Dr William Lindsay Gordon, a Birmingham GP who died last year, had a fascination for English history especially the Stuart era.
This informed his collecting tastes which were for vernacular
furniture; early 17th century English embroideries; 17th and 18th
century British portraiture in the form of full scale and miniature
painting; and Stuart era silver small work and vertu, much of it
acquired in the 1960s and 70s through frequenting the London
His collection ranged from the general - 17th century
joint stools and stumpwork pictures - to the particular - portraits
of Charles II and Nell Gwynne or late 16th century Popish Plot
tiles and Royalist mementoes.
The collection may not have been a multi-million consignment but
it had the ingredients to make the specialist enthusiast
It was market fresh and had a themed coherence. Add some largely
conservative estimates and small wonder it was a virtual sell-out
with just three of the 113 lots left unsold and plenty of prices
that outstripped estimates by decent rather than perplexing
Popish Plot Tiles
A set of ten manganese Popish Plot tin-glazed tiles of
c.1680-1700, all of which were purchased at Sotheby's in 1971, were
offered here as five lots and realised a total of £10,300.
The Popish Plot, a fabricated conspiracy put about by Titus
Oates and the Protestant Dr Tonge that Charles II was to be
overthrown and Protestants massacred, ended in the execution of 14
Jesuits and ultimately Oates' arrest and conviction for
The affair c.1678-81, was promulgated widely through a set of
engravings which formed the source for the narrative scenes on
playing cards and tiles.
Here at CSK, six of the tiles were offered together and sold at
£3000 (est: £2500-4000) while the single tiles ranged in price from
£1600 up to £2400 for The plot hacht at Rome by the Pope and
Cardinals, estimated at £700-1000.
Dr Gordon's enthusiasm for the Stuart era extended to period
souvenirs and one of these, a Charles I reliquary shaped as a tiny
book, led the day on £8500.
The quintessential souvenir for a Stuart enthusiast, this tiny
2in (5cm) high silver gilt-metal and enamelled bookform pendant was
gemset and enamelled to the front with his initials, a crown and a
fleur de lys and contained a cut-out portrait of the King and a
piece of blood-stained cloth.
It has a provenance to Major Cyril Sloane Stanley, a descendant
of Sir Hans Sloane from whom it may have been inherited. One the
day, it was also sold to Alastair Dickenson for £8500.
The Jermyn Street dealer told ATG he would have been prepared to
go to three times that level to secure it. He reckoned it was a
particularly good example of Stuart memorabilia and while it was
missing its clasp, it was in highly original, unspoilt
Also at the sale was a Royalist souvenir jewel and a Charles I
silver locket containing a Royal portrait which were offered
together with a long 18th century Royalist revival sash and a well
preserved 17th century pack of Popish Plot playing cards. The group
easily outstripped its humble £600-800 estimate to take £4000.
Above: purchased from Christie's in October 1950, this
portrait of Nell Gwynn by a follower of Peter Lely fetched £5200 at
The most expensive entries amongst Dr Gordon's small collection
of 17th century portraits were, predictably enough, the oval
half-length study of Nell Gwyn by a follower of Sir Peter Lely
which realised £5200 and, at £4400, a portrait of Charles II
ascribed to a follower of John Michael Wright.
This showed the monarch wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece
and had a provenance, according to an inscription on the reverse,
to George Harnage (1767-1836)1st Baronet of Belleswardine,
Along with a handful of items that had direct associations with
the Stuart monarchy the sale also featured period pieces: 17th
century embroideries, oak furniture, and portrait miniatures. Most
of these sold along predicted lines although the oak performed a
little below par.
The keenest competition came with the silver.
While silver is hardly the most bullish market, the smallwork
and collector's pieces that Dr Gordon favoured in the 1970s is
still popular and this was a particularly nice group. Amongst the
most keenly contested pieces was an early 18th century eightbell
rattle struck only with a Britannia Standard mark for John Hugh Le
Sage, c.1720 and lotted with a routine 1920s Birmingham rattle.
This lacked the coral teether, but was of exceptional gauge with a
solid cast handle and by a well regarded maker.
It was purchased by London dealer Alastair Dickenson who
pronounced it "the finest 18th century rattle I've ever seen",
going to £3000 to secure it.
A small 3.75in (9cm) wide unmarked oval mirror with a hinged
cover pierced with silver gilt flowers and foliage dated to the
second half of the 17th century was taken to £2400 and a 2oz
Commonwealth period wine taster of c.1650 with an unascribed
maker's mark to the rim fetched £2000.
Demand extended to the best of the later collector's pieces. An
almost miniature, 2in (5cm) high, pair of silver travelling
candlesticks that screw together to form a circular box, marked for
Joseph Guest London, 1812 was a case in point at £2700 as was a 9in
(23cm) long ear trumpet marked for Thomas Phipps and Edward
Robinson London, 1808 which sold with a Sheffield plate example of
c.1800 for £4500.
Some of the most popular elements in the collection were English
Arts and Crafts era 'signed and designed' pieces. The silver
included the 8in (20cm) diameter silver bowl by Charles Robert
Ashbee of characteristic openwork and spot hammered style pictured
here that realised £4200 and 11 William De Morgan 6in (15cm) square
tiles decorated on Craven Dunhill blanks in ruby lustre with a
menagerie of different animals.
Purchased as a single lot at Christie's in 1978 they were
offered here as three pairs and one trio with all pursued to double
estimate or more as detailed in our illustration.
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