A two-day contents sale reveals a man with a talent for entertaining–and the means to do it
EDWARD HAUGHEY, Baron Ballyedmond, who died in a helicopter crash in 2014, not only collected castles and houses, but also fitting contents for them and he liked to use what he bought. From the quantity of table silver and dining services in Sotheby’s two-day sale of contents from his Belgrave Square town house, his hospitality must have been as impressive as the talent that made him a pharmaceutical fortune, and his public services in Britain and Ireland.
He was born in Co Louth, just south of the border, and he became the third man, after Lords Longford and Iveagh, to sit in the upper houses of both countries.
As is often the case in troubled times, size and weight counted as much as quality for the silver, and age was of little concern. The highest price, £112,500, was paid for an impressive silver wine cistern (Fig 1) by William Comyns & Sons, London, 1992, which weighed 70kg or 2,250oz 16dwt. For the less numerate among us, this was capable of holding more than 70 bottles of Champagne. It was a reproduction of a Lamerie original with French Régence decoration and I found it rather ugly. More appealing, at £40,000 was a rather smaller Comyns cistern of 1989 based on a Charles II design.
Size also mattered for the porcelain, in which a late-19thcentury 437-piece dinner service (Fig 3) with Sèvres-style decoration and Thurn und Taxis armorials sold for £50,000.
On April 12, I mentioned that I was coming across Thomas Cole clocks all over the place and there were two more here. The first was a gilt-brass strut clock precisely datable to 1849 (Fig 6), although it was not numbered as might be expected at that time. The silvered dial was engraved with the monogram of Don Agustín Maria Muñoz y de Borbòn, 1st Duke of Tarancón (1837–55), a son of Queen Maria Christina, Regent of Spain, and her morganatic second husband, Agustín Fernando Muñoz, one of her guardsmen.
In 1846, a scheme was formulated by the ousted President of Ecuador to make the young Duke King of Ecuador and parts of Peru and Bolivia, but, in spite of some support from Britain as well as Spain, the idea came to nothing.
The clock was retailed by C. F. Hancock of Bruton Street, ‘By Appointment toHMQue en Adelaide and HIM the Emperor of Russia’, a former partner in Hunt & Roskell. Un-numbered clocks by Cole (1800–64) were
sold by Hunt & Roskell and this had the characteristics of a clock dating from about 1845. However, Cole did leave some clocks unfinished so that the dials could be engraved with monograms. It sold for £6,875.
The next lot, although lacking pedigree, was a grander Cole, an engraved gilt-brass and malachite table clock of about 1850 (Fig 5), which was numbered 1578. The tripod support was mounted with three sphinxes and it measured 37¾in high. This made a mid-estimate £40,000.
Another distinguished mid19th-century retailer was represented by a travelling jewel case covered in crocodile skin
(Fig 2) that sold for £4,000. In 1858, Robert Thomas Cooke and Charles Kelvey founded their business in Calcutta selling silver and both imported and their own master-crafted watches and clocks to maharajahs and the British Raj. They also had their appointment: to His Excellency the Viceroy and Governor-general.
For a while, they had a London outlet and the firm still exists in New Delhi. This case, with folding-out velvetlined trays, measured 6½in by 18in by 11¼in.
On May 24, Dreweatts of Newbury offered contents from Abbotswood, a Gloucestershire house overlooking the Swell Valley. The owner since 1970 is a collector of art and antiques and this was a selection.
On several occasions in the past, I have written here about old HMV and other gramophones, but never about a Capehart. The firm, which flourished from the 1930s to the 1950s, was founded by Homer E. Capehart and its automatic phonographs were ‘the epitome of luxury’ in the view of aficionados. Capehart was the first to promote home-entertainment systems, connecting the radio-phonograph console to remotecontrolled amplifiers and speakers in other rooms. The cabinets were built as fine furniture. This Capehart 400M Deluxe of 1941–2 (Fig 7) was cased in figured mahogany. I suspect that American Capehart fanciers would consider £480 cheap. At £12,640, one handsome George I walnut and crossbanded bureaucabinet (Fig 4) more than dou- bled its estimate. It had an appealing serpentine arched top centred on a glass panel with a gilt cypher on a red ground for George I himself.
This is linked to the traditional belief that it had once been part of the furnishings at Hampton Court Palace and was removed by the Duchess of Kendal, the King’s German mistress. I suspect there may be more to be said about a Chinese grey crackle-glaze gourd-shaped vase adapted as a lamp (Fig 8), which sold for £21,488. Next week Slow at Masterpiece
Fig 2 right: Travelling jewel case. £4,000. Fig 3 below: Sèvresstyle 437 piece dinner service. £50,000
Fig 1: Silver wine cistern weighing 2,250oz. £112,500
Fig 7 above: Capehart 400M Deluxe phonograph. £480. Fig 8 right: Grey Chinese vase adapted as a lamp. £21,488
Fig 4 above: Walnut bureau-cabinet. £12,640. Fig 5 left: Gilt-brass and malachite table clock. £40,000
Fig 6: Gilt-brass strut clock of 1849 by Thomas Cole. £6,875