Marple Hall Sale

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This article, by Mark Whittaker, appeared in the May 2001 issue of the Community News in our regular feature "Local History & Heritage with the Marple Website"

The problems experienced in the April issue seem to have been resolved and the layout and presentation of this month's article was back to previous standards. Having said that, due to space constraints all the pictures were not included and the text was edited, with a few errors being introduced. The article is reproduced in full below, with all the pictures and no editing.

The feedback article that accompanied this is on a separate page

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Marple Hall

Henry Bradshaw-Isherwood inherited Marple Hall at the age of fifty-six following the death of his father, John, in 1924. Henry tried living at the Hall for a short while but soon returned to London, placing it in the hands of caretakers.

In 1929 Henry put most of the Hall's contents up for auction and they were disposed of during a two day sale on Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st of July that year. The sale was announced in local papers and the High Peak Reporter of 22nd June carried a lengthy article which began: 

"The preliminary announcement of the forthcoming sale of antique furniture, armour, china, pictures and tapestries in Marple Hall, the spacious mansion of Mr. Henry Bradshaw-Isherwood, has created much interest in Marple and district for the old hall is one of the few historic residences of which natives to the village are justly proud."  

As the reporter made his way from room to room, he went on to describe the contents of the hall that were to fall under the hammer.


A thirty-one page illustrated catalogue detailing all 378 lots was also produced and sold for 2 shillings each. The catalogue entitled two persons entry to the hall to view the lots in advance of the sale. I'm fortunate to have been loaned an original copy of the catalogue by Martin Davies of Marple, this includes many prices pencilled in the margins by the person who attended the sale, making it a most interesting document.

The results of the sale were published in the High Peak Reporter of 3rd August, this recorded the prices realised on the most valuable items. The importance of the collection was recognised even back in 1929, although it did not stop it being broken up: 

"The whole of the articles belong to the Bradshaw-Isherwood family, and so far as can be traced most of the antiques have been at the hall for several generations. At the death of the late Mr. John Henry Bradshaw-Isherwood, the majority of the articles offered for sale were examined by Government experts, and exempted from estate duty, until sold, on the grounds that they constituted a collection of national importance."

By combining information from the catalogue and the newspaper articles, the following report gives a feel for the highlights of the sale. For added interest and to put things into perspective, the prices have also been converted to today's values and shown in brackets. It's almost certain however, that most of the items are now worth many times these values and in some instances, possibly even priceless.

Worcester and Delft china

Collectors and antique dealers from all parts of the country and from the Continent gathered at Marple Hall, as the first lots were offered. There was spirited bidding for the china and porcelain as a 17th century English Delft blue dash charger decorated with Adam and Eve achieved 14 guineas (612). A magnificent 116 piece Chamberlain's Worcester dinner service, decorated with exotic birds and flowering shrubs in brilliant enamels, realised 32 guineas (1,350) and a sum of 51 guineas (2,150) purchased an exquisite hanging drop shaped cut-glass chandelier.

There was keen competition for the arms and armour, full suits fetching from 15 guineas (630) to 56 guineas (2,360). A lot including two pikes with fine heads and poles covered in velvet, similar to those in the Tower of London Armoury and dated 1480, were purchased for 40 guineas (1,686). Another lot including a two-handed sword, probably of the reign of Henry VII, and also like one at the Tower of London, was sold at 14 guineas (590).

Mr. Brady, the auctioneer, advised that the family portraits and pictures listed in the catalogue had been withdrawn from the sale. (There were approximately a dozen of these where are they now, I wonder?) A painting of Thomas Coventry, Lord Privy Seal during the reign of James I, fetched 43 guineas (1,812) and one of Queen Elizabeth I of England, in magnificent attire and richly bedecked in jewels, was sold for 45 guineas (1,897). A sum of 45 guineas was also paid for a portrait of the Earl of Essex, and 40 guineas (1,686) for one of Sir John Crowe, President of the Royal College of Surgeons. A three-division stump needlework picture was purchased for 41 guineas (1,770), whilst a lot described as "sundry reproductions of famous pictures, etc." was sold for just 5 shillings (10).

Hundreds of books were sold in combined lots. Eight volumes of the works of Ed. Burke, and twelve of Johnson, both 1801, fetched 5 15s (230). Another lot consisting of Ormerod's "History of Cheshire", Earwaker's "East Cheshire Past and Present", and eight volumes of Rushworth's "Historical Collections" in tooled leather and printed in 1722, achieved 12 (481).


Gobelins "Winter" tapestry

Tapestry cut around fireplace

The attendance on the second day included dealers from all parts of the country and principal interest centred on the sale of the tapestries. These attracted a would-be buyer from Spain, but they all eventually went to a London dealer. A large early 18th century Gobelins tapestry, representing Winter, fetched 600 guineas (25,296). A companion tapestry, representing Autumn, achieved the same price despite having been cut to fit around the dining room fire place! At least the severed portion was included in the lot. These two tapestries were part of a set of four depicting the seasons, the other two at that time were known to be in the Royal Palace of Fontainebleau.

Another tapestry, this time late 17th century Flemish and representing Summer, probably also from a set of four, went for 400 guineas (16,864). Two further Flemish tapestries of the same period, representing Harvest and villagers in rural occupations were sold for 160 guineas (6,745) and 170 guineas (7,167). The catalogue describes all these tapestries as being brilliant in colour, the black and white photographs we have only hint at how magnificent they must have been.

six assorted lots of silverware

A remarkable feature of the sale was the high price paid for the silverware. A record of 325 shillings per ounce was achieved when a set of six plain trencher salts, dated 1720 and weighing 25 ounces, were bought by Mr. Van Engal, a Liverpool dealer, for 414 7s 6d (16,637). The six lots illustrated in the photograph of silverware were sold for a combined price of 737 14s (29,620), the most expensive being the 14" diameter hammered and chased tazza at 316 17s 6d (12,722).

Oak cupboards, chests, tables and chairs too numerous to mention all achieved high prices. One of the most interesting lots was the antique oak canopy bedstead covered in mottoes and said to have belonged to the notorious Judge Bradshawe, who signed the death warrant of Charles I. This realised 52 guineas (2,192).

17th century brass bound oak chest

The sale added considerably to Henry's wealth. I have records of the prices for only 40% of the items sold, amounting to 6,920 (277,850). When he died in 1940 he was declared to be worth 75,858 19s 9d, or a staggering 2.9M in today's terms. The tragedy is that the real cost of the sale was the breaking up and scattering to all corners of the world this "collection of national importance." Today none of the items sold remain in Marple, unless of course, you know different!


Thanks to Martin Davies for the loan of his original catalogue
and Marple Local History Society for providing copies of the missing pages.
Also Glossop Heritage Centre for their newspaper archive.

Feed Back Item accompanying this article in the paper.

Ownership of the Hall
A Visit in 1880
Guided Tour
Entrance Hall Glass
John Bradshawe
Charles Bellairs' Journal
Shutter Restoration
Marple Hall Sale
Marple Hall Tapestries
Marple Hompage

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