A magnificent marble fire surround, reputed to be from the house Admiral Lord Nelson shared with his mistress Lady Emma Hamilton, has just been sold at auction for an estimated £20,000 – 30,000.
The hammer came down on the piece at Bonham’s Bond Street sale of Fine English Furniture and Works of Art, on 13th June. The auction included superb furniture spanning 200 years of craftsmanship, including several pieces with close connections to Lancashire – including an antique mahogany pedestal desk attributed to Gillows. Although not stamped, Gillows made an almost identical piece for a client in Cumbria. Antique dining chairs , an antique games table and countless other items were either made by, attributed to or in the style of the great Lancastrian cabinetmaking company.
One thing Gillows couldn’t take credit for was the stunning Revival Egypto-Roman white marble fireplace, believed to have come from Merton Place. Lord Nelson bought and began restoring this house for himself, Lady Emma Hamilton and her family – including the daughter he sired. Sadly, his dreams of cosy nights by the fire with his mistress were not to be, as shortly after buying the property he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. Emma staunchly struggled on, but huge debts forced her to sell the house and contents. With Lord Nelson’s restorations left incomplete, Merton Place was demolished in 1821, with everything from the bricks to the fireplaces sold at auction. Recycling was evidently in vogue even then.
Antiques are Green, so visit an antique dealer in Preston, where everything from Victorian dining chairs to antique fire surrounds will be on display – without the high commission rates charged by auction houses.
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