Riches of Snow­do­nia

Bon­hams’ sell- out sale not only en­sured the fu­ture of Glyn Cy­warch house in north west Wales, but also brought to light some ex­tra­or­di­nary an­tiques

Homes and Antiques Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Con­structed of dove- grey stone, weath­ered by cen­turies of rain and sun, the manor house of Glyn Cy­warch (or Glyn as it’s a ec­tion­ately known) sits in seclu­sion near the Gwynedd coast, north west Wales. In one di­rec­tion lies the curve of Tre­madog Bay, in the other the dra­matic peaks of Snow­do­nia. Built in 1616 and Grade II*-listed, the house has been part of the aris­to­cratic Har­lech fam­ily es­tate for over 400 years and has en­ter­tained politi­cians, diplo­mats, ac­tors, mu­si­cians and even the royal fam­ily. Stu ed with an­tique fur­ni­ture and paint­ings, and dot­ted with quirky in­her­ited pos­ses­sions such as mil­i­tary uni­forms, vin­tage lug­gage, top hats and de­coy ducks, it’s the sort of place auc­tion­eers dream of.

In sum­mer 2016 the dream came true for Char­lie Thomas, di­rec­tor of Bon­hams’ House Sale and Pri­vate Col­lec­tions de­part­ment, when he was asked by the present owner Jas­set Ormsby Gore, 7th Baron Har­lech, to value the con­tents of Glyn Cy­warch. This led to a ‘white glove’ auc­tion – a sale in

CLOCK­WISE FROM FAR LEFT An Ormsby Gore an­ces­tor, John Owen of Pen­rhos, painted by the won­der­fully named Tilly Ket­tle, fetched £ 26,250; Glyn Cy­warch con­tained some beau­ti­ful old Welsh fur­ni­ture, such as this oak and in­laid

cw­p­wrdd deud­darn (two- part oak cup­board) from the Conwy Val­ley c1700, which sold for £ 3,500; a 1597 por­trait of an­ces­tor Ellen Mau­rice was proved to have been painted by court artist Mar­cus Gheer­aerts the Younger and sold for £ 269,000; a late 18th- cen­tury carved and painted beech sofa was snapped up for £1,375

which all lots are sold – in March. The auc­tion, held at the New Bond Street salesroom, lasted a marathon 10 hours and was con­ducted by four auc­tion­eers, fin­ish­ing up with Thomas him­self. Beguiled by the prove­nance of the pieces up for sale, bid­ders swooped upon the 531 lots and parted with a to­tal of £2,599,038 – more than twice the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate. The rais­ing of over £2.5m glad­dened the heart of Lord Har­lech, who in­her­ited this won­der­ful old place from his fa­ther Fran­cis, the 6th Baron, early in 2016. He has big plans to trans­form Glyn into an up­mar­ket coun­try guest house, as well as re­pair­ing the roof and putting the in­te­ri­ors ‘back to flag­stones, pan­elling and lime­wash, as it should be’. But this kind of painstak­ing restora­tion work swal­lows money, large amounts of it, and funds were needed.

Rare trea­sures Like all auc­tions of this scale, much prepa­ra­tion was re­quired. On his first visit to Glyn, Char­lie Thomas re­mem­bers driv­ing through the Snow­do­nia Na­tional Park to get to the vil­lage of Tal­sar­nau where the house is lo­cated. ‘Glyn is in a won­der­ful, mag­nif­i­cent set­ting and you ar­rive via an im­pos­ing gate­house at the front. In­side, the house was very dark – I got my torch out in some rooms – but it was re­ally ex­cit­ing and full of at­mos­phere. House sales are rare th­ese days, and it’s es­pe­cially rare to go into an im­por­tant coun­try house where the con­tents are not al­ready well doc­u­mented.’

Af­ter an ini­tial as­sess­ment, Thomas re­turned a few weeks later with a small

team of spe­cial­ists to go through the house. They went room by room, up into the at­tic and out into barns cat­a­logu­ing and list­ing items that were to be sold – a process that took over a week. ‘ We’d been round and seen ev­ery­thing, but it wasn’t re­ally un­til we started cat­a­logu­ing that we re­alised the scale and qual­ity of the items,’ says Thomas. The Ormsby Gores were at the cen­tre of Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal life for over a cen­tury and en­joyed the trap­pings that go with wealth and power gained by their an­ces­tors, the Shrop­shire and Caernar­von­shire-based Owens, Wynns, Orms­bys and Gores. The first Baron Har­lech, Con­ser­va­tive politi­cian John Ormsby Gore, was en­no­bled in 1876 and notable de­scen­dants in­clude the 4th Baron Har­lech, who de­nounced Hitler at a League of Na­tions con­fer­ence in 1933, and the 5th Baron, Sir David Ormsby Gore, ap­pointed Am­bas­sador to the United States in 1961 and a close friend and ad­vi­sor to Pres­i­dent John Kennedy and his wife Jackie.

Ormsby Gore fam­ily for­tunes waxed and waned and Glyn Cy­warch, a beau­ti­ful and se­cluded hol­i­day home from the 19th cen­tury on­wards, be­came David Ormsby Gore’s main res­i­dence in 1970. It was his son Fran­cis’s too, who also had the un­en­vi­able task of sell­ing up the fam­ily seat, Brog­y­n­tyn Hall in Shrop­shire, in 2001 af­ter set­tling crip­pling death du­ties. ‘Many of the items that went up for auc­tion came from Brog­y­n­tyn to Glyn,’ ex­plains Char­lie Thomas.

One of the big­gest finds dur­ing cat­a­logu­ing was a por­trait that had hung in the draw­ing room of an Ormsby Gore an­ces­tor, the Welsh heiress Ellen Mau­rice. ‘Our paint­ings spe­cial­ist An­drew McKen­zie no­ticed the way one of her hands was painted and said, “I’ve seen that hand be­fore”.’ Sure enough,

It’s rare to go into an im­por­tant coun­try house where the con­tents are not al­ready well doc­u­mented

In­side, the house was very dark but it was re­ally ex­cit­ing and full of at­mos­phere

he had seen it, on a paint­ing by Mar­cus Gheer­aerts, court painter to El­iz­a­beth I. The por­trait of Ellen was sub­se­quently at­trib­uted to Gheer­aerts and fetched £269,000. Else­where on the es­tate, a creaky wooden door open­ing into a stone barn re­vealed a trea­sure trove of Ge­or­gian an­tiques, in­clud­ing a rather dusty but beau­ti­ful late 18th- cen­tury ma­hogany ser­pen­tine com­mode, very pos­si­bly by Thomas Chip­pen­dale, which sold for £17,500 at the Bon­hams auc­tion. The most news­wor­thy rev­e­la­tion was a cache of let­ters writ­ten by David Ormsby Gore and Jackie Kennedy around whom spec­u­la­tion swirled af­ter the un­timely death of JFK (see box be­low right).

Por­traits and porce­lain As is al­ways the case with coun­try house con­tents sales, there was plenty that was very a ord­able and bar­gains in­cluded a pair of 1805 Cham­ber­lains Worces­ter yel­low cachep­ots that fetched £350, a large Vic­to­rian cop­per boil­ing pot, £400, and a pair of early 20th- cen­tury tole­ware tea can­is­ters, £750. Those with a bit more to spend could bid on mid-range an­tiques such as a pair of 19th- cen­tury Chi­nese porce­lain par­rots, £1,750, a 19th- cen­tury di­a­mond hair or­na­ment, £1,875, and a late 18th- cen­tury painted and carved beech sofa, £1,375, plus lots of other worka­day pe­riod fur­ni­ture. Con­nois­seur pieces on the other hand ranged from the 1795 equine por­trait The Godol­phin Ara­bian by Ir­ish artist Daniel Quigley that sold for £100,000, two El­iz­a­bethan oak tiered bu ets c15801600, £143,000, and a beau­ti­ful 18th- cen­tury Chi­nese silk cov­er­let that went for £10,625.

Hav­ing spent eight months or­gan­is­ing the sale, Char­lie Thomas missed think­ing about Glyn once the fi­nal ham­mer had gone down, but was de­lighted to see ev­ery item go to a new home. ‘It was hard for Lord Har­lech to part with some things and he had to make some tough de­ci­sions. But all the funds raised will be ploughed back into the es­tate. Jas­set’s got bags of en­ergy and a plan for the fu­ture, which is what Glyn Cy­warch needs.’

TOP AND ABOVE Daniel Quigley’s The Godol­phin Ara­bian, de­pict­ing a Ye­meni foal that be­came a thor­ough­bred blood­line. The paint­ing fetched £100,000 RIGHT A pair of c1805 Cham­ber­lains Worces­ter cachep­ots went for £ 350

TOP FROM LEFT Jas­set Ormsby Gore, 7th Baron Har­lech; the draw­ing room at Glyn Cy­warch with the newly at­trib­uted Gheer­aerts por­trait that fetched £ 269,000 ABOVE A rare cream silk cov­er­let made in 18th- cen­tury China for ex­port was bought for £10,625 ABOVE RIGHT An 18th- cen­tury nat­u­ral his­tory book by the Comte de Buf­fon from Glyn Cy­warch’s ex­ten­sive li­brary sold for £ 2,125

In­side one of the bed­rooms at Glyn Cy­warch. Three vin­tage top hats, a Stet­son and their boxes made £1,187. The Ge­orge III gilt­wood chairs are part of a set of seven that sold for an in­cred­i­ble £ 47,500

ABOVE FROM LEFT The win­ning bid on a pair of an­tique Chi­nese porce­lain par­rots was £1,750; a late 18th- cen­tury ser­pen­tine com­mode was not in per­fect con­di­tion but still fetched £17,500; a set of seven late 1700s gilt­wood arm­chairs with needle­point up­hol­stery raised gasps when it sold for £ 47,500

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