Forgotten treasures in attic go under hammer: Victorian family heirlooms carefully packed away in 1941 have come to light. Oliver Gillie reports
Wednesday 07 September 1994
The cousins who inherited the estate found the valuables just as the servants left them in the attic and the cellar. Carefully packed to protect them from moth and light the fabrics, furnishings and pictures have retained a brilliance rarely seen today in artefacts of that period.
In the great hall at Stokesay Court settees and easy chairs upholstered in a pink plush material have turned a dirty black with age while chairs, once identical, have been found in the attic in virtually pristine condition. The chairs from the attic look as bright now as they must have done when Cissy's daughter, Jewell, held her coming out ball at the hall in the 1920s.
Watercolours, which also fade in time if exposed to light, have been found in the attics unsullied by the years. A picture of the Golden Gate to the Temple at Jerusalem, by Carl Haag, for example, still shows brilliant blue, which is the first tone to fade in watercolour work.
After the war Jewell, Lady Magnus Allcroft, and her husband, Sir Philip Magnus, biographer of Edward VII and Gladstone, went to live at Stokesay Court. But they only furnished the hall and two of the public rooms, living a relatively simple life. Most of the furniture and effects remained in the attics and cellars where nobody saw them. Jewell and her husband had no children and she became a recluse, denying anyone access to cellars and attics.
When finally the inheritors of Stokesay were able to investigate they found a wealth of Victorian academy painting in the attics. The paintings, by Thomas Sydney Cooper, Thomas Brooks, Walter Dendy Sadler, T M Joy and G D Leslie, were mostly bought direct from Royal Academy exhibitions by John Derby Allcroft, the wealthy glove manufacturer who built the house. These paintings and other effects will be sold by Sotheby's on 28 September in the largest country house sale for a decade.
Among the most splendid of the paintings is The Monarch of the Meadow, by Cooper, a picture of a bull standing guard over a cow and her calf. The picture was evidently Cooper's answer to Sir Edwin Landseer's Monarch of the Glen. Also likely to attract special interest is a painting by Brooks of Grace Darling, the Victorian lighthouse keeper's daughter who rescued sailors off the Northumberland coast. There are also several paintings by J F Dicksee, of interest today because of their unfettered sentimentality - a picture of Christ looking like a young Englishman and of a blonde girl with naked shoulders on a rock by the sea.
An extraordinary collection of tourist items from around the world were also found. They were collected by Herbert Allcroft, son of the man who built the house. Travelling in the 1890s he picked up a great deal of tourist tat - 50 palm leaf fans from the Philippines, still in their original packing case, a dozen shell spoons, lacquer and pottery from Kyoto and objects from a curio store in Mandalay. Robert Holden, an art agent who is acting for the family, said: 'He seemed to be unable to stop himself. He bought with the exuberance of youth.' Herbert Allcroft died before the First World War but his young wife, Cissy, lived on to become the chatelaine of Stokesay. And among the treasures she hid away are some from her own side of the family - a flag captured by her father, Sir William Russell, in the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and a campaign bed he used in the Crimean war. One of the most valuable of these is a puzzling item described as a Louis XIV Boulle 'commode'. In fact it is a chest of drawers inlaid with arabesque work fashioned from brass and stained horn.
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
Syria's 'circle of hell': Aleppo residents describe children without heads, streets filled with blood and injuries never before witnessed by surgeons
General Election 2015: Photographic history of Bullingdon Club tracked down - including new picture of David Cameron in his finery
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...
£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...