Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Whitbread’s decision to sell their breweries and public houses led to this dispersal, and the wide-ranging entries included pictures, pub signs, whisky and beer bottles. Earlier in the year Bonhams and Brooks auctioned the contents of Whitbread’s former London Chiswell Street headquarters on site on February 6.

The sale attracted mainly UK interest from breweriana collectors, decorative buyers, Whitbread family members and employees. Bonhams’ specialist Robert Bleasdale priced all entries to sell and there were only a handful of casualties.

Almost inevitably in such a wide-ranging sale there were a couple of sleepers such as James Bateman (1893-1959) signed oil on board, Kings Lynn Mart – Fairground Scene.

Commissioned for the Whitbread calendar, February 1953, although it had James Bourlet and Art Exhibitions Bureau labels there was, nevertheless, no substantial reference to this artist for Robert Bleasdale to find and it was given a £30-50 estimate.

Two London dealers took proceedings to £600/700 after which two telephones and a room bidder battled it out to £4100. “James Bateman must have recently picked up a good following,” said Bleasdale after the sale.

A second Whitbread calendar commission, a Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971) oil on canvas, Boats on the river at Harwich, brought £2000, while the biggest money was reserved for a Victorian presentation silver six-light candelabrum centrepiece, 1840, 2ft 31/2in (69cm) tall and weighing 277ozs.

Passed to the Whitbread archive from the Seager Evans Whisky Distillers, its triform base stood on three cast acanthus leaf and shell feet and supported three classical female figures below a palm tree cluster stem. Its value lay in its size and decorative qualities and it was taken by the silver trade above estimate to £8800.

Nelson memorabilia is always guaranteed a string of buyers and a carved oak writing box belonging to Nelson’s father together with rigging purportedly taken from the HMS Victory went at £3100 – against a speculative £300-500 estimate.

A flintlock service musket engraved S.Whitbread & Co. with a border engraved lock signed by the London makers Brander & Potts, was one of 64 muskets purchased by Whitbread in 1809 to protect the brewery from the threat of Napoleonic invasion. This fine example of 19th century priorities brought £1300.

The price bid for an early 19th century grained and black-letter painted pine rectangular fine board, 4ft 1in by 2ft 23/4in (1.25m x 68cm), was more unexpected. Given the numbers of good copies on the market, it was given a cautious £300-500 estimate but was taken to £3400 by two decorative dealers.

Elsewhere, an early 19th century English school oil on panel – possibly an early pub sign – depicting a balding man with rubicund complexion stumbling around outside a pub, sold at £2700.
Bonhams, Knowle, November 14
Number of lots offered: 356
Number of lots sold: 292
Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent
Sale total: £90,000