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Adrian Rathbone reveals the star lots in Hansons’ Autumn Fine Art and Bishton Hall Contents Auction

Posted on 28/10/2018 in Press Coverage

Here, Hansons' Associate Director, Adrian Rathbone, reports on the highlights in our Autumn Fine Art and Bishton Hall Contents Auction, which ran between Oct 10-19, 2018.

The auction world descended on Staffordshire from 10th October to be a part of the monumental task of selling the entire contents of Bishton Hall, a listed 18th Century mansion nestled in leafy countryside on the edge of the late Lord Lichfield's Shugborough estate.

The current owners, the Stafford Northcotes moved here in 1946 and transformed it into St Bede's prep School. Many pupils went on to lead distinguished careers. For the last few years I held valuation days onsite at the school and over the years became fascinated by the wonderful riches contained within its walls. It was therefore an honour to be appointed to handle the sale of the contents. We decided to incorporate our Autumn Fine Art Auction and sell everything onsite, despite the logistical and technical hurdles which had to be overcome

Country House auctions are few and far between in these days of internet technology, but it quickly became evident that few could resit the allure and cache of taking a punt at select objects in a romantic setting. The first day of viewing witnessed over 600 visitors and each viewing and sale day was as busy and as vibrant as the previous.

The auction of the contents and fine art stock combined smashed the £1 million barrier and provided Hansons with our most successful auction to date. To achieve this goal, one needs some high flying entries and here there was no shortage.

Silver kicked off proceedings on the 10th October and it was 20th Century silver that stole the show. Lot 12, a Robert Welch Old Alveston series of flatware hallmarked for Sheffield 1977 took £2,300. Lot 84, a Liberty & Co Arts & Crafts Cymric timepiece designed by Archibald Knox flew past the £3,000 top estimate to bring £5,200 from a local buyer.


Jewellery and watches followed on from the silver. Lot 183, a diamond two-stone cross-over ring weighing approximately 4.20 ct and assessed colour K/L sold for £5,800. In the watches section, the highest price was £3,500 bid for Lot 240, an immaculate and fully boxed circa 1988 Rolex bi-metal Oyster Perpetual Datejust wristwatch sourced from a valuation day in Wilmslow.


The Connoisseur Ceramics section offered fine English porcelain from the 18th Century and later. Highest single price was for Lot 489, a circa 1887 Royal Worcester reticulated teacup and saucer which brought £5,000 against a £1,500 top estimate.

The continued appeal of Art Deco was evident in Lot 822, a Bruno Zach gilt bronze study of ballet dancers en pointe at £4,200.

It was the clock section that broke all records with Lot 884, a Thomas Tompion circa 1690 bracket clock. Consigned by a north Derbyshire private client, the clock had a double fusee movement fitted with a complex trip repeating mechanism. Estimated at £150,000-200,000, a private UK bid the top estimate to secure it.


The contents of Bishton Hall itself were held on Saturday 13th October. The owners had arranged for a number of 'old boys' to come and join the proceeding which were distinctly jovial.

Highlights from the grand entrance hall was Lot 3005, a pair of unusual 19th Century Anglo-Indian campaign black lacquer chests on stands selling for £7,000 and Lot 3009, an oil painting by Van Der Bosch titled 'The Connoisseurs' at £6,400.

Discovered in an upstairs bedroom cupboard was Lot 3081, a Victorian Officers 17th Lancers shabracque which sold for £3,000 whilst an outbuilding had been the home for many years for Lot 3095, a 1958 Series One Land Rover. Now considered an icon of design and engineering, this example had been well maintained and was driveable. Four phone bidders battled for it with it eventually selling for £19,000.

From the silver vault was Lot 3218, a Victorian Gothic Revival chalice and paten in the manner of Pugin or Burges which was contested to £8,000.

The paintings and library sections on Monday 15th October were both particularly strong. Highlights included Lot 4079, a view in Venice by Antoine Bouvard (1870-1956) at £10,900 and Lot 4099, a view of Orford castle in Suffolk by Henry Bright (1814-1873) sailed past the £3,000 top estimate to bring £12,100.

The 600 Lot Library section headed by Jim Spencer goes from strength to strength with some tantalising entries, not to mention antique prosphetic eyes.

Lot 4279, six volumes (of ten) of the very scarce notorious erotic work 'Justine En Holland' by the Marquis De Sade published in 1797 took £8,200.

However, Lot 4540 was the undisputed 'hidden' treasure of Bishton Hall. Concealed for many years at the back of an old bookcase was perhaps the 'holy grail' of the antiquarian book world. A fine example of the 1776 first edition in two volumes of 'An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations' by Adam Smith is one of the most sought after of rare books. Estimated at £30,000-50,000, a USA and UK phone bidder battled for it, with the latter eventually winning it for £65,000.

We are currently inviting entries of fine jewellery, watches, silver, ceramics, works of art, paintings, Derbyshire art and books for our Christmas Fine Art Auction on 3rd December until 16th November.

For further information, please contact Adrian Rathbone on 01283 733988 or email [email protected]

Note: All figures quoted exclude the 20% plus VAT buyer's premium and any other additional buyer fees