Alton Manor is a striking and memorable Gothic house with a romantic silhouette and twenty-six acre small park. The house was constructed between 1846 and 1847 for James Milnes, the fourth son of William Milnes of Stubben Edge Hall, Ashover.
Milnes was a lead trader and landowner who had previously lived in Darley Dale but who had moved to Wirksworth because he felt that the coming of the railway had made it ‘no longer fit for a gentleman to live there’. He had the noted architect Sir Gilbert Scott design Alton Manor, an architect more famous today for the enormous number of parish churches he designed or restored. Milnes died in 1866 – ironically, just as the soon-to-be-reopened Ecclesborne Valley railway was being built (perhaps the realisation killed him!) – and the estate passed to his surviving son, Henry Walthall Milnes. Henry died, unmarried, in 1916 and the estate passed to a distant relative, Edward Walthall. It was when Brigadier Walthall died that the estate passed to Col. Sir Peter Hilton, a much admired Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire. He and his family lived in Alton Manor from 1959 onwards, restoring the house extensively. The sale through Bamfords Auctioneers arose after the death of his wife in 2010.
Already, this was a sale steeped in history. Viewing was held within the house which permitted the huge numbers of people who came to see what was for sale peek inside a beautiful home which none but a privileged few had had the chance to see. As the house contents had such interesting derivation, this was a fantastic opportunity for all sorts of buyers to own a piece of history.
And the ‘country house’ effect was soon to be seen with yet another successful Bamfords country home sale. An 18th century Sevres tea service, painted by Morris and Evans, had the impressive provenance of the Herzog von Coburg Collection, Christie’s London, 2nd November 1998; a purchase history which no doubt figured in its achievement of £29,000 at auction. At a more modest £240 the importance of provenance was still proven with a lot relating to shooting, which included a cartridge box, cartridge packer, and much more. The ‘H’ branded into the bag almost certainly referred to Henry, 6th Earl of Harewood, husband of Princess Mary, daughter of George V and came from the Harewood House sale.
But auction houses cannot provide provenance for every lot they sell and it is sometimes lots with an air of mystery around them which do extremely well at auction. One such lot at Alton Manor was a pair of Indian School watercolours, which fetched an eye-watering £16,000, with no knowledge of from where they had been obtained. Above anything, this shows the remarkable ability of auctions to allow items to find their value, an attribute of which no other retail system can boast!
Country house sales are not all about the high prices, though. Part of the fun is that the general public get the chance to see ‘how the other half live’ and snap up an item or two for themselves. For just £55, members of the public could pick up lots with multiple items such as two brown leather suitcases, a brown leather briefcase, a pair of gentleman’s shoes, and assorted hats.
Intensive bidding over a two-day period resulted in another successful country house sale for Bamfords Auctioneers. It is always a pleasure to share such an enthralling experience with a varied audience of regular customers right through to first-time buyers. Whether a collector, dealer, private buyer or just an interested party, country home sales are an experience not to be missed!