Casualties of modern agriculture? On sale this week, are an eight- legged lamb, and a calf with two noses and four eyes

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Indy Lifestyle Online
About ten tons of elephant and horse manure is for sale among nearly 500 dispersal lots from Gerry Cottle's circus tomorrow (11.30am) at the circus's winter quarters at Addlestone Moor, Surrey (M25, junction 11).

The show goes on, now that Mr Cottle's daughters have taken the reins. But since his circus gobbled up others, there is the equivalent of an entire circus to be disposed of, including two "big tops".

The melange of manure is said to be mainly from horses: the elephants - whose dung has magical properties, say some gardeners - were sold three years ago by the auctioneers, the Antique Amusement Company of Cambridge.

There are no pre-sale estimates: Steve Hunt, founder of the auction house three years ago, finds fairground and circus gear extremely hard to value. Who could predict the prices of Cottle's stuffed farmyard freaks: an eight- legged lamb, a two-headed calf, a calf's head with two noses and four eyes?

There is a "girl with no middle illusion" and a "milk-churn escape" as performed by Houdini; one bed of nails "rusty" and another "not so rusty". Among the 250 costumes are clowns, devils, nuns, Keystone Kops, and "skins". of camel, cow, bull, parrot and bear. The full-length, simulated fur coat "Ex Morecambe and Wise" is expected to be hotly competed for.

A specimen rack of geared cogs from Charles Babbage's Difference Engine No.1, the forerunner to the computer, is estimated at pounds 50,000 at Christie's South Kensington on Wednesday (2.30pm).

The tragic Babbage (1791-1871) convinced the government it needed a mechanical calculator to stop disasters caused by inaccurate figure tables. But by 1834, having accepted pounds 17,470 in government development grants (equivalent to pounds 875,000 today), he had produced only unassembled components. The grant ceased.

It was his son, Henry, who built six sections of the engine from the components, proving that the machine would have worked. He sent section one to his grandson in New Zealand, where it has remained in the family - until the auction next week.

The fifth annual sale of Moorcroft pottery at Christie's South Kensington, Thursday (10.30am), coincides with the 50th anniversary of the death of William Moorcroft, the founding designer, and is the biggest yet (353 lots). Americans are keen buyers and prices are firm.

Big sale of bibliography and other reference books, including the libraries of the continental bookshop of Robert Douwma, Thursday (1pm): Bloomsbury Book Auctions, 3, Hardwick Street, London EC1 (0171-833 2636/7)

For auctions and fairs nationwide, see pages 14 &15