Single house sales rarely come bigger than the 559-lot auction of the couple’s treasures from Hooton Pagnell Hall near Doncaster, which has been in the family for more than 300 years. More than 2,000 items go under the hammer at Bonhams in Knightsbridge on December 1 and the sale could make more than £1 million.
Hooton, or “Hotone”, meaning high town, as it appeared in the Domesday Book, was rebuilt and enlarged over the centuries, eventually becoming a castellated house set in 2,000 acres.
It was acquired in the 17th century by Sir Patience Warde, a Lord Mayor of London, whose bewigged miniature has an estimate of £700-£900, though it will surely go for more. This is one of a collection of 40 miniatures including one of a deliciously grumpy three-year-old by David Myers, dating to the 17th century, that could go for £8,000.
After Sir Patience, the house cantered down the generations, reaching the indomitable Julia Warde-Aldam, great-great-grandmother of the current owner.
Julia, a watercolourist, traveller and collector, added to the house’s contents. She also ran it voluntarily as a hospital in the First World War — and not only did grateful soldiers send armfuls of letters, but also a stuffed crocodile. Sadly the croc’s not for sale, but other mementos from the Great War are, including a medical chest which contains field dressings and badges (lot 536, estimate £200-£300).
While current owner Warde-Norbury has kept the soldiers’ letters, he is selling a correspondence between Julia and Dr Edward Wilson, who died with Captain Scott in March 1912 in the Antarctic (lot 303, estimate £2,000-£3,000). Wilson was the younger brother of Hooton Pagnell’s land agent.
Imagine a huge house stuffed to the gunwales with wooden furniture of every type, porcelain — particularly Chinese — countless paintings, an entire vault full of silver, jewellery dating back to the Stuarts, scores of pocket watches, attics full of Victorian toys, and you can see why the owners wanted a clear-out.
Which means we can rootle around in this frankly spectacular sale, both for useful things, of which there are many, as well as unusual collectors’ items. Among the useful, there is a fair bit of furniture, including a nice pair of Georgian hall chairs (lot 2, £500-£800) and a 19th-century gilt salon suite that is on offer for £800-£1,200.
In the heaving silver vault, there’s everything from salvers to snuffboxes and patch boxes, and even four silver fern pots. Good value is a lovely George III teapot (lot 206, £500-£700) as well as pretty coffee pots from the same era.
A set of 18 charming silver and mother-of-pearl fruit knives and forks would enhance the dullest dessert (lot 228, £600-£800). But most charming of all in this once hunt-obsessed hall are the five solid silver running hound salt and pepper pots (lot 130, £600-£800).
On the animal theme among the ceramics, a rare salt-glazed Staffordshire bear jug circa 1740 is a stand-out (lot 139, £700-£1,000). The plentiful Chinese porcelain includes two nice hexagonal vases (lot 65, £400-£600), while a big group of 18th-century Chinese dishes and bowls is on offer for £500-£800 (lot 530).
With so much stuff there are plenty of grouped lots, where you could get some wonders, but also where you may be bidding against dealers who could split them for individual sale.
They include various pretty 18th-century and 19th-century drinking glasses (lot 123, £500-£700) and a set of “étuis” or small cases, one group featuring a gentleman’s geometry case that’s adorable (lot 156, £1,000-£1,500).
Should you buy the glasses, a mahogany case with six decanters could come in handy (lot 54, £300-£400).
Finally, again from the attics, comes a glorious collection of Victorian toys including three mechanical French pigs (lot 370, £1,000-£2,000), and an oak and gesso lion that could guard your hoard (lot 512, £800-£1,200).
- Hooton Pagnell Hall: 300 years of Collecting is at Bonhams in Knightsbridge on December 1.