We have just secured two lots at the Sotheby’s Chatsworth ‘attic’ sale, at which the Duke of Devonshire was selling a few odds and ends which were clogging up his store rooms. There were actually about 20,000 objects in all, but that’s ducal housekeeping for you.
We were trying to get things that had been at Hardwick Hall, the iconic Elizabethan house in Derbyshire which used to be owned by the Cavendishes (Dukes of Devonshire). We were bidding for a number of items, but the competition was stiff, with many lots going way beyond their upper estimates.
It was an interesting example of the ‘country house effect’, where the association with a historic house and an old family causes bidders to compete for objects that might not get a second glance in another context.
But then we understand the value of context at the National trust too – the Devonshire deed boxes we bought will add a bit of family atmosphere to Hardwick. And the proceeds of the sale are said to be going towards improvements at the Chatsworth estate, which already has an excellent conservation programme, so that must be a good thing.