Forgotten treasures in attic go under hammer: Victorian family heirlooms carefully packed away in 1941 have come to light. Oliver Gillie reports

THE CHATELAINE of Stokesay Court, a Victorian country house near Ludlow in Shropshire, packed up her precious possessions in 1941 when the house was requisitioned for the war effort, expecting that one day she would return to a life of luxury. But those days never returned for Cissy Allcroft and her family and so valuable pictures, china and furniture remained in their wrappings to be rediscovered 50 years later.

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.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before