Quirky, eclectic and fun! Contents from TV business guru’s property could sell for tens of thousands

Posted on 13/01/2021 in Press Coverage

Impressive antiques from the former estate of Britain’s first reality TV entrepreneur Sir John Harvey-Jones and his wife Lady Mary Evelyn Harvey-Jones are coming up for auction.

More than 170 items from their Caemawr estate in North Wales are set to go under the hammer in Hansons Auctioneers’ Antiques and Collectors sale from February 1-4, and the eclectic mix of objects demonstrate that behind Sir John’s powerful persona was a man who appreciated fine antiques and quirky collectables, as did his late wife.

As well as furniture dating back to the 1600s, paintings, silver, metalware and ceramics, quirky and fun items have emerged in the collection which is expected to sell for tens of thousands of pounds.

For example, lot 3065, below, is a 19th Century curiosity featuring a framed letter and crocheted miniature baby boots, mittens and bonnet. The letter is addressed to Mrs McCartney and the reverse reads: ‘Some little curiositys done by the female orphans in connexion with the Plymouth Brethren Bristol - with Hannah love’. Estimate £40-£60.

The Harvey-Jones estate has also revealed vintage toys, dolls and teddies, a German 19th Century brass three-draw telescope and apprentice furniture including a mahogany bureau, mahogany serpentine drawers and George IV miniature dressing mirror.

Click here to view the Harvey-Jones Estate lots

Many people will remember Sir John, the former chairman of chemical giant ICI, who died at the age 83 in 2008. He found fame as presenter of BBC show Troubleshooter in the 1990s where he dispensed advice to ailing firms. As chairman of ICI in the 1980s, he doubled the price of the company’s shares within 30 months and turned a loss into a £1 billion profit.

His brilliance emerged from a fascinating background. Born in Hackney, London in 1924, he spent his early childhood in India where his father was an Army officer. Discipline was built into him from an early age. At seven, he was sent to a strict boarding school in Kent.

In 1937 he joined Dartmouth Royal Naval College as a cadet and in 1940, aged only 16 and with the Second World War under way, joined HMS Diomede as a midshipman. The next two ships he served on were sunk by enemy action. He went on to join the submarine service in 1942.

After the war, he went to Cambridge University to learn Russian in six months and joined Naval Intelligence as an interpreter. He commanded the Russian intelligence section under the guise of the ‘British Baltic Fishery Protection Service’. Rising to the rank of lieutenant-commander, he was awarded a military MBE in 1952 for his work in Naval Intelligence.

However, after failing to gain permission from the Royal Navy to spend more time with his wife and daughter Gaby, who had contracted polio, he resigned his commission in 1956 and joined ICI as a junior training manager. By 1973, aged 49, he was on the board of directors and in 1982 he became chairman of ICI, only the second split-career man and non-chemist to reach the top. In 1985 was knighted for services to businesses and government.

Away from the hustle and bustle of working life, antiques and collectables added comfort and joy to the Harvey-Jones’ home. The couple surrounded themselves with interesting items. For example, lot 3211 is an oil painting of a Pekinese dog with cricket bat and ball, attributed to British/American artist Maud Earl (1864-1943), a woman celebrated for her canine paintings. Dog paintings are highly collectable with owners and interior designers so this lot could easily surpass its £150-£200 estimate.

Then there’s lot 3200, an early 19th century British School portrait of a girl in a white dress holding a flower, estimate £200-300. Portraiture is gaining popularity and this would be a charming fit in a period property. Equally, lot 3205, two oval-framed English School 18th Century portraits of gentleman, circa 1719-30, would add a touch of old-world grandeur, estimate £500-800

Another object to impress is lot 2018, an eight-day John Beaven of Woolwich mantle clock in mahogany, circa 1830s, £200-£300. Anyone wishing to enhance a study might like lot 2066, a 19th Century mahogany easel/folio stand, £80-£100.

But perhaps it is the furniture that really catches the eye. There is so much to choose from including lot 2065, a late 17th Century joined oak clothes press with lunette carved frieze bearing the initials 'EB' and converted into a wardrobe, estimate £300-£500.

Equally impressive is lot 2035, a circa 1690 joined oak chest of drawers, £300-£500; lot 2077, a circa 1710 oak dresser base, probably made during the reign of Queen Anne in the Yorkshire area, £500-£700, and lot 2134, a joined oak side table, circa 1680, £200-£300.

Clearly quality, beauty, workmanship and curios turned the Harvey-Jones property into a home. It is a privilege to sell their collection. View the catalogue online at

Hansons is inviting entries now for all future sales including coins, banknotes and antiquities, antiques, collectors, toys and our Derbyshire Fine Art Auction on February 24. Virtual valuations and home visits are available. To find out more, please email [email protected] or call 01283 733988.

Click here to view the Harvey-Jones lots