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Hillsborough Castle announces major re-hang of Irish art in the State Drawing Room in addition to acquiring over 50 historically significant miniature portraits

The State Drawing Room at Hillsborough Castle is known for its impressive collection of Irish art and now a major re-hang has been announced by Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which manages the castle and gardens. 33 new works of art are now on view in a veritable who’s who of Irish art that has been made possible by collaborations with a variety of lenders, including Crawford Art Gallery in Cork who have loaned 14 artworks, marking the castle’s largest ever loan from the Republic of Ireland.

Historic Royal Palaces is also delighted to announce the acquisition of a Thomas Lawrence portrait of Lord Marcus Hill and 51 miniature portraits of the Hill and Sandys families – known as the Ombersley Miniatures – generously gifted by the Sandys Trust, a charity seeking to further the varied charitable interests of the late Lord and Lady Sandys. Lord Sandys was a descendent of the Hill family, who built the castle in the 18th century. This summer, eight of the Ombersley Miniatures will go on display in the State Ante Room while the remaining 43 are conserved by an expert team.

David Orr, Castle and Collections Manager at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens says: “The Drawing Room at Hillsborough Castle is a haven of Irish art, a celebration of our magnificent land and seascapes right through to incredible royal portraits by Irish artists. We are hugely proud of this new collection, and excited to work with a significant range of lenders, including our largest ever from the Republic of Ireland from Crawford Art Gallery in Cork.

“We are also incredibly grateful to the Sandys Trust for their donation of a much-valued painting of Lord Marcus Hill to the collection on view in the State Dining Room, bringing the first ever portrait of the former resident to the Castle. Meanwhile, the first eight of 51 miniature portraits will enable us to tell even more stories about the Hill family and the history that has developed within the walls of Hillsborough Castle over the past 250 years.”

The State Drawing Room’s celebration of Irish art includes works by some of the most significant Irish artists of the 20th century, several of whom were from Northern Ireland. Crawford Art Gallery’s loan will see pieces from Paul Henry, Colin Middleton and John Luke hanging alongside works from such names as William Conor, Nano Reid and Norah McGuinness. Later in April, the gallery will add two further pieces – Off the Donegal Coast by Jack B. Yeats and The Dressmaker by Margaret Clarke – to this significant re-hang.

Other highlights on view include Priscilla, Countess Annesley (1931) by Sir John Lavery, Culcavy Cottage (1958) by Basil Blackshaw, Strangford Lough (1906) by Percy French, and Vanishing Barriers (1966) by Alice Berger-Hammerschlag, and a magnificent portrait of Lord Marcus Hill, son of the 2nd Marquess of Downshire, painted by sought-after royal portraitist Thomas Lawrence and donated by the Sandys Trust. These works will appear alongside a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Colin Davidson and a portrait of His Majesty the King by Gareth Reid.

The new re-hang also includes local artist Emma Spence’s new and unseen painting Late Summer on Yew Tree Walk (2024), which depicts a scene from Hillsborough’s gardens, with the Castle peeking out in the distance.

David Orr continued: “As an artist on our doorstep, we’re really excited that visitors can enjoy Emma’s painting in the Drawing Room before stepping out onto the South Terrace and being greeted immediately by a view of Yew Tree Walk. That is a rare experience and one we’re thrilled to have for our visitors.”

The Ombersley Miniatures were painted of some of the Hill and Sandys family members over a broad period of time by a variety of artists, including Richard Cosway and Charlotte Jones, both famous for miniature portraiture in their time. While all 51 pieces are undergoing a continued conservation process, eight will be put on display this summer. They will show the faces of some of the Hill family, who used to live at the Castle, for the first time and the miniatures display will be refreshed each year.

Visitors can see the new collection in the State Drawing Room now, with the additional pieces from Yeats and Clarke arriving at the end of April. The Ombersley Miniatures will go on display this Summer. Entrance to the Castle can be booked online via

Additional lenders include His Majesty The King, NI Civil Service, Down County Museum, Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum, Co-Operation Ireland and Northern Ireland Office.



Notes to editors

Media Contact: Jane Williams, JComms – [email protected] / 07545206590

Historic Royal Palaces is a team of people who love and look after six of the most wonderful palaces in the world. We create space for spirits to stir and be stirred. We want everyone to feel welcome and accepted. We tell stories about the monarchs you know and the lives you don’t. We let people explore and we set minds racing. We are a charity and your support gives the palaces a future, for everyone.  Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit

Crawford Art Gallery is an Irish national cultural institution, dedicated to contemporary and historic visual art, located in a significant heritage building in the heart of Cork city. Offering a vibrant and dynamic programme of temporary exhibitions, it also houses a national collection of great importance which tells a compelling story of Cork and Ireland over the last three centuries.

Originally built in 1724 as the city’s Customs House, the Gallery is home to the famous Canova Casts, gifted to Cork two centuries ago. Featured in the gallery’s national collection of over 3,000 objects are contemporary artists Aideen Barry, Gerard Byrne, Maud Cotter, Dorothy Cross, Tacita Dean, and Sean Scully as well as much-loved works by Irish artists James Barry, Harry Clarke, Mainie Jellett, Seán Keating, Daniel Maclise, Norah McGuinness, Edith Somerville, Sir John Lavery and Jack B. Yeats.

An oasis of calm and tranquility, Crawford Art Gallery is open seven days a week, free to enter, and a must-see for locals and tourists alike.


With thanks to:

HM The King

The trustees of the Sandys Trust (Registered Charity Number 1168357)

Northern Ireland Civil Service

NMD Museums - Down County Museum

Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum

Co-Operation Ireland

Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

Northern Ireland Office

Emma Spence


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