It took a marathon sale – but nine hours later and the extraordinary selected contents of one of Yorkshire’s most historic country homes had almost entirely sold out.
In what could be described as the mother of all clear-outs, antiques and artwork dating from as early as the 17th century were rescued from the cobweb-filled attic, dungeon and barns of Hooton Pagnell Hall before being presented for sale at Bonhams’ auction house in London.
The veritable hoard, dug out from the dusty depths of the country residence by current owner Mark Warde-Norbury – the ninth generation of his family to live at the hall eight miles outside of Doncaster – fetched a total price of £1,162,638.
A superb watercolour by map-maker turned landscape painter Paul Sandby (1730-1809) entitled ‘Windsor Castle from the Thames’ led the sale. And it smashed its pre-sale estimate of £40,000-60,000 to fetch £218,500. The sale price is the highest achieved for an artwork by the British master in the last 20 years.
The painting is said to bear a striking resemblance to Sandby’s Windsor Castle from the Eton Shore, which is in the collection of The Queen.
Hooton Pagnell Hall has been the home of the Warde family for more than 300 years and parts of it date back to the 13th century.
Successive generations had added to the house’s contents over the centuries and the sale provided an intriguing reflection of changing taste and fashion.
With numerous projects going on around the estate, including a new farmyard and various planning applications to build new cottages, Mr Warde-Norbury decided it was time for a much-needed sort-out, ‘to liberate objects and works of art that have sat in dark, cobwebby rooms for many years and to enable us to bring the house up to date for current and future generations’.
He said the sort-out had been a ‘cathartic experience’.
There was a packed room and highly competitive bidding, with many lots selling for well over their estimates, Bonhams reported.
Among the hidden antiques given a new home was an Italian 17th century cabinet which more than doubled its pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000 to sell for £56,250.
Perhaps the biggest success was a pair of famille rose hexagonal vases which sold for £19,750, nearly 10 times their original estimate of £2,000-3,000.
As well as a selection of Old Master and 19th century paintings, the auction included English furniture, ceramics, Chinese works of art, silver, jewellery, books and manuscripts.
Another highlight from the sale was a letter from the Duke of Wellington, which sold for £1,750 – nearly eight times its estimate – and a mid-18th century wooden doll, which sold for £21,250, well over double its pre-sale estimate of £10,000-15,000.