'Important' historical portrait collection from Norfolk estate set to go under the hammer
PUBLISHED: 15:43 13 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:05 13 February 2018
They are part of Norfolk's rich heritage and now portraits of some of Britain's most famous historical figures are going under the hammer for the first time.
Originating from the historic West Acre High House, north of Swaffham, the private collection will be coming to the open market next month.
Included in the 15-picture collection are works by portrait painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, including Charles Jervas, Antoine-Francois Callet, and Henry William Pickersgill.
The highlight of the collection is a portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, by Jervas.
The picture is believed to date back to 1725 and was painted as a gift for Walpole’s sister, Susan Hamond. It is expected to reach between £7,000 to £10,000.
Brett Tryner, associate at the Cambridge-based Cheffins Auctioneers, who is overseeing the sale, said: “This painting is of important historical significance as it depicts Walpole in one of his most powerful periods of the Walpole-Townshend Ministry.
“Jervas created a series of portraits of Walpole throughout his career both for the prime minister himself and for his supporters, many of which still hang at Houghton Hall, Walpole’s estate in Norfolk.”
In 2002, a different painting of Walpole by Jervas fetched more than £37,000 at auction.
Also within the collection is a portrait, estimated to reach between £4,000 to £6,000, of Viscountess Townshend of Raynham - Walpole’s sister, Dorothy. Also by Jervas, it is one of three commissions of the woman dubbed ‘The Brown Lady’. One still hangs at Houghton Hall.
She is said to haunt Raynham Hall, Houghton Hall, and Sandringham House, and became one of the most famous hauntings in Britain when photographers from Country Life Magazine claimed to have captured its image in 1936.
A final highlight of the collection is a portrait of Louis XVI of France, painted by Callet in 1778.
Acquired at a sale at Stowe House in 1848, it is presumed a gift to the family by Louis XVI and has an estimate of £20,000 to £30,000.
Artist Antony Gormley, best-known for his Angel of the North sculpture near Newcastle, bought High House in 2010 for £3million.
- The fine art auction takes place at Cheffins on March 7 and 8 at 11am. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01223 213343.
The people behind the paintings
- Sir Robert Walpole (1676 - 1745)
Robert Walpole was born in Houghton, Norfolk. He was one of 19 children and, as a child, attended a private school at Massingham. Walpole’s political career began in January 1701 when he won a seat in the general election at Castle Rising. He went on to become Britain’s first, and longest serving at 20 years, prime minister.
- King Louis XVI (1754 - 1793)
King Louis was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. In 1791, he received the title of “King of the French” until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792. Louis XVI was guillotined on 21 January 1793.
- Viscountess Townshend of Raynham (1686 - 1726)
Lady Dorothy Walpole was the second wife of Charles Townshend. She remained at Raynham Hall until her death from smallpox and is said to haunt there as The Brown Lady, named after the brown brocade dress it is claimed she wears.
The history of West Acre High House
1756 - The Georgian property was built, replacing a Jacobean house that fallen into disrepair, after being commissioned by writer Edward Spelman, who inherited the land.
1761 - Because of financial difficulties, Richard Hamond bought the property from an “impoverished Spelman”. His nephew, Anthony Hamond, commissioned the wings.
1829 - Anthony’s second son, also Anthony, employed the famous country house architect, W.J. Donthorn, who castellated the front facade and created the internal double-flight staircase. Anthony junior also commissioned for an orangery to the west and stable block to the east.
1897 - The house was bought by Henry Birkbeck after he married Anthony Hamond’s daughter in 1849.
1950s - An extensive refurbishment was carried out.
1965 - The house hit headlines following a burglary which saw 40 historic snuff boxes stolen along with a pair of double-barrel guns.
Today - It remained in the Birkbeck family until the sale to artist Antony Gormley, who bought the house plus 100-acres for £3million.