Bonhams auction sale at Trelissick House, Cornwall

If you don't catch the Trelissick House contents sale this month, don't expect to see another like it this century
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Auction at Trelissick House
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Globe-trotting collector and bon vivant Leonard Daneham Cunliffe spotted Trelissick from his yacht, the Laranda, on the Fal estuary and bought it in 1918
The contents of Trelissick House, including the Copeland China Collection, July 23-24 at Trelissick House, Feock, near Truro, Cornwall. Visit for full details.

Auction sales like this don't come along like buses. If you want to buy into a romantic, passionate — but also very businesslike — tale of essentially English glamour, drive and opulence, now's the time to raise a paddle.

This is a story worthy of the pen of Trollope, in a glorious setting. On July 23-24, practically the entire contents of collonaded Trelissick House near Truro in Cornwall will be sold, including the Copeland Spode Collection of ceramics, the largest in private hands.

In the early 20th century Trelissick belonged to Leonard Daneham Cunliffe, co-founder of the merchant bank Cunliffe Brothers, and deputy governor of the Bank of England from 1916-1918. A globe-trotting collector and bon vivant of eclectic taste and range, as well as a sportsman, he spotted Trelissick from his yacht, the Laranda, and bought it in 1918. When Cunliffe died in 1937 he left the estate to his go-getting stepdaughter, Ida Copeland, nee Fenzi, who had been Conservative MP for Stoke until 1935 (seeing off Oswald Mosley) and was related to Florence Nightingale.

But it was her husband, Ronald Copeland, president of the Stoke-on-Trent company Copeland Spode, who brought the Copeland ceramics to Trelissick when the couple moved from Kibblestone Hall in Staffordshire to set up home in Cornwall in 1947. The company, Spode, began in 1733 with the birth of Josiah Spode, who was a contemporary of Wedgwood. In 1784, Spode's young family business hired a talented young boy called William Copeland, and so, in time, Copeland Spode was formed. The company went from strength to strength, adapting and growing through the centuries.

Auction at Trelissick House
From right clockwise, six early 20th-century cases (lot 752, £100 to £150); Staffordshire salt-glaze ale jug, circa 1755 (lot 432, £2,000 to £3,000); a 19th-century mahogany decanter box with four decanters and silver labels (lot 252, £300 to £300); Roosevelt and Churchill Copeland Spode Toby jugs (lot 721, £300 to £500)

In 1955 Ida gave the bulk of the estate to the National Trust, retaining use of the house for her family. Her grandson, William Copeland, is the present occupant but is moving to a smaller home locally, prompting the sale. The vast majority of items are to be sold without reserve — which means that some genuine bargains may be had.

But this rare sale offers much more than the chance to buy a corner of a lifestyle, including heavy silver tea sets, gilt sandwich flags, beautiful leather luggage and travelling vanity sets, and more well-made mahogany furniture, carpets and pictures than you can shake a riding crop at. That is because the story of the Spodes and the Copelands, the two families that merged in England's bone china capital of Stoke-on-Trent, resulted in ceramics spanning seven generations and the creation of a historic collection the likes of which will never be seen again.

Wares on offer range from exquisite and costly 18th-century jugs to tea service after tea service in a delicious cavalcade of colours and patterns, from delicate to florid or brash, all hand-painted, starting at estimates as low as £80 for partial sets. There are also equine portraits by John Frederick Herring, the Copeland family's former coachman who became one of the leading animal painters of the 19th century.

Then there are extravagant painted and gilded garnitures of pots and dishes, and desirable blue-and-white Spode, in well-priced groups around the £300 to £400 mark, as well as individual meat platters, dishes and tureens. There are also quirks such as a rare pair of Toby jugs made as Winston Churchill and Roosevelt (estimate £300 to £500). Ceramics form the bulk of the second day of the sale with the majority in excellent condition, having been kept in display cabinets.

Many possible and practical bargains over the two days include chests and tables with estimates from £80, wardrobes from £200 to £300; a group of 22 decanters, estimate £500 to £600 (which could solve your wedding-gift dilemmas forever); plus gems such as Ida Copeland's lovely desk (£10,000 to £15,000), and of course the ceramics. While many of the useful Spode pieces are very well priced, other magnificent specimens and one-off museum-quality pieces will go for thousands. A glittering haul.

The contents of Trelissick House, including the Copeland China Collection, July 23-24 at Trelissick House, Feock, near Truro, Cornwall. Visit for full details.

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