Duke of Northumberland hopes sold treasures bring joy to new owners

The Duke of Northumberland has spoken of his hope that the new owners of £32m of his treasures will get as much joy from them as his family has done

The 12th Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy
The 12th Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy

The Duke of Northumberland says he hopes his family’s treasures will bring joy to their new owners after selling items for £32m.

Art from the Duke’s homes at Alnwick Castle and Syon House in London has been sold at auction in recent days, as his business venture sought to recoup the cost of its works following a major flood on Tyneside.

The sales have brought in £32.7m, around double the estimated value of the items sold, with several going for figures way above their estimated sale price.

On the back of the auctions, the Duke has voiced his hopes that the treasures “will bring as much joy to their new owners as they have to both me and my ancestors.”

The Journal reported in April how the Duke was planning to sell over £15m worth of art having been hit with a repair bill to date of in excess of £12m as a result of the flooding which hit Newburn, in Newcastle, in 2012.


A culvert on land owned by the estates collapsed in May that year. Homes had to be demolished after heavy rain washed away land and foundations a month later.

The estates is facing an £8m compensation claims from Dunelm Homes, which owns the land on which the homes are located, in addition to the £12m plus cost of its repairs to its culvert.

The money for the repairs was found from funds which had previously been set aside for maintenance of the estate’s buildings, and projects.

Around 80 items were given to Sotheby’s in London to be sold throughout the course of the year, as the estates sought to recoup the money, and to “allow for investment in the estates’ long term heritage projects to continue unhindered.”

The “bulk, value wise” were sold on Tuesday and Wednesday, fetching a total of £32.7m - “well over expectations” according to Sotheby’s.

That amount compares to the estimate for the collection of £13-20m.

Among the items which exceeded their sale price was Jan Brueghel the Elder’s Garden of Eden – dated 1613 – which sold to Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia for £6.8m - more than double the estimated price of £2-3m. A portrait of Mohawk War Chieftain Thayendanegea made by Gilbert Stuart in 1786 sold for £4.1m despite an estimate of £1-1.5m.

A Roman marble statue of Aphrodite, established a new record for any classical sculpture sold at auction in Europe when it sold for £9.3m, despite the estimate of £4-6m.

A painting by Giovanni da Rimini sold for £5,682,500, despite an estimate of £2m-3m.

The Duke said: “Over the centuries, my family has had the extraordinary good fortune to be the custodians of many great treasures.

“We dearly hope that those that were sold yesterday will bring as much joy to their new owners as they have to both me and my ancestors.”

An estates spokeswoman said the proceeds would go to not only the costs of addressing the flooding at Newburn.

She explained: “Obviously the sale proceeds generate a large tax bill which will need to be paid. After that, any remaining funds will be used to replenish funds earmarked for the preservation and upkeep of the many heritage buildings and collections under the care of the estate.

“The average spend on repairs and maintenance of heritage buildings on the Estate is circa £2m per annum.”

The spokeswoman explained the cost of the floods could rise once the insurance situation is resolved.

The Duke added: “Their sale will enable us to replenish funds earmarked for the preservation and upkeep of the Northumberland Estates and collections, which were unexpectedly needed to help repair the damage done by the Newburn floods.”

Further sales are to take place of books and manuscripts next week, with a small number of lots to be sold in Sotheby’s Islamic and Indian sales in the autumn.


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