Colonial officer's rare vases set for auction in Newcastle

A memento of a colonial officer's years of service in far flung parts of the British Empire will be sold tomorro

The vases which belonged to Sir Oliver Beauchamp Coventry St John
The vases which belonged to Sir Oliver Beauchamp Coventry St John

A memento of a colonial officer's years of service in far flung parts of the British Empire will be sold tomorrow.

A pair of rare antique Chinese vases which belonged to Sir Oliver Beauchamp Coventry St John - better known as Colonel St John - are valued at £1,000-£1,500 at the start of a three-day sale in Newcastle by Anderson & Garland.

A Knight Commander of the Star of India, Col St John served in the Middle East and India where he arrived in the 1850s as a lieutenant with the Bengal Engineers.

His great grandson Bill Sidgwick, who lives in Felton in Northumberland, is selling the vases. .

St John compiled maps of Persia which remained the standard cartography of the region for decades, and he educated the sons of Indian princes at Mayo College in Ajmer.

He narrowly avoided assassination during the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

In 1863 he was part of an expedition to run a telegraph line from India to Persia and across Turkey to the Bosporus.

In 1867 he went to Abyssina as director of the field telegraph and army signalling department, carrying the telegraph line 200 miles inland for which he was mentioned in despatches.

In 1871, St John was sent to Balochistan, a province of what is now Pakistan, and is bordered by Afghanistan and modern-day Iran on a expedition to survey the frontier.

During all this time he took a keen interest in natural history and a bird was named after him.

There are accounts of him chasing a tiger that threatened a colleague.

He also served in Kandahar, Kasmir., Hyderabad and Mysore. He died 1891 at Quetta in Balochistan.

Mr Sidgwick, whose career that took him all over the world with the Royal Navy, said: “Certainly from my teenage years, I remember the vases were always with my mother.”

Steven Moore, senior specialist at Anderson & Garland, said: “Not only are these rare Chinese vases, but they have been in the same family since they were originally sold.

“We have strong links with customers in mainland China and this is just the type of thing they are looking for with a strong family connection and British heritage.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer