This c.1800 painting of the Reffley Brethren’s summer gathering came from the Norfolk home of Lady Harrod. It sold at Sworders sale on February 6 at £3700.

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This fruitful bunch of Norfolk revellers were a society devoted to quaffing a secret brew and inhaling their special aromatic smoke through churchwarden pipes. They would meet every summer at their 'temple' for a meal, a dance, and a high degree of general merriment.

Built outside Kings Lynn in 1789, their temple and obelisk are depicted in the painting seen here. It shows the brethren's summer event in full swing.

Dated to c.1800, the picture came up at Sworders' sale in Stansted Mountfitchet on February 6. It drew some keen interest from Norfolk bidders, outstripping its £500-700 estimate before being knocked down at £3700 to a representative of Kings Lynn Museum.

The painter of the 15 x 173/4in (38 x 45cm) oil on canvas was unknown, but there is a print in existence of a similar scene titled Reffley Spring by W.H. Oldmeadow. The aquatint was originally made in 1818 for local MP Martin Folkes, on whose land the temple was located.

Although similar, John Black of Sworders didn't think this was the original painting from which the prints were copied. However, the Kings Lynn Museum already have a number of these prints, and so the painting will fit suitably with their collection.

The work came from the Norfolk home of Lady Harrod at the Old Rectory, Holt. The contents of the house provided a number of the pictures and antiques in the sale, but it is not known when or how this particular painting was acquired.

The Reffley Brethren were founded after the Civil War as a way for Royalists to show their disapproval of the government. Their original purpose was to defy Cromwell's ruling forbidding public meetings of more than 30 people. As the political situation changed, however, so too did the aims of the society, which became confined to promoting the fun and good fellowship shown in this picture.

Sadly, the site of their temple no longer enjoys such spirited conviviality. It is now a housing estate in some state of decay.