MYSTERIES don’t come much bigger than one and a half tonnes of bronze.
That is the weight of an 8ft high monumental bronze work of art which will be sold today by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson & Garland.
The sculpture, titled The Temptation of Adam and Eve, has come from Close House between Heddon-on-the-Wall and Wylam in the Tyne Valley in Northumberland. It is expected to fetch between £10,000 and £20,000.
The 18th Century mansion is now a 31-bedroom hotel, restaurant and golf course owned by Tyneside businessman Graham Wylie.
It is thought that the monumental work, created in 1902 by silversmith Alexander Fisher, was once a major feature of the gardens at Close House. Its most recent home has been the hotel’s orangery. But attempts to unravel the history of the bronze at Close House have drawn a blank.
The house, built in 1779, was previously owned by Newcastle University and between 1906 and 1934 was the property of Tyneside shipping magnate Sir James Knott. “The bronze is a monster. It’s gigantic and the intriguing question is how it came to be at Close House,” said auctioneer John Anderson, who revealed that there had been interest from a United States museum.
Close House director Alan Graham said: “Given that this is such a fabulous piece of art it should be on public display in somewhere like a museum. It’s massive.
“It did dominate the orangery and was rather wasted in there. We had to remove the doors and windows to get it out.”
The best guess us that the piece was commissioned by Sir James Knott.
The building of the church of St James and St Basil Church in Fenham, Newcastle, began in 1927 backed by the generosity of Sir James, in memory of his sons Henry Basil and James who were both killed in the First World War.
The church is considered a masterpiece of the Arts and Crafts movement. It is thought that the bronze ties in with the style in which the church was created.
Alexander Fisher trained as a silversmith between 1881 and 1884 and produced works in silver, bronze and copper.
Given that this is such a fabulous piece of art it should be on public display in a museum
Benefactor's humble beginnings
AFTER leaving school in North Shields at 14, James Knott went on own the third biggest shipping line in the world.
James was born on January 31 1855 at Howdon in what is now North Tyneside as the eldest of 10 children. He started work as a shipping clerk on Newcastle Quayside.
In 1878 he acquired his first ship, a collier brig named Pearl for £186 and in 1881 he purchased his first steam ship the Saxon Prince.
James Knott set up the Prince Line Ltd in 1895 which grew to 45 ships, many of them built on the Tyne and the Wear.
He also owned coal mines, became a ship’s master, studied law, was called to the Bar in 1889 and in 1910 served as MP for Sunderland.
The Knott family were great benefactors to the North East and in particular to the village of Heddon- on-the-Wall. The family created the Memorial Park in Heddon in 1925 in memory of their sons killed in action in the First World War.
The Sir James Knott Trust provided funds to build the Knott Memorial Flats at Tynemouth in North Shields. Since 1990 the Trust has made around 7,000 grants totalling over £21m.