The Benson collection of early spoons was dispersed at Christie’s King Street last week. The highest selling lot was a Henry VI spoon with a Wodewose or wild man finial (one of only four known) which was secured by a UK private buyer on the phone for £70,000.
With the buyer's premium included, the auctioneers believe this to be the highest price for a single spoon at auction. It had been estimated at £40,000-60,000.
However, a group of six Edward IV apostle spoons valued at £150,000-250,000 failed to attract bidding with just one selling from the group at £13,000.
Overall the 39-lot group offered at the Christie's auction on June 4, comprising over 40 spoons and one fork, totalled £655,870.
Assembled over many years by the dealer, expert and advisor Jane Penrice How (née Benson), the collection of silver spoons which ranged from the Roman period to the 17th century had been on loan to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford since 2007.
Jane Penrice How (1915-2004), known as "Ben" to her friends, and simply as 'Mrs How' to acquaintances, was a character that none who knew her will forget. A long-standing member of the Antique Plate Committee at Goldsmiths Hall, where her forthright opinions were aired with some regularity, she met her husband, Commander George Evelyn Paget How, when cataloguing the Ellis spoon collection for Sotheby's in 1935.
Together, they built up a formidable dealership, How of Edinburgh (which had moved to the heart of the West End before the War) that was the training ground for a whole generation of silver dealers. Tom Lumley, Hugh Jessop, John Bourdon-Smith and Brand Inglis all worked for How at some time in their careers.
Mrs How's lengthy obituary in The Times also remembered her wide-ranging enthusiasms: wine, opera, fishing, shooting, edged weapons, beekeeping, dogs, cricket and motorcars.
Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury conducted the How of Edinburgh stock sale in October 2007 - a single-owner catalogue totalling £550,000.