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The Athelhampton Attic & Charity Sale

Saturday 25th March 2023

Buyers, sellers and charity partners all delighted at Dukes’s successful Athelhampton Attic & Charity auction.

Held on site in Athelhampton’s sumptuous grounds, this bijou sale was a treat for auction goers. Up for sale was a blend of decorative and useful objects from Athelhampton itself - from Chinese porcelain to petrol mowers and roof tiles - together with a tempting spread of experiences and gift packages being sold on behalf of two local charity partners: Fortuneswell Cancer Trust and Dorset Museum.

Held in Athelhampton’s stylish Long Hall, the pop-up auction attracted both local and international interest, featuring a busy room of bidders together with considerable online traffic via two internet bidding platforms. Two protracted bidding battles resulted in two Chinese porcelain vases selling for £12,000* and £7,000* respectively, both selling to the same determined online buyer, whilst a pair of stylish glazed bookcases hammered down at £4,000*, again to an online buyer. An interesting selection of silver lots all sold after healthy competition for a combined £1,900*, whilst curtains and fabrics proved similar popular, the selection achieving a combined £750*. With spring in full swing, all the garden machinery sold, as did other outdoor items. Most notably, three Victorian cast iron benches sold for a combined £1,800* - despite being set in concrete and sold on the condition the buyer chiselled out!

The key element of the sale, however, was the charity section. With auction fees waived for charity, bidders took to the cause nobly. Top price of the day was the £1,000 bid for a week stay in a Portesham holiday cottage, whilst £400 secured an exclusive tour of Dorchester’s Butler Museum of Chinese art. Two bottles of Hardy’s 1968 ale sold for £230 and £200 respectively, whilst meals, boat trips, wine and even a Ghost Night experience at Athelhampton itself all sold well to generous bidders. Probably the most amusing sales were the two Hardy’s Ale lots kindly donated but not (at the time of the sale) yet delivered to the auction - instead these items were in transit somewhere in France. Auctioneer Michael Roberts commented ‘I’ve never before sold something we don’t actually have!’ 

This generous bidder spirit helped the curated sale of 150 lots gross an expectation busting-total of £35k* of which charity lots totalled a fabulous £5,000. 

For further information, enquiries or consignment advice please contact Michael Roberts, Head of Sale on 01305 265080. 

 * Hammer price


To include lots benefiting the following charities:

A History of Athelhampton House and Gardens

The oldest part of the Grade I listed manor is the magnificent Great Hall with an outstanding hammer-beam roof, a minstrel's gallery and an exceptionally fine oriole window containing heraldic glass. Architectural historians consider it to be one of the finest examples of early Tudor domestic architecture in the country.

The death of Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field brought the War of the Roses to an end and marked the dawn of the Tudor age. With the return of stability to the country, Sir William Martyn, the Lord Mayor of London in 1492, obtained a licence to crenellate the house, which was then known as Adlampston.

After the Martyn line died out at the end of the sixteenth century the house had a succession of owners including the spendthrift nephew of the Duke of Wellington, the 4th Earl of Mornington (died 1857). In 1891 the house was bought by Cart de Lafontaine, who set out to restore the house to its former glory. He commissioned Inigo Thomas to design what is generally regarded as one of England's finest formal gardens arranged as a series of outdoor rooms in the Renaissance style.

In 1930 it was acquired by the Honourable Mrs Esmond Harmsworth. She was a notable hostess of the 1930's and Athelhampton was the backdrop for some lavish parties with a guest list including celebrities such as Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Aly Khan and Noel Coward.

In 1957 Athelhampton House was bought by the eminent Bristol surgeon Robert Victor Cooke, who restored the house to accommodate his impressive collection of 16th and 17th century paintings, furniture and works of art. He gave the house to his son, Robert Cooke MP, (later Sir Robert) as a wedding gift when he married Jenifer King in 1966. After the death of Sir Robert in 1987 and Jenifer in 1995 (by then Lady du Cann, as the wife of Tory Grandee and businessman, Sir Edward du Cann), the house was inherited by Patrick Cooke. 

Athelhampton was known to Thomas Hardy, who lived close by at Bockhampton. He immortalised the romantic old house in his poem, "The Dame of Athelhall", and in his short story, "The Waiting Supper". He also painted a watercolour of the old gatehouse whilst his father, a stonemason, was working at the house. Athelhampton was the backdrop for the 1972 film "Sleuth" starring Sir Laurence Olivier (later Lord Olivier) and Michael Caine (now Sir Michael).