Treasures found in castle’s attics and cellars fetch £730,000 at auction

A man holding a coronet
A man holding a coronet (PA Wire)
9:47am, Wed 21 Apr 2021
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A treasure trove of objects found hidden in the attics and cellars of a Highland castle has sold for more than £730,000 at auction.

Experts said the items were like a “time-capsule that evoked a bygone age” after they were unearthed at Dunrobin Castle which was used by the Sutherland family for entertaining during the Scottish season and was visited by Queen Victoria.

Paintings and sculptures, crested dinner services, silverware and an array of objects from the kitchen such as oyster stands and Victorian pewter ice cream moulds were among the objects which went under the hammer at Bonhams in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

The 416-lot sale started at 10am and finished just before 9pm, with bids coming in from around the world and many well above pre-sale estimates.

Dunrobin Castle attic sale – Bonhams Edinburgh (PA Wire)

Highlights of the sale included an Edwardian silver-gilt duchess’s coronet by Garrard, London 1901 which sold for £11,475 – far above the estimate of £1,000 to £1,500.

A collection of Victorian telegraph cables sold for £5,100 despite only being expected to fetch £800-£1,200.

Charlie Thomas, Bonhams director of house sales, said: “This treasure trove from the atmospheric attics and cellars of Dunrobin Castle is one of the most extraordinary sales I have ever worked on.

“These wonderfully diverse objects were held in a time-capsule that evoked a bygone age.”

They were found during a “decluttering” at the castle, which is near Golspie in Sutherland.

This took place because the castle, which is open to the public, was unable to display all the pieces stored around the building.

A set of four carved oak armorial panels, from the Queen Regent’s House in Blythe’s Close, Edinburgh, sold for £17,750, well above the estimate of £4,000-£6,000.

Three are thought to date probably from the 16/17th century and the fourth from the 18th century.

The third panel shows the impaled arms of the king of Scotland King James V and Mary Guise, Duchess of Longville, who were married in 1538 at Notre Dame in Paris.

Dunrobin Castle attic sale – Bonhams Edinburgh (PA Media)

Their daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, would have displayed the same arms and as they would have ceased to be used after her death, experts said it points to the panel being in use for the period 1538-1587.

Other highlights from the sale include a collection of Victorian pewter ice cream moulds which sold for £1,020, far higher than the estimate of £80-120.

A rare pair of Scottish all-metal flintlock belt pistols given by William Gordon, 18th Earl of Sutherland, to Captain James Sutherland in 1763 sold for £44,000. They had been expected to fetch £8,000-£10,000.

Charles Graham-Campbell, Bonhams managing director in Scotland, said: “With such impeccable and romantic provenance, we had many hundreds of people bidding from all over the world, eager to acquire a piece of history from one of Scotland’s grandest and most historic castles.

“As we hoped, it proved to be the sale of the season and we are delighted with the result. It shows Bonhams at its best.”

Sales totalled £732,528, and all prices include the buyer’s premium.

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