Collector sweeps old passions aside: Sotheby's to sell 1,500 curiosities, from pilgrim badges to brass faucets

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The Independent Online
FOR Lord Alistair McAlpine, the former deputy chairman and treasurer of the Conservative Party, it all began with policemen's truncheons. Collecting, that is. He had 900 of them once. But he sold off that collection long ago and now he is selling about 1,500 objects that reflect more recent passions.

He has consigned to Sotheby's art and artefacts ranging from medieval badges to mammoth bones. Among his other collections, not for sale, are early Scottish weapons, chickens, breeds of cattle and roses. 'We're talking a period of 38 years,' he explained.

Works to be sold at Sotheby's next month come from his gallery in Cork Street, London; they are estimated to fetch pounds 200,000.

Lord McAlpine is selling because he is planning to deal privately. 'At the moment, I have 2,000 items of stock. I don't want to trade at that level,' he said, adding that, as well as a partner who has fallen ill, 'the level of business has fallen right off in the last two years'.

What Sotheby's is calling 'Lord McAlpine's collection of curiosities', includes 13th- and 14th-century pilgrim badges, souvenirs from pilgrimage sites, prehistoric flint axe-heads and two brass bathroom faucets, which came from the Dorchester Hotel in London.

'My family at one stage owned the hotel. I don't know how the faucets came to me, though. All the objects I've chosen because I thought they were rather beautiful,' he said.

The sale comes four years after Lord McAlpine sold the contents of his former home, West Green in Hartley Wintney, for pounds 1.5m.

(Photograph omitted)