Downton Abbey style auction to be held in Northumberland

A unique sale of items from two country homes is taking place next week at the Northern Auction Centre in Wooler, Northumberland

Tim McGuinness Auctioneer Jim Railton with a selection of items from country houses up for auction
Auctioneer Jim Railton with a selection of items from country houses up for auction

Fans of Downton Abbey with some money to spare will be interested in an auction taking place in the region next week which could raise up to £200,000.

In all around 900 lots from two country homes, Harehope Hall near Alnwick, Northumberland and Bonjedward Hill near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders, are to go under the hammer.

The items, many of which have been stored for decades in the attics, cellars, stables and servant quarters of the two large Victorian country mansions, offer a glimpse into the life of the landed gentry 100 years ago, popularised by the hit ITV programme.

And auctioneer Jim Railton said the sale is already attracting a great deal of interest.

“To have one house clearance of this type is unusual. To have two is virtually unheard of these days,” he said. “Many of the items to be sold have not seen the light of day in generations and they open the door on a world long since gone.”

 

He expects one lot - a Georgian ‘silver table’ used for afternoon tea - to sell for up to £40,000.

“I would like to think we’ll get £200,000 in total but it all depends. Antiques are not as popular as they were.”

The library at Harehope Hall contained thousands of books – all of which will be sold. They range from history and the classics to thrillers and country sports.

Among them was an old school geography text book in which was discovered a faded cutting from a Calcutta newspaper announcing the “discovery” of Mount Everest.

Other volumes include the diary of a cavalry officer from the time of the Napoleonic wars, a rare publication from 1859 on the Battle of Flodden, which is signed by the author, and leather-bound texts with details of Old Bailey trials from the 1700s.

Mr Railton said that ploughing through the dust and grime in coach houses and storage buildings his staff have uncovered everything from the bizarre to the exotic - including one lot which claims to be a plaster cast of the foot of Jesus on a shaped plinth.

“Someone obviously had Catholic tastes,” he said.

Mr Railton said he was particularly taken by a collection of country house games including a trapeze, hockey sticks and a ‘shove ha’penny’ game which has never been unused.

He added: “We have a boomerang, which was brought back after a visit to Australia in 1890; there are silver hunting cups and game books from shoots; eastern carpets – just right for that “shabby chic” look, a pair of eastern hardwood doors, carved with elephants and even some whale’s teeth.

“There are bronzes, unusual Russian furniture, along with an icon and an exquisite Russian letter opener decorated with the twin eagle holding a mace and sceptre which is possibly by Faberge.”

There is also fine French porcelain, Chinese ceramics and other oriental ware, paintings, jewellery, clocks, English furniture of all periods, tribal clubs, swords, fishing rods, even a child’s brass cot complete with horsehair mattress and an Edwardian telephone exchange with Bakelite phones and electric bells.

Mr Railton added: “This is a sale with something for everyone, from the dealer to the private collector or even a Downton Abbey fan simply looking for an unusual Christmas present with links to a North country estate.

“The hundreds of items we have cleared are a great cross section of family country living as it was and it is doubtful such a wide-ranging sale of its type will take place in the region again.”

The auction is being held at the Northern Auction Centre in Wooler, Northumberland, on November 23.

All items can be seen on Railtons website www.jimrailton.com

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