Huge cash boost for Hampshire tourist attraction after painting is sold for £4.4m

Stansted House in Stansted Park, near Rowlands Castle
Stansted House in Stansted Park, near Rowlands Castle
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MILLIONS of pounds raised from the sale of a painting will be spent buying back and restoring grounds at an historic country home.

An auction raised £4.4m for Stansted Park Foundation, which owns and runs the house, with the sale of an 18th century painting by Old Master Jean-Etienne Liotard.

The painting A Dutch Girl at Breakfast Picture: Sotherbys

The painting A Dutch Girl at Breakfast Picture: Sotherbys

James Cooper, director of the foundation at the Grade II-listed Stansted House, said it would never ordinarily sell an artwork but did to take up the chance to buy back 160 acres.

Mr Cooper said a reproduction of the painting, A Dutch Girl at Breakfast, which set an auction record for the artist at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night, had been made before the sale.

Mr Cooper said: ‘We’re pleased with the sale. An opportunity came up to buy a large part of the parkland.

‘It was better to sell one painting to fund that and to buy this parkland.

‘We’re looking to enhance the visitor experience. It’s a wonderful landscape, it has some interesting botanical features.’

The foundation had previously sold the land, near Rowland’s Castle, when the trust was set up as cash was needed to restore the Edwardian house.

Mr Cooper said the land will be restored to its 18th century plan.

He added: ‘There was very high demand for capital in the early years.

‘That was identified as an area of lesser importance. Now we had the opportunity to buy it back and the foundation is in a stronger financial position.

‘It’s bringing it into management so that we can improve it.’

The restoration of the land is due to take between five and 10 years.

It was the first time the oil painting, which had never been on display at the house, had been up for sale in 250 years. The replica is on display at the house.

A buyer paid £4,405,000 and the sale price had been estimated at between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000.

The painting was originally sold for £15.4s.6d in April 1774 at Christie’s.

William Ponsonby, second Earl of Bessborough, bought it and the painting passed to Frederick Ponsonby, the 10th Earl of Bessborough, who put the estate into charitable trust in 1983. He then bequeathed it to the foundation.

Michael Oldfield, chairman of Friends of Stansted Park, said: ‘We’re delighted to hear that such a sum has been raised.’

Councillor Julie Tassell, member for Funtington at Chichester District Council, added: ‘I’m very pleased about it, Stansted brings in a huge amount of money in our local area.’