?
-It doesn't fit.
I mean, the condition is pretty good.
It's numbered one. It would have been one of a pair.
It's nice that it's number one rather than two,
because they would be less.
When you rang Lang, did they give you an indication of value?
-They said a similar gun had sold for seven and a half.
I would assume that's a retail figure rather than an auction figure.
I believed it was an auction figure, I could be wrong.
That's a lot for a gun like this.
I have sold a few Langs over the years -
more recently a gun that Lang made for one of the maharajahs,
and that was inlaid with gold, and that only made 8,000.
So I do think it is... Really, 2,000-3,000 is about the mark.
-That's wouldn't be great, but...
Morgan has agreed to let me sell the shotgun at £2,000 reserve.
But I know he's really disappointed with this, and it is a low reserve
but this is where the game becomes a bit tactical.
If you place something into an auction at too high a reserve,
it will just put people off and you need to really generate interest.
So now it's up to me to make sure I place it into the right sale to maximise.
The first thing I always do is check out an auction house's website.
This is really an indicator to me
that they are passionate about their job,
they're up to speed on marketing and will really get you the best price.
Check that the auction house has online bidding.
It means that someone can be sitting in an armchair in Australia
and bid on it real-time during the sale from the comfort of their own home.
And don't assume London is the best place to sell
because sometimes placing something in the provinces,
even if it's special, can do really well
because it generates a huge amount of interest
whereas in London it could be one of many.
Back in the library, John has spotted a stack of old diaries
and has asked Morgan's sister Aoife to tell him about the author.
-You must be Aoife.
-Morgan said you were the person to ask about these diaries.
This one here is the great diary
of my great-great-great-grandfather, Arthur.
Born in 1831, so he's 15 when he writes this diary.
Harriet, his mother, deviated from the tradition of the grand tour
in that the grand tours were all in Europe.
It was Arthur's mother, Lady Harriet,
who introduced lace making during the famine.
On this one, they travelled... Turkey, Cairo,
down the River Nile.
So he sounds like quite an interesting character.
To say he's interesting is an understatement.
He led a very full life. He travelled a lot.
He was a brilliant sailor, he was a brilliant horseman,
he was a brilliant architect.
He was a very enlightened landlord. He built the railway here.
-He was a politician.
He also... He was born with no arms and legs.
-Now, did Morgan set you up to this?
-I promise you. Yeah.
He was actually born with no arms and legs?
I don't believe it.
How would he have written these with such neat handwriting?
His arms came to about here and here and he held the pen in his mouth.
He actually first learned to paint. His mother taught him to paint.
-I can see you're being serious.
-I am serious.
He only lived for about 55 years. He died eventually
of health problems. But to do what he did in his short life
Superstitious locals had their own ideas
about why Arthur was born without arms and legs.
His mother, Lady Harriet, was Protestant, and controversially
remodelled the Catholic estate chapel to reflect her own faith.
It is said that when Harriet took down the statues from this chapel here
that the statue actually fell
and the arms were meant to have broken off
-and they said that is why Arthur was born...
-It was a sign, right.
Modern science has revealed that Arthur's birth defects
were probably due to a rare genetic disorder called total amelia syndrome.
-Was Arthur shut away as a child?
-His mother would always say to him,
"Your disability will be your strength in life,"
which is a pretty incredible thing and quite un-Victorian.
He was not to be mollycoddled in any way.
And as soon as he could really sit up, he was in a saddle.
She had him riding a pony at a very young age
because I think she felt that would be a great way for him to be mobile.
John wants to learn more about the remarkable story,
which could be a centrepiece in the visitor centre.
Soon, a new generations of Kavanaghs will invade Borris.
Just try one piece, will you, please?
Sara, Morgan, their children and dogs will be moving out of their cottage
to the big house.
Today, they're going to do some exploring of the 50 rooms.
We're just going to have a look at a bedroom
and see maybe who'd like what bedroom.
Everybody has to take their boots off coming in.
Trying not to bring too much mud with them.
Do you want to come up with us to watch?
Luckily, Tina and Andrew are on hand to keep things in order.
Oh, look, she's come off the lead.
My mother-in-law is amazing. She gets the whole house ready for me!
Whenever we do a wedding or an event,
especially as I've just had a baby, so...
She really has taken all that on board.
Listen, girls, you'll have to be a little bit more careful about your boots.
I'm really going to miss that if they do move out.
I'm really going to have to do it all myself now instead.
Morgan's parents are having a cottage on the estate renovated.
It will be very different from the grand house,
which has been home for 40 years.
I won't feel like I've left Borris at all, you see.
I'm only going to be 100 yards away.
And I'm still going to be here in this place.
I can still walk in the same places that I walk every day anyway
and the family hopefully will be still here.
I don't think it'll bother me in the least.
In fact, I'm quite looking forward to the new place!
-Do you mind sleeping here? Will all three of you sleep in here?
-Do you want your own room?
-I want my own room too.
-Yeah, me too.
-You might be scared sleeping on your own.
Well, maybe if you shared with Minna and Ellie shared with Charlie.
Can I sleep on my own bed?
OK. Come on.
Pick up the blanket. You're dropping the blanket.
Can I sleep in Daddy's room?
Their daddy is downstairs in the dining room with John,
who's asked oriental ceramics specialist Alastair Gibson
to look at pieces collected by Lady Harriet.
-How come your ceramics are in such bad condition?
What's happened in your house?
You've been having wild Irish parties over the years with your ancestors?
Um, I think what you see there
-is a small remnant of the original collection.
-Lady Harriet collected a lot of porcelain.
During the Troubles, 1920s, there was a lot of damage done.
Well, these two pieces have a little bit of damage.
Here we're looking at a couple of vases
which we'll date to the mid-17th century.
They were made in the kilns in Jingdezhen, southern China,
which is arguably like Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire.
Sadly, as you can see, they do have a bit of damage.
We've got a hairline crack on that one on the back.
So that is going to be a detrimental value factor unfortunately.
But nonetheless there are still good collectors
for this type of ware in China and also in the West.
In terms of commerciality, if these vases had figures
of beautiful Chinese ladies at leisure in their gardens
or scholars conducting ceremonies and what have you,
they would be far more valuable.
-So this decoration keeps the value of these down?
People enjoy looking at vases more with figures
and activities on them
rather than looking at flowers and foliage.
In terms of value, had it had figures,
you'd be looking at more like 10,000-20,000.
I still think today at auction
you're going to be looking at 3,000-5,000 for that.
-So is this sterling or euro?
-Sterling, I'm afraid.
This one a little bit less.
I'm going to put a modest £1,000-1,500 on that for you.
-I can see you're not that impressed.
Um, I mean, I was hoping for something a bit stronger than that.
-It's still three grand more.
They've been here for a long time, they're part of the place.
Certainly this, I'm going to keep that for £1,500.
And let the other one go?
-Yeah, I'll have a think about that.
-There's a lot of thinking going on.
Yeah, there is a lot of thinking going on. But, you know, it's a tough decision to make.
Morgan can be so frustrating to deal with.
It's like getting blood out of a stone.
So far we've sold the Sleator self-portrait and we've sold the book.
We still have the gun and one of Lady Harriet's vases to sell.
And this should really help our total.
John's off to London for the gun sale in the company of Morgan.
Selling at 15. Bid's here at 15 and selling. Last chance. 1,500.
Fair warning to the internet. 15 and selling. Sold for 15.
The auction is underway at Kensington Barracks.
Thousands of guns are on view.
Including Morgan's 21st birthday present.
-Will you be disappointed to see it go?
-I would, yeah. I will be disappointed.
But I suppose two grand will go... you know.
I hope it's going to make more than that.
Sold for 900.
Morgan is getting twitchy at John's estimate,
but auctioneer Nick Holt agrees with it being offered at the right price.
Everybody's got a different type of purse.
Here we've got £2,000-£3,000 on it.
Elsewhere you've got £50,000-£70,000.
But two to three - great price range.
-It's a very usable gun.
-Is the gun market a bit flat at the moment?
I've never known it so good over the last five years
since Lehman Brothers went under.
We've gone up 25%-30% per sale.
-And is that because people are investing in guns?
£72,000, then. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
And with the conservative estimate
that I put on that gun, is that the smart thing to do?
Always. Keep it a little bit enticing.
Once the bees have come to the honey, then the hands go out.
Sold for £18,000.
Upstairs, Morgan has cold feet. He wants to increase the reserve.
-You can't go changing estimates at this point.
-What do you think?
I'd be very disappointed for two.
I just don't believe we can change it at this point. Shall we see what happens?
No option now.
Morgan is not happy.
He has a case of serious pre-sale nerves
but it's too late to back out.
-The gun's about to go under the hammer.
Lot number 1443 is a fine piece. It's the Joseph Lang and Son.
-See where he starts.
-I've got interest in this, ladies and gentlemen.
I'm going to start the bidding at £2,000. £2,000 there.
-2,000. 2,100 with me.
-It's a bidding war.
3,400. 3,500. 3,600.
-Quickly up to 4,000.
-3,800. 3,900. 4,000. 4,100.
-Three new bidders.
-They're battling now.
4,600, 4,700. £4,800. The bid is on the telephone.
Fair warning to the internet. I'm going, sir, 4,800. Sold for £4,800.
-Nearly gave me a heart attack.
The gun sold for £4,320 after commission.
A big boost to the funds.
Yeah, it was good. Considering how much you downplayed it beforehand.
The thing is, I didn't want you to get your hopes up. And because...
-who knows what's going to happen in there?
-I must say, it was...
I mean, I was sitting there thinking, "Please, God, let it go off."
-And it did.
-There were a couple of people fighting on it.
-The five would have been nice, but, you know.
You see, you're a hard man to please.
Sold for £18,000.
Whilst in London, John and Morgan want to learn more about Arthur Kavanagh.
Historian Turtle Bunbury will help Morgan design the Arthur exhibit in the visitor centre.
Central to the story will be Arthur's incredible 4,000-mile trek
mainly on horseback.
The journey took Arthur from Ireland to Sweden, then on to Persia.
A remarkable feat in itself
but unparalleled by anyone born without arms and legs.
It was bandit country around here. Pretty treacherous mountains.
It's quite arid desert in other areas.
And right on to India.
Arthur had a very bad fever at one point and ended up waking up in a harem.
-That doesn't sound that bad.
-He seemed quite happy.
Returning to Ireland, he took over the reins at Borris,
married Frances and had seven children,
and finally became a politician.
1866 he ends up as MP for County Wexford
and he's basically in parliament here at Westminster till 1880,
so 14, 15 years in parliament.
His maiden speech was about reforming the Poor Laws.
And this is a report which they produced in parliament afterwards.
"In an instant, every eye in the house was turned towards the back seat
"where the honourable member for Carlow sat,
"cool and collected,
"and in the course of a speech of some 12 minutes' duration
"he exhibited an intimate knowledge of the question under discussion."
Mr Kavanagh was loudly cheered.
His main interest was the Irish land situation.
He passionately believed in the landlord system, but a benevolent one.
He had no time for absenteeism.
He was a very good landlord in his own area.
Yes, I mean, coming here today, it's given me a wonderful feeling
of what my great-great-great-grandfather
achieved in his life,
how he overcame his disabilities
and, you know, to achieve being a member of parliament
and to thrive in parliament.
Arthur Kavanagh died in London on Christmas Day, 1889.
He was brought back to Borris
and buried in a family graveyard on the estate.
A simple monument was later erected in the village.
It looks a bit insignificant
and you see in towns and cities monuments much grander
to people who have achieved half of what Arthur achieved.
And I really think we need to bring his story to the forefront
and the history centre is the perfect place to do it.
With nearly three-quarters of the £20,000 target secured,
preliminary work has just begun on the old laundry.
Had a good clear-out. You can see the shape of the room.
The architect has been out.
Um, she's bringing down the structural engineer, hopefully, this week,
and then sort of schedule the works and put it out to tender
and hopefully kick on.
With the target still several thousand sort,
John needs to search high and low for other items to sell.
And he's hunting in the bedrooms.
That is actually a really nice Lionel Edwards watercolour.
Lionel Edwards is quite a serious artist
and this is mostly what he was known for -
fox hunting, racing, anything to do with horse riding, basically.
I mean, there are problems going on.
This backboard has been replaced.
I think the glass has been smashed at some point.
It's actually scratched the painting there. And here.
Then only things that are making me worry a little bit is,
one, the condition, which can be sorted out.
It's not the end of the world
But, two, the fact that there's a falling horse and a rider.
It might just put some people off.
But he is very collected, so hopefully that will do quite well.
The watercolour could really boost funds
but the pressure will be off if Lady Harriet's vase sells well.
John is eager to see the auction.
The vase is being sold at an Asian ceramic sale in Scotland.
I'll start it at £300.
20. 340. 360. 380. 400...
The vase is just about to come up
and out of all of the items that we're selling for Morgan
I know this one is the one he really doesn't want to let go because,
after all, Lady Harriet collected this and it's been in the family a long time,
and I'm just hoping I can give him some good news.
But close to the sale, John learns some difficult news.
Morgan was so nervous the vase would go cheaply,
he asked the auctioneers to increase the bottom estimate from £3,000 to £4,000.
..Is the transitional blue and white sea vase that you see there.
Got interest in this. I can start it at £2,200.
Not a good start.
There's no interest in the room
and no activity either on the phones or internet.
It just doesn't seem to appeal.
It's not sold.
I don't know why that didn't sell.
Nothing on the phones, nothing on the internet.
I just think maybe it was estimated too high.
£150. Are you all done?
That's just a bomb.
John has to break the disappointing news.
'John, how are you? Do you have good news for me?'
Er, it's not so good news, no.
-Yeah. The vase didn't sell.
-'The vase didn't sell?'
'Damn. I thought it would sell. Didn't you?'
Everything in the sale that was estimated at 200-300
was making 2,000 and 3,000 and I think that's the problem.
Like when we've spoken before, you've got to pitch it low
and let it make its own mark.
-You estimate things too high, you get in trouble.
All right, Morgan, listen, we'll speak soon. Speak to you later.
Yeah, he's not happy.
You can tell.
There's no messing around with Morgan
and he's so easy to read and I can tell he wasn't happy.
And I'm not happy. Frankly, it's really irritating.
All that time and effort, and just coming to the auction
and then you get nothing. It's a real downer.
There's highs and lows and, I tell you, the highs can be great.
This was a low.
Thank you very much. 700.
If Morgan had taken John's advice,
the visitor centre may have been several thousand pounds richer.
£2,000. 2,200. 2,400...
There are two crucial sales to go - the bronze and the watercolour.
The last chance to make up funds.
With the big event at Borris approaching,
John will take the news of the final total to the family.
Borris is hosting a country game fair,
a first, and important, event at the house.
It's a massive deal.
10,000 people have come from all over Ireland and Britain.
It's a big boost to the house's profile.
This is the type of event that we really want to get to Borris.
It's going to bring in significant numbers
and it's going to bring in significant income, we hope, in the next few years.
For now, though, the family is grabbing every opportunity
to make some extra money.
We're hopeful, if the organisers are happy with the event this year,
that they will come back again next year, you know.
John returns with the results of the final two sales.
Have the last items made enough to reach the 20,000 target
to allow work to start on the visitor centre?
The bronze came up first and sold, on estimate, for £500.
Sold at 500.
And the Lionel Edwards watercolour did even better, selling for 4,300.
4,300. For the last time, £4,300.
So together the last two Borris antiques sold for 4,320
So I've got the grand auction total for you,
which in pounds first comes in at £18,600,
-which is a thousand less than we were looking for.
-That's a shame.
-Oh, we were so close.
-It was the vase.
If the vase had gone we'd have been fine and we'd have met our target.
And then converting that into euros,
after commissions and all that, it comes out at 21,250 euros.
-So we nearly did it.
But there is one really good bit of news.
The County Carlow Development Partnership,
which looks after tourism and heritage in the area,
they've been looking at the project
and they were so excited by it
that they think you meet all the requirements for grant aid.
So, not the 50% you were looking for, but actually the 75%.
That's great. I mean, it makes the whole project really viable
and, hopefully, you know, when it's up and going,
it's going to be a real success
and bring a lot of people to the house and to the area.
I must say, I've thoroughly enjoyed myself.
It's been such good fun. Nearly all of it.
No, but it's really good. I'm really excited for you.
Thank you very much for all your help.
-It's been an absolute pleasure.
-It's been great working with you.
When it's sunk into us now, that's fantastically positive news.
It makes the whole thing really attractive now
and hopefully, you know, the whole project
will be a source of income for years to come.
I think, before, we couldn't always quite see the wood from the trees.
And this whole process has really made us focus on the project
and John has really helped us see the whole story
and how to pull it together.
The sale of antiques at Borris, together with an enhanced grant,
means the Kavanagh family can afford their new visitor centre,
which should be up and running by next summer.
On top of that, the game fair has proved a success,
and Morgan and Sara have been told they can host the event
for at least the next three years.
It's really great to see this place looking so vibrant
and I've grown to love this house.
And they're such an amazing family.
But Morgan, I must say, has put me through the wringer at times.
OK, we didn't quite make our target but we got a good way there.
This is a historic house
and the visitor centre will provide an income
which will protect this place for future generations.
And that's what I call a result.
Next time, John steps in to help save this historic Scottish gem.
It's my grandparents' house.
This house will fall down
unless we make money to make sure it's maintained.
But it won't be easy.
That is a major blow.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Antiques Roadshow regular John Foster helps to prop up struggling historic houses by uncovering valuable heirlooms that the families can sell. The Kavanagh family at Borris House in Ireland desperately need money to keep their 50-room stately home wind and weather tight.