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Estimate busters from the most exciting attic sale ever
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Estimate busters from the most exciting attic sale ever

Last week, the long-awaited Sotheby's Chatsworth Attic Sale realised £6.5m, smashing its pre-sale estimate of £2.5m in the first few hours. As the Derbyshire property cast its magic, 12 helicopters flew bidders in for the sale at the house and 15 horseboxes were used to collect purchases. H&A guides you through the best and most unusual lots from the three-day sale...


1. A rare Maori Nephrite pendant, a hei-tiki, sold for £45,650 – more than six times the estimate of £7,000. It was found hidden in the back of a dark cupboard in the storerooms at Chatsworth, possibly acquired by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in the early 19th century.

2. A Japanese lacquered centre table supported by three stuffed monkeys and known as ‘The Monkey Table’ fetched £22,500 against an estimate of £3,000-£5,000. The Bachelor Duke, one of the most energetic of the Cavendish builders and collectors, bought the table at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

3. A miniature painting of the legendary Georgiana, 5th Duchess of Devonshire, and her beloved daughter ‘Little G’, c1900, sold for £4,000 despite a price guide of £400-£600.

4. One of five William Kent chimneypieces from Devonshire House to go under the hammer, a magnificent George II carved white marble fireplace, c1735, sold for £565,250 - far above its pre-sale estimate of £200,000-£300,000 and a record for a chimneypiece at auction.

5. An unusual Georgian wrought-iron 18th-century boot scraper was expected to sell for £300-£500 but made a surprising £1,875.

6. A pair of George II simulated stone carved wood brackets, c.1735, based on a design by William Kent, sold for £115,250, high above the estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

7. A Commonwealth Cast Iron Armorial Fireback, dated 1657, sold for £18,750 despite an estimate of 1,200-1,800.

8. A ruby and diamond bow-shaped brooch, with the words ‘L’amour en fait le lien’ (“love binds together”) in enamel, c. 1900, that belonged to Dowager Duchess of Devonshire sold for £8,500 – more than 100 times the estimate of £80-100.

9. A pair of polychrome decorated pressed and wrought metal hall lanterns, c. 1890, that hung in the vast entrance hall at Batsford Park, house of the Mitford Family, sold for £31,250 – over 200 times the estimate of £150.

10. A Humber open touring four-seater car, known as the Yellow Peril, which was delivered by Humber to the Cavendish Motor Company in the summer of 1915 and purchased for £350, was expected to sell for £3,000-£5,000 but bidders drove the final price to £42,500. 

11. An American 'Silverball Mania' pinball machine, c1980, sold for £1,875 despite a price guide of £300-£500.

12. A marmet canvas and tubular steel mounted 1950s perambulator sold for £250, much higher than the modest estimate of £10-£15.

13. A 1930s combined record changer and wireless, around which the Mitford sisters probably danced as young girls, sold for £475 despite an estimate of £30-£50.

14. Four portraits of Mitford sisters Diana, Pamela, Deborah and Unity, reproductions after the original drawings by William Acton, were expected to make £150-£250 but sold for £1,500.


15. A rare Regency Japanned Chinoiserie side cabinet, probably made in Pontypool c1810, attributed to Frederick Crace, sold for £127,250, far exceeding its estimate of £20,000-£30,000.   

Read our feature on the sale in the October issue of Homes & Antiques. 
Click here for details of more auctions