Published 1st November 2007
A collection of artefacts related to Lord Byron and his descendants were eagerly snapped up at auction by collectors for an astonishing £176,570 five times the figure expected.
Some 79 lots, including books, pictures and miniatures, prints, drawings, and sketches, photographs and albums, silver, jewellery, plus ephemera and memorabilia were sold at the auction held by Bearne's (now Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood) in Exeter.
Despite the very late withdrawal of 43 items from the sale, including some of Lord Byron's personal items such as locks of his hair, his gold pencil case and a miniature portrait of his daughter Ada, the auction still drew wide interest from phone and web bidders around the globe as well in the sale room.
It was the first sale in which Bearne's (now Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood) have used on-line bidding and it proved very popular with bidders, adding to the excitement and atmosphere of the auction.
With pre-sale estimates ranging from as low as £10 to as high as £5,000, it was a sale for everyone with an interest in Lord Byron and his family.
The top selling lot of the day (Lot 509) was a small collection of watercolour drawings and sketches by Lady Anne Blunt (Byron's Granddaughter, 1837-1917) which was knocked down for £24,000 against a pre sale estimate of £400-£600. Lady Anne Blunt is widely credited as being instrumental in helping save the Arabian horse breed.
And more drawings, paintings and photographic work by the widely travelled Lady Anne Blunt also drew high prices with (Lot 478), a 307-image early photo album mainly of Arab horses, selling for £22,000 (estimate £1,000-£1,500), and Lot 492, a large folio of drawings and sketches, also going for £22,000 against a guide price of £3,000-£5,000.
The lowest selling lot of the day was a floral embroidered bag dated 1879 (Lot 528) which sold for just £10.00.
The collection included Byron, Milbanke, Lovelace, Wentworth, Blunt and Lytton family artefacts, including some items relating directly to Lord Byron.
It had passed by descent through the family including the poet's wife Anne Isabella (Lady Byron), his daughter Augusta Ada King (Countess of Lovelace), his granddaughter Anne Isabella Noel-King (Lady Anne Blunt) and great granddaughter Judith Anne Dorothea Blunt-Lytton (Lady Wentworth). In 1957, under the will of the 16th Baroness Wentworth, it passed to her Land Agent, Mr Gladstone Moore and thence by descent.
Despite the fact that he died over 180 years ago, there is still passionate interest in the life of George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), who became world famous for his 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage' and 'Don Juan' epics as well as his mastery of the shorter verse.
In 1815, Lord Byron married Anna Isabella Milbanke, who bore his only legitimate daughter Ada who went on to win many accolades for her mathematical achievements.
With the onset of increasing financial burdens, and in the light of love affairs and scandal, Byron departed England in 1816, leaving his wife and daughter, never to return again.
Byron's daughter Ada became a well known mathematician, working with Charles Babbage on his 'calculating engines' which would become the forerunners for the modern-day computer. Tragically, she too died aged just 36, the same age as her father when he passed away.
Ada married William King, later the 1st Earl of Lovelace, and she bore him three children, one of whom was Anne Isabella, latterly known as Lady Anne Blunt, following her marriage to the poet, diplomat and explorer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt.
Lady Anne Blunt, the gifted granddaughter of Lord Byron, not only inherited the creative gene from him as she became a talented artist, but she also formed infamy of her own from her great love of horses.
She and her husband rescued the pure strain of the Arabian horse from near oblivion, and her studs at Sheykh Obeyd near Cairo and Crabbet Park in Sussex are world renowned.
As the first Western woman ever to reach the Nejd and to see the fabled stables of the region's ruler, Ibn Rashid, and speaking fluent Arabic, Lady Anne recounted this journey in her book entitled 'A Pilgrimage to Nejd'
She was taught drawing by John Ruskin and this and many of her other famous journeys were represented by Lady Anne in watercolour drawings. Many of these attractive works were included in the sale.
Among other themes, she drew and painted views at Sheykh Obeyd, Arab horses, and other places on her many journeys, and also took fascinating photographs showing famous Arab horses and views at her Crabbet Park home.
Judith, the only daughter of Lady Anne Blunt and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt also became a talented artist. As well as this, she inherited their love of the desert and Arabian horses.
Carrying on the family tradition of the Crabbet stud, and selling horses all over the world, it is a well known fact that all the major breed subdivisions benefited from Crabbet breeding.
Judith, latterly Lady Wentworth, like her mother, and great grandfather before her, wrote several famous works including 'Thoroughbred Racing Stock and its Ancestors' (1938) and 'The Authentic Arabian Horse and His Descendants' (1945).
Andrew Thomas, a partner with Bearne's (now Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood) of Exeter said: "Despite the loss of Lord Byron's personal items just before the sale, there was still phenomenal interest in many of the lots on offer.
"The drawings, paintings and photos by Lady Anne Blunt, Byron's granddaughter, drew particular interest, presumably due to her strong association with saving the breed of Arab Horse.
"It was a very exciting sale and realised more than we hoped. Bearne's were delighted to have been given the opportunity to sell this fascinating collection."