Titanic's last letter fetches £119,000 at auction

Esther Hart's letter was penned mere hours before the ill-fated liner struck an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic Ocean on 14 April, 1912

The doomed vessel Titanic, which sunk on her maiden voyage more than a hundred years ago, has gripped the public imagination for the past century as a tale of human failure and tragedy.

And now the only surviving letter believed to have been written on board Titanic has sold for £119,000 at auction on Saturday.

The letter was written by survivor Esther Hart, a second class passenger who was travelling with her seven-year-old daughter Eva Hart, just hours before the Titanic struck an iceberg at 11.40pm on Sunday 14 April, 1912.

The £119,000 price tag shattered the previous record for a Titanic-related letter, which had stood at £94,000, auctioneers said.

The letter is written on special stationary headed “On board RMS ‘Titanic’” and comes complete with an envelope embossed with the White Star Line flag.

In the letter Mrs Hart talks about being ill while on the New York-bound liner.

She writes: “My Dear ones all. As you see it is Sunday afternoon and we are resting in the library after luncheon. I was very bad all day yesterday could not eat or drink and sick all the while, but today I have got over it.”

Mrs Hart goes on to describe how she had been to a church service with Eva and to talk about the trip so far.

“Tho they say this Ship does not roll on account of its size. Any how it rolls enough for me, I shall never forget it. It is very nice weather but awfully windy and cold. They say we may get into New York Tuesday night but we are really due early Wednesday morning, shall write as soon as we get there," she writes.

The letter was due to be delivered to Mrs Hart's mother in Essex when the ship returned to Southampton, but the tragedy meant it was never sent.

1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives when the ship sunk, including Mrs Hart's husband Benjamin.

Mrs Hart and Eva were among those rescued by HMS Carpathia. Eva, who died in 1996 aged 91, is a well-known Titanic survivor.

Mrs Hart later found the letter in the pocket of her husband's coat, which he had given to his wife to keep her warm as the disaster unfolded.

Andrew Aldridge, from Henry Aldridge and Son Auctioneers, had earlier said he expected the letter to fetch between £80,000 and £100,000.

He said: “The importance of this legendary item cannot be overstated, being the only known surviving example of its type to have been written on that fateful day, surviving the sinking, and having belonged to such a well-known survivor.

"The letter and envelope are in remarkable condition, with an impeccable provenance, and they represent a truly unique opportunity to own the finest example of its genre in existence. It is quite simply the jewel in the crown of Titanic manuscript ephemera."

Other records were broken when more than 200 lots went under the hammer at Henry Aldridge and Son Auctioneers in Devizes, Wiltshire, to mark the 102nd anniversary of the loss of the ship.

A second class breakfast menu, which is only one of a handful to have survived, sold for £87,000 - beating the previous £74,000 menu record.

The menus doubled up as postcards giving the owner an opportunity to send a message to a friend or loved one from the largest and most famous liner in the world at that time.

An extremely rare VIP ticket for the launch of Titanic in Belfast on 31 May 1911 sold for £40,000, which was another record.

The ticket, which still retains its perforated stub, belonged to Captain Alexander Matier who was unable to attend the launch.

An insurance claim form detailing attempts by the most senior officer to survive the disaster to downplay the iceberg collision went for £9,000.

The unpublished four-page legal-sized form secured the ship's owner White Star Line a £3 million payout from insurers.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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