Our Fine Furniture, Sculpture, Carpets, Ceramics and Works of Art auction on 30 & 31 May, features a number of fabulous private collections. To start the auction, we will be offering 38 lots from the collection of The Hon. Catherine Mary 'Kate' Wass, OBE (1924-2021).
The Hon. Catherine Mary ‘Kate’ Wass
The Hon. Catherine Mary ‘Kate’ Wass, OBE (1942-2021), née Sidney, had an illustrious ancestry being a direct descendant of George III’s third son, Prince William, Duke of Clarence, later William IV (1765-1837), and his mistress, the Drury Lane actress, Mrs. Jordan (1761-1816). The ‘Royal’ couple, who enjoyed twenty years of domestic bliss, in part at Bushy House, Middlesex, before William was forced by his brother George, Prince of Wales, later George, IV (1762-1830), to marry a more ‘suitable’ consort, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, had ten children, born between 1794 and 1807, all of whom took the surname FitzClarence.
Kate was descended from the couple’s eldest daughter, Lady Sophia FitzClarence (1796-1837). On 13 August 1825, Lady Sophia married Philip Shelley Sidney, 1st Baron De L’Isle and Dudley (1800-51), a British politician, collateral descendant of the Elizabethan poet and soldier, Sir Philip Sidney and first cousin of the Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their only son, Philip Sidney, 2nd Baron De L’Isle and Dudley of Penshurst (1828–98) had three sons, each of whom succeeded to the barony – the third son, William Sidney, 5th Baron De L’Isle and Dudley (1859–1945) was Kate’s grandfather. The 5th Baron’s son, and Kate’s father, William Philip Sidney, 1st Viscount De L’Isle, VC KG GCMG GCVO PC DL (1909-91), known as The Lord De L’Isle and Dudley between 1945 and 1956, was a British Army officer who won the Victoria Cross at the battle of Anzio during World War II.. In June 1940, he married the Hon. Jacqueline Corrine Yvonne Vereker (1914-62), daughter of the Anglo-Irish peer, Field Marshal John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort; their second child was Catherine Mary ‘Kate’, born in October 1942. After serving as Secretary of State for Air in Winston Churchill’s second administration, between 1961 and 1965 Viscount De L’Isle served as the 15th Governor General of Australia, the last Englishman to hold this post. After Lady De L’Isle died in 1962, Kate and then her sister Anne stepped into their late mother’s shoes to act as their father’s official hostess.
In 1964, Kate married firstly Martin John Wilbraham (1931-2018), son of Major Edward Jack Wilbraham, MC, with whom she had three sons, Alexander, Rupert and Jocelyn, and in 1983, Nicholas Hyde Villiers (1939-98), whose ancestry included the 4th Earl of Clarendon (1800-1870), the 1st Earl of Verulam (1775-1845) and the 1st Earl of Liverpool (1729-1808). Following the death of her second husband, Kate married Nigel Samuel Wass in 2002. In 1995, she was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).
A military tradition: the 6th Viscount Gort
Field Marshal John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, VC, GCB, CBE, DSO & Two Bars, MVO, MC (1886-1946)
Distinguished military achievements formed an equally prominent part of the history of Kate’s mother’s family, the Verekers. Her maternal grandfather, the 6th Viscount Gort one of the most decorated British soldiers of the First World War, came to be known by his soldiers as ‘Tiger Gort’. ‘for On the 27 September 1918, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for continuing to direct his battalion under heavy fire and despite being severely wounded twice showing, as the official citation read, “the rarest gallantry, complete disregard of personal danger, and the power to keep alive in troops under his command a spirit of endeavour, untamed by loss and strain’ (https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/36642. Accessed 7 February 2022). In 1937, Gort was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) and in 1939 he was named commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Gort’s timely decision, in defiance of orders from London, to withdraw the BEF to Dunkirk in May 1940 is considered by many historians to have ensured that the British army escaped annihilation and was thus able to fight on for the rest of World War II. In 1941, Churchill made Lord Gort Governor of Gibraltar and a year later he was sent as Governor to beleaguered Malta, then the ‘most bombed place on earth’, where his resolute leadership and calmness under fire gained him the admiration of the Maltese who awarded him the Sword of Honour. He supervised the distribution of scarce food and water supplies so successfully that at the height of the crisis 200,000 people were receiving rations each day. In 1943 Lord Gort received his Field Marshal’s baton from King George VI for having so effectively defended the island. In 1944-45, Lord Gort briefly served as High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief in Palestine until a terminal illness forced him to return to Britain. (See Man of valour: The life of Field-Marshal the Viscount Gort, VC,GCB,DSO,MVO,MC by J. R. COLVILLE, Collins 1972).
The connoisseur and collector: the 7th Viscount Gort
Standish Robert Vereker MC, the 7th Viscount Gort
It is Kate’s maternal uncle, Standish Robert Vereker MC, the 7th Viscount Gort (1888- 1975), who is considered the most important connoisseur and collector of fine and decorative art in the Vereker family. A reputation in part due to the restoration and refurbishment of Bessie Surtees House in Newcastle, which he bought in 1931 and restored. The house, sold by Lord Gort’s estate to Newcastle Council in 1978, is now a museum owned and run by English Heritage. Even more significant was Lord Gort’s purchase and restoration of the medieval Bunratty Castle in County Clare, Ireland, in which he was advised by the antiquarian and collector, John Hunt whose collection forms the basis of The Hunt Museum, Limerick (P. Harbison, ‘Lord Gort’s Gift’, Irish Arts Review, Winter 2006, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 132-135). The undertaking, unique for being the sole instance of the restoration and refurbishment of an important Irish castle, was partly furnished from the 7th Viscount’s own collection, sending across early English, French, German and Netherlandish furniture that dated from the 16th-17th centuries, and also included some fine Gothic and later paintings, mainly French, German and Flemish. In 1954, the 7th Viscount arranged that the ownership and furnishings of Bunratty be held in trust for the Irish people.
In 1973, the 7th Viscount and his wife donated an important collection of 15th and 16th century Renaissance paintings to the Winnipeg Art Gallery including two portraits by Lucas Cranach the Elder (Museum nos.: G-73-61; G-73-51). The Bisham Abbey tapestries, the ‘Book of Tobias’, by the workshop of Bernard Van Orley, c. 1530, form part of the gift from Lord and Lady Gort (G-73-84 to 85). The Canadian link was initially established through an uncle, Jeffrey Edward Prendergast Vereker, who had resigned his commission in the army and moved to Kenora in north western Ontario. In 1911, Lord Gort travelled to Winnipeg, Manitoba, eventually becoming a major real estate holder in the city that included the Viscount Gort Hotel on Portage Avenue.
In 1948 the 7th Viscount Gort acquired the magnificent cabinet-on-stand attributed to AndréCharles Boulle (1642- 1732) for the Gort country seat, Hamsterley Hall, Co. Durham, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (Museum no.: 77.DA.1). The cabinet’s near-counterpart is still owned by the present Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry at Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland (J.N. Ronfort, ‘The Surviving Cabinets on Stands by André-Charles Boulle and the New Chronology of
the Master’s Oeuvre’, Cleveland Studies in the History of Art, 2003, vol. 8, pp. 46, 49, figs. 5-6).
The Gort homes
Henry Swinburne’s Gothic Dining Room, Hamsterley Hall c.1939 | @CountryLife/Future Publishing Ltd
Hamsterley Hall, the country seat of the 7th Viscount Gort, was purchased by Anthony Surtees in 1806 and later passed to his son, Robert Smith Surtees, the successful comic novelist. The author’s daughter, Eleanor Surtees, was the mother of the 6th and 7th Viscounts Gort. The 7th Viscount, whose preference was for 16th-17th century fine and decorative art, renovated the house with furniture, tapestry hangings, wainscot, chimneypieces, and windows principally of this date although there were exceptions such as the 18th century drawing room with its Georgian Gothic ceiling. The Country Life article on the mansion shows that Lord Gort was acquiring works of art from other important houses, for example, the Stoke Edith bed and the aforementioned Bisham Abbey tapestries (R.E., ‘The Role of Antiques Today: Furniture and Tapestry at Hamsterley Hall’, Country Life, 2 March 1940, p. 230).
The majority of the art works in this sale were inherited by Kate from her uncle the 7th Viscount Gort, and were formerly at Hamsterley Hall.
Bunratty Castle, Ireland
In addition to Hamsterley Hall and Bunratty Castle, as discussed, the Vereker family owned other houses in Ireland and England including an ancestral home in Co. Galway, Ireland, Lough Cutra, and East Cowes Castle, Isle of Wight. In circa 1811, John Prendergast-Smyth, Baron Kiltarton, and from 1816, 1st Viscount Gort, employed the Prince of Wales’ favourite architect, John Nash, to design a gothic-style castellated mansion overlooking Lough Cutra, which Nash modeled on East Cowes Castle, the neogothic mansion he had built for himself on the Isle of Wight. After 1851, Lough Cutra had to be sold when the family ran into financial difficulty because they refused to accept rent from tenants suffering during the great famine. They moved to England where in a strange twist of fate the 4th Viscount Gort inherited East Cowes Castle (demolished after World War II) from his step-mother.
East Cowes Castle, 1824
Two 17th century houses, with earlier foundations, Bessie Surtees House, and neighbouring Milbank House, Newcastle-on-Tyne, were used for a loan exhibition of works of art in April 1934 (A.S.O., ‘Surtees House, Newcastle-on-Tyne’, Country Life, 28 April 1934, pp. 437-438) after they had been purchased and restored by the 7th Viscount. Organised by the Women’s Advisory Committee of the Northern Counties, a notable collection of exhibits dating from the 16th-18th centuries was formed from residents all over the North of England, and included pieces from the 7th Viscount’s own collection such as the George and the Dragon Carving (Lot 15).
Lot 15: A large carved oak model of St. George and the Dragon, probably early/mid 19th century, North European | Est. £2,500-3,500 (+ fees)
The design of this carved oak model (Lot 15) is possibly inspired by a drawing attributed to the workshop of Raphael (Urbino 1483 - Rome 1520) in the National museum, Stockholm (inv. no. NM 297/1863); a 19th century albumen print of this drawing is in the Royal Collection, acquired by Prince Albert (1819-61) for the Raphael Collection (RCIN 851606). The painter and sculptor, Matthew Cotes Wyatt (1777-1862), produced a related sketch, possibly for the bas-relief in St. George’s Hall, Windsor (RCIN 917613). This imagery can also be found on the Badge of The Order of the Garter, on the reverse of British coins from the early 19th century, and reflects the interest in the chivalric order and Arthurian legends during the Victorian era. It was photographed by Country Life in the drawing room at Hamsterley in 1939 and 1940.
The Present lot in the Drawing Room at Hamsterley Hall, Country Life | @CountryLife/Future Publishing Ltd
Another highlight is Lot 4, a set of nine George III mahogany hall chairs, circa 1780. They are variously painted with crests, and designed with saddle seats.
In 1972, a pair of near-identical chairs was shown by Country Life in the Entrance Hall of the private apartments at Penshurst Place (M. Binney, 'Penshurst Place, Kent - IV: The Seat of Viscount de L'isle, VC, KG', Country Life, 4 May 1972, p. 1091, fig. 3). It is therefore possible that chairs from this set were taken to Penshurst Place upon the marriage of The Hon. Jacqueline Vereker to William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'isle and Dudley.
Lot 4: A set of nine George III mahogany hall chairs, circa 1780 | Est. £4,000-6,000 (+ fees)
The plates contain crests relating to William Surtees Altham COOK (1813-1887) and his wife who he married in 1850, Henrietta Addles MOULTON-BARRETT (1809-1860).
Major William Surtees Altham COOK was the second son of Col. John COOK (-1829) of the 28th Light Dragoons by Elizabeth SURTEES (1783-1862) daughter of Aubone SURTEES of Hauxley Hall, Northumberland by Mary ALTHAM.
Henrietta Addles MOULTON-BARRETT was born at Hope End, Colwall Herefordshire the second daughter of Edward Emmanuel MOULTON later MOULTON-BARRETT (1785-1857) of Cinnamon Hill, Jamaica where he was a wealthy plantation owner, by Mary Graham CLARKE (1781-1828) daughter of John GRAHAM-CLARKE by Arabella Altham EBB. Most notably she was the sister of the writer Elizabeth Moulton Barrett BROWNING (1806-1861) who in 1846 had married the poet Robert BROWNING (1812-1889).
The near identical pair of Hall Chairs in the Entrance Hall to the private apartments at Penshurst Place, Country Life @CountryLife/Future Publishing Ltd
Also from the collection is Lot 14, a carved oak ottoman stool, made in the Antiquarian taste. This 19th century stool was almost certainly inspired by Italian baroque furniture of the 17th century. The reclining male figures relate to a design for a side table by Filipo Passarini, published in Nuove inventioni d’ornamenti (1698), and a carved giltwood side table with similar figures, dating to the end of the 17th century, is in the Galleria Colonna, Rome.
Lot 14: A carved oak ottoman stool, in the Antiquarian taste, 19th century, Est. £1,200-1,800 (+ fees) | The present lot beneath the Duc de Conde Bed at Hamsterley Hall, Country Life @CountryLife/Future Publishing Ltd
We then have Lot 10, a pair of late 18th century George III mahogany and parcel gilt pedestal cupboards. Each opens to a shelved interior, incorporating a later zinc lining. The present pair of pedestal cupboards are possibly en suite to a sideboard illustrated in the Dining Room at Hamsterley Hall (C. Hussey, ‘Hamsterley Hall, Durham: The Seat of the Hon. S.R. Vereker, M.C.’, Country Life, 21 October 1939, p. 420, fig. 7).
Lot 10: A pair of George III mahogany and parcel gilt pedestal cupboards, Est. £800-1,200 (+ fees) | @CountryLife/Future Publishing Ltd
Finally, we take a look at Lot 25, a pair of late 19th or early 20th century mahogany library steps in Regency style. One from the pair of mahogany library steps was photographed by Country Life in ‘The Regency Room’ at Hamsterley, the country seat of the 7th Viscount Gort, in 1939 (C. Hussey, ‘Hamsterley Hall, Durham: The Seat of the Hon. S.R. Vereker, M.C.’, Country Life, 21 October 1939, p. 422, fig. 10).
Lot 25: A pair of mahogany library steps in Regency style, late 19th/early 20th century, Est. £1,000-1,500 (+ fees) | @CountryLife/Future Publishing Ltd
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Kirtlington Park, Kirtlington, Oxfordshire OX5 3JN
- Friday 27 May: 10am-8pm
- Saturday 28 May: 10am-4pm
- Sunday 29 May: 10am-4pm
- Monday 30 May: no viewing
Monday 30 & Tuesday 31 May | 10.30am BST
Auction location: Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
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