Published 4th August 2020
Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood's eagerly awaited Maritime Sporting and Collectors auction on 12th August 2020 has a number of items of local interest as well as several pieces of maritime history included in the sale.
The Great Fire of Ilfracombe started 28th July 1896 in the cellar of William Cole's iron mongers and furniture shop on the corner of Portland Street and Fore Street. The local volunteer fire brigade's equipment consisted of a manual Merryweather engine, one ladder and a hose-reel cart and they had the fire under control by the following morning.
A total of thirty five houses and businesses were destroyed by the fire. The fireman were later presented with a medal and £2 at a dinner in their honour at the Royal Clarence Hotel. The medal included in the auction (SC31/257) should attract local interest with an estimate of £100-£200.
Also of local interest is the Victorian ledger of the leases and land agreements of the construction of the South Devon Railway (SC31/813) It contains hand written copies and original agreements between the railway company and land owners for payments to buy and allow access to the construction of the railway from Exeter to Cornwall.
As well as the agreements, there are numerous maps and diagrams for the development and construction of the lines around the Southwest network. A fascinating insight into the history of the line, it should attract both local and national railway enthusiasts.
Included in the maritime section of the auction is an HMS Foudroyant large decorative desk casket (SC31/146) constructed from ship's copper and timbers by Goodall, Long & Heighway, Manchester.
HMS Foudroyant was laid down in 1789 and was the second ship to be given the name Foudroyant. She was also the second two-decker to be built carrying 80 guns. Modelled upon the French Foudroyant, Nelson took great interest in her development and had intentions of making her his flagship as soon as she was launched, but took the Vanguard instead as Foudroyant had not yet been completed.
Nelson transferred his flag to the Foudroyant in 1799 while dealing with the return of the Neapolitan Royal family to Naples. Foudroyant returned under the flag of Captain John Clarke Searle in June 1801.
Foudroyant returned home after the Napoleonic Wars to become the guard ship of Plymouth in 1819 and was converted to a gunnery training ship in 1862, a role she undertook until 1894, when she returned to port duties.
In 1891, Foudroyant was sold out of service and immediately resold to a German ship-breaking company, the ensuing public protest led to her being repurchased by Whatley Cobb, who refitted her as a training ship. In order to recoup the £20,000 cost of refitting Foudroyant, she was taken around English seaside resorts for exhibition, but was wrecked at Blackpool in 1897 during a violent storm.
The wreck was sold for £250 to a Mr Hayhurst who began to dismantle the ship but relinquished the task when a passer-by was injured by a dynamite blast, after which she was purchased by the Manchester firm of Goodall Lamb & Heighway.
This casket will attract interest from worldwide as did the Foudroyant' oak and copper wall cabinet (MA14/179) that sold for £16,000.
A link to another famous ship included in the auction is the postcard of RMS Titanic signed by five survivors (SC31/180) of the ill-fated voyage, which is estimated at £300-£500. Even after 108 years, the story of the White Star liner still continues to attract collectors in the 21st Century.
Another area that has a strong market is Polar Exploration and the sale has several items for collectors of this field as well. The British Arctic Expedition 1875-1876 bottle of Samuel Allsopp & Sons, Burton-on-Trent Ale (SC31/107) was made for the Admiralty Expedition to reach the North Pole. It almost ended in disaster as the men suffered from scurvy and were ill equipped for the extreme cold weather. After spending one winter on the ice, the expedition turned back in 1876, but the beer was nicely chilled!
Crossing the markets for both maritime and collectors is the set of Wrench's 'Links of Empire' Postcards (SC31/516), Series 3 British National Antarctic Expedition (Discovery Expedition) 1901-1904.
Unusually with this set is the rare fifth subscribers card that was filled out by the purchaser when they ordered the set of four cards. Each of the four was then sent at a different stage of the expedition that launched the careers of many of the heroes of the Golden Age of Polar Exploration such as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.
The collectors section has a number of highlights including a Bassett-Lowke or similar Gauge 1 4-6-2 live steam locomotive and tender (SC31/801): BR green No 51967 with six wheel tender as well as the BR(S) Totem 'Yeovil Pen Mill' (SC31/810) and many other items for all tastes and desires.