Contents of Hexham Hermitage mansion raise £300,000 at auction

Auction fever gripped bargain hunters bidding to take home items from a country house.

Items in the Hermitage House sale at Anderson and Garland in Westerhope
Items in the Hermitage House sale at Anderson and Garland in Westerhope

Auction fever gripped bargain hunters bidding to take home items from a country house.

A total of 1,500 lots from the 18th Century Hermitage mansion in Hexham in Northumberland were sold over four days by Newcastle auction house Anderson & Garland.

The 25-room mansion was the home of the Morant family from 1922 and little if anything was thrown away, turning the house into a time capsule.

After the death of the last family member earlier this year the contents of the house that time forgot were put on sale, raising almost £300,000.

Anderson & Garland director Andrew McCoull said: “The interest and the response was overwhelming. It was country house sale fever, because country house contents have not come on to the market for such a long time in this area.

“A lot of people were not regular auction buyers but then came along because they wanted a piece from The Hermitage and the four days of the sale were phenomenal.”

The First World War diaries of the head of the household, Brigadier-General Hubert Morant which were the subject of a two-day series in The Journal, were estimated at £800-£1,200, but made £5,800.

Items in the Hermitage House sale at Anderson and Garland in Westerhope

They were bought by Durham County Records Office and will be made available to the public. Brig-Gen Mornat commanded the 10th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry which fought at Ypres, the Somme and Passchendaele.

A diary of a German officer, captured by the battalion in August 1916 and translated by Brig-Gen Mornat, sold for £420 compared to the estimated £50-£100.

“The dairies are first-hand written accounts of life in the trenches from the perspective of a senior officer,” said Mr McCoull.

Paintings of the Morant family were snapped up by a distant relative in Devon.

But Mr McCoull said that the last day of the sale threw up the biggest surprises.

This consisted of an “attic sale” of the residual contents of the house after the main items had been on offer on previous days.

Many of the lots were boxes of items priced at as little as £10.

But the final day raised around £100,000 as many items went for much more than the original estimate.

A 19th Century rocking horse in poor condition, estimated at £100-£200, sold for £1,900. A 19th Century armchair, also at £100-£200, fetched £1,100.

“What happened was that a mass of private buyers turned up for the attic sale and were determined to come away with something from The Hermitage,” said Mr McCoull.

“It was a fantastic sale with people almost clambering over themselves to buy.”

In a sale of vintage vehicles unrelated to The Hermitage, which belonged to the late Roley Foster of Ryton in Gateshead, a 1933 Jowett van featured in The Journal which was used in several films sold for £3,600.

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