Ashbourne boasts an array of fine and historically important homes. Birdsgrove House may not be the earliest but few can argue that it has seen more changes and adaptations than many.
The house as it stands today was built c.1850 in the mid Jacobethan style, but begun as a simple villa.
Birdsgrove builder, Dr William Greaves only lived at the house for four years, after which the house passed from one family member to another, until eventually being sold to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain along with much of its Georgian furniture and decoration in 1939.
How relevant it is that the buyers at this country house sale enter through the main entrance under an arch inscribed with the Greaves family motto, Superna Quaero, meaning I seek heavenly things, for they were certainly not to be disappointed.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society played their part in adding interest to the sale primarily with the addition to the house of many interesting pharmaceutical antiques, many of which provided highlights to the ceramics section including an interesting pair of George III salt glazed syrup jars, a similar set of drug jars, and leech jars that eventually sucked an impressive £12,500 out of the successful bidder, who no doubt required the contents to kill the pain of such an enormous price.
The works of art attracting worldwide bidding with the phones and Internet battering those in the marquee. A pair of French ivory art nouveau figures seemed not only to be admiring their own beauty but attracted admirers from mainland Europe, eventually selling for £7,200 and returned to Paris.
It is likely that the impressive George III longcase clock had kept time in the entrance hall in Birdsgrove since the house was built. Made by Thomas Fayre of Lancaster, it is probable that the case was made by the nearby cabinet makers Gillows, sold for £6,000.
William Oliver’s portrayal of a young girl wearing a straw hat with her basket of apples seemed to fit the atmosphere of Birdsgrove perfectly, it’s so easy to imagine the figure in the orchards of the house 100 years earlier. Sold to a London collector for £5,300.
The sale lasted two days with, as is usually the case with such sales, almost every lot selling. Birdsgrove has now returned to a family home.