On 16 and 17 November 2021, Dreweatts held the auction of 'Weston Hall and the Sitwells: A Family Legacy' selling the contents of Weston Hall in Northamptonshire, a seat of the illustrious Sitwell family since the early 20th century and their ancestors since the 18th century. Charting the history of an eminent family of esteemed writers, eccentrics, pioneers and creatives through the centuries, the auction included furniture, paintings, jewellery, photographs and ephemera as well as tomes from Weston Hall’s 18th century library.
Joe Robinson, Head of House Sales at Dreweatts, commented: “The sale of the Sitwell collection at Weston Hall marks a moment in time, a passage of much-loved family objects into the hands of new owners and the corridors or new homes. It has been a fascinating sale to produce and I hope we have done justice to the rich history that was encapsulated within Weston’s walls.”
The auction certainly captured the public's attention with international media coverage and over 2500 registrants from all corners of the globe bidding online, by telephone and in the room. The sale totalled £1,417,000 (114% above pre-sale estimate) with 98% of lots selling.
Speaking at the end of the 2-day auction, Will Richards, Dreweatts Deputy Chairman, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of the sale of the contents of Weston Hall, family seat of and the Sitwells. We are proud to have been advising the family for almost 20 years and thrilled for the family that sale has been such a success. It reflects the cultural importance of the Sitwells in the 20th century and of Weston Hall since the early 18th century.”
We were delighted to have Nina Campbell as guest curator for the sale. Nina is one of the world's most respected and influential interior designers, renowned for her unparalleled design expertise, contagious wit and brilliant sense of style. Creating glorious room sets at Dreweatts country house setting of Donnington Priory and its London gallery space in Pall Mall, she combined decorative items and highlights from Weston Hall with fabrics and furniture from her own interiors collection.
To celebrate the auction Dreweatts, in partnership with Knight Frank and Wiggin Osborne Fullerlove, hosted a private view and talk at Donnington Priory on 8 November. The talk, 'Stories Untold: Weston Hall and the Bright Young Things', was hosted by Royal Historian, Hugo Vickers in conversation with Susanna and William Sitwell. The event is now available to watch via the link below.
The address book, which was found amongst other family ephemera, sold for £52,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £200-£300. There was spirited bidding from around the globe, on the telephones and on the internet for the book, highly popular as it offers first-hand evidence of her infamous character. Denise Kelly, Book and Ephemera specialist at Dreweatts, who catalogued the book said, “I am thrilled that Edith Sitwell’s address book did so well in the sale. It was an absolute joy to catalogue such a personal item belonging to Dame Edith. Her personality and humour tumbled out of every page. It is not often whilst cataloguing an address book I have laughed out loud, but Edith’s notes and descriptions of the various people who had annoyed her were very amusing”.
A popular item in the sale was an ebonised oak four-poster bed which William Sitwell explained before the sale, was “the grand bed that Edith Sitwell could be found, while visiting the family at Weston Hall. She would sit regally in bed propped up by many pillows, her head adorned by some sort of turban and on a blue tray would write her poetry.” The bed sold for £57,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £8,000-£12,000. There was frenzied bidding for the historic bed, which incorporated decorative George III needle work hangings and stunning crewel needlework, carried out by one of the family, Susanna Jennens.
Among the fine art in the sale was a portrait of the Princess of Wales (1683-1737) and her daughter, which was given as a gift to Lady Glenbervie, the mother-in-law of Harriet Wrightson (who inherited Weston Hall). Lady Glenbervie was lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Wales, who later became Queen Caroline, as the wife of King George IV.
The portrait, painted by an Italian-English artist Maria Cosway (1760-1838) was not well-received by Caroline and she reportedly asked her lover, the painter Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), to repaint her face. The work sold for £60,000 against an estimate of £5,000-£8,000.
The first translation of the Western atlas in the Islamic world, which was a discovery made in one of the nine attics at Weston Hall, sold for a staggering £86,250, four times its’ pre-sale low estimate. The exceptionally rare Ottoman folio atlas was by Mahmoud Raif Efendi and titled Cedid Atlas Tercumesi (A translation of a New Atlas) and was one of only 50 ever produced.
A decorated fan featuring bull-fighters was signed and dedicated to Dame Edith Sitwell by its creator, the Russian artist and friend of the family, Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957). There was huge competition for the work and it realised £32,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £3,000-£5,000.
A selection of eight 19th century Chinese gilt-copper mounted semi-precious stone and jadeite brooches, converted from buckles are believed to have been brought back from China as a gift for Edith by her brother Osbert Sitwell in 1934. Edith would wear huge stones as rings, or brooches, as was her character. Bidding was competitive for the group, which sold for £30,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £3,000-£5,000.
An 18th/19th century pair of Chinese jade groups from the Boysong Dynansty proved popular. The carved and incised groups on fitted wooden bases sold for £22,500 against an estimate of £2,000-£3,000.
There was high demand for First Editions from the library at Weston Hall, with a leather-bound 1777 First Edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost a top highlight. The book realised £21,250 against an estimate of £5,000-£7000. Considered one of history’s most influential works, the book bore the signature of Harriet Wrightson of the Sitwell family, who moved into Weston Hall with her second husband, Colonel Hely-Hutchinson, kinsman of the famous General Lord Hutchinson, renowned for the saving of the famous Rosetta Stone and other artifacts.
Amongst the maze of principal rooms at Weston Hall lay untold stories and exciting finds. Tale your tour of Weston Hall, walking through the rooms, browsing and interacting with the lots as you go.
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