Fonthill Treasures

28th January 2010

A pair of silver-gilt waiters, previously in the collection of William Beckford, have sold at Woolley and Wallis for £36,000 hammer price.

The waiters, featured in the Silver sale on 27th January, came from the estate of the late Niel Rimington of Fonthill Old Abbey Estate in Wiltshire, where the eccentric Beckford had built his gothic residence of cathedral proportions in the early 19th century. Dated 1817, the waiters were made by William Burwash of London, and decorated with strapwork echoing the heraldic motifs of the Beckford arms. They bore a striking resemblance to a sideboard dish in the V&A, which was made for Beckford by the same silversmith at around the same time. It is possible that the design was executed by Gregorio Franchi, Beckford's Portuguese agent and friend, and echoes Beckford's obsessions with his lineage and the Islamic world.

Whilst undoubtedly fine items, the strong provenance and connection to one of England's wealthiest and most eccentric collectors are what pushed this lot beyond its £15,000 - 20,000 estimate.

The estate of Niel Rimington included several other items that proved popular with collectors, among them a Guild of Handicrafts beaker by Charles Ashbee, set with garnet cabouchons. Eleven telephone lines competed with bidders in the room and several commission bids to overtake the modest estimate of £3,000 - 5,000. The piece eventually sold to a private collector for £12,500.

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