Racist skulls curio found in Northumberland school shed fetches big price at auction

Strange teaching aid featuring Caucasian, negroid, Native American and Australian skulls in auction surprise

The skulls teaching aid from Longhirst Hall
The skulls teaching aid from Longhirst Hall

School caretaker Harry Woods was a collector who filled sheds with items he saved.

The late Mr Woods was caretaker at a school based at Longhirst Hall in Northumberland for 30 years from 1952.

When the school closed, he was given the task of clearing the building.

One of the objects he saved from the skip was a bizarre teaching aid featuring the skull shapes of different races.

Now it has sold for £2,100 at an Anderson & Garland auction in Newcastle after being initially valued at £50-£100.

The painted representations of skulls, produced in Darlington, features a variety of impressions of skull shapes from European to Chinook and Australian peoples.

Auctioneer Fred Wyrley-Birch said: “It us a brilliant oddity and a fantastically strange item.”

Longhirst Hall was acquired by the Home Office after the Second World War and converted into a rehabilitation school for young offenders.

Mr Woods’s daughter, Helen Pirnie, who lives in Pegswood in Northumberland, said: “My father was the sort of person who couldn’t throw things away.

“He was a magpie who had garden huts full of stuff.”

When the huts were being cleared Beamish Museum in County Durham was contacted.

“They took away items like 14 old fashioned football boots and a Victorian glass implement for blanching leeks,” said Helen.

A letter from comedian Stan Laurel to the wife of his Tyneside childhood friend sold for £1,400.

It had been valued at between £300 and £500.

The signed and dated note was sent to Margaret Miller in 1960 to her home in Percy Gardens in Tynemouth. Stan Laurel went to school with her husband Arthur.

The correspondence, on letterhead paper from Laurel’s address at 849 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, California, thanks Mrs Miller for a Christmas card calendar featuring a view of Tynemouth Pavilion.

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