In the medals collecting market, a group of honours awarded to an individual will normally be sold as a whole, understandably, and any accompanying documents, photos and so on adding to the story behind them enhance the value.
Just sometimes, though, it can be worth considering putting them into the sale with other awards as a single lot, as a recent sale in Cambridge demonstrates.
Cheffins offered a group of medals and ephemera relating to the Leader and Pleydell-Bouverie families instead of splitting them up, and that strategy paid off in style when they sold to a UK buyer in the room for £28,000 against an estimate of £1500-2500 in the January Connoisseur’s Sale.
The wide range of items included an Afghanistan medal dated 1878-79-80 for Lt Col R Mallaby, 13th BONI (Bombay Native Infantry); a South Africa medal for Lt J Leader, Bedford Regiment; a South Africa medal, 1879 bar for Capt Hon J Pleydell-Bouverie 17th DCO Lancers; a First World War trio to Lt Col J Leader, together with various badges and insignia including a handwritten diary by Capt The Hon John Pleydell-Bouverie, dated 1879, with two typed copies of that diary, a 17th Lancers troop list, handwritten on card by Hon JP Bouverie and an album of photographs relating to South Africa from the last quarter of the 19th century including images of Rorke’s Drift.
As Lisa Freeman-Bassett of Cheffins explains, the £28,000 hammer price (plus 25.5% buyer’s premium) was “mainly due to the fact that it was the combined military history of two families along with supporting diaries and photographs”.
She adds: “A complete history of this kind is quite rare as they tend to be split up over time and often sold as individual lots. The buyers seemed to react well to the whole collection being sold as one lot and this in turn resulted in keen bidding and final good prices.”
Part of the joy of collecting medals is researching the people behind the honours, of course. A quick ATG check revealed the following:
The Pleydell-Bouveries counted among their ranks numerous earls of Radnor, a British Napoleonic era naval captain, a Liberal politician who was part of Lord Palmerston’s first administration and even a pioneer of modern English studio pottery: Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie.
According to an article in a Devon newspaper, the Sidmouth Herald: “The Hon John Pleydell-Bouverie (1846-1925) was born at Longford Castle in Wiltshire, the fourth son of the Earl of Radnor. He became an officer in the 17th Lancers, a prestigious cavalry regiment famous for its role in the Charge of the Light Brigade. He served with them in the Zulu War of 1879 in South Africa, fighting at the Battle of Ulundi. The 17th Lancers were then sent to India and were stationed there for the whole of the 1880s.”
That would explain the John Pleydell-Bouverie Zulu/South Africa medals and documents in the overall lot.
John Pleydell-Bouverie married Grace Harriet Mallaby in 1882, daughter of Colonel Robert Mallaby, 13th NI Bombay Staff Corps (which links with the Mallaby medal detail above). Grace died in Sidmouth, which fits with the Devon information.
The Leaders came into the family equation when Eveline Maude Pleydell-Bouverie (1883-1974) married Colonel John Leader in 1909 (presumably the recipient of the South Africa Medal and First World War trio mentioned above).
Gift that keeps on giving
Cheffins was unable to give any details of the vendor. Another ATG check reveals that the auction house has sold many other items of Pleydell-Bouverie interest recently, so perhaps it is from the same source.
A varied series of Pleydell-Bouverie/Mallaby lots appeared in the September 2016 sale, including a carved and painted wood model of a trout, caught by the Hon. John Pleydell-Bouverie, which sold for £6500 against an estimate of £300-500.
An oil on canvas 19th century English School Study of 1st Charger ‘Brilliant’, with Private Parks, 1st Batsman, of Lt Col Hon John Pleydell-Bouverie of the 17th Lancers, Aldershot 1867 sold for £2200. An English School c. 1830 Portrait of Lt. General Robert Mallaby, half length, in the uniform of the 13th Bombay Native Infantry prior to 1855, sold for £850. A watercolour Portrait of Miss Grace Mallaby, later The Hon. Mrs John Pleydell-Bouverie, signed centre left F Graham / 6/1900 made £220.
Another intriguing item was a silver half-pint Christening Mug, by The Goldsmiths’ and Silversmiths’ Company, London 1913, inscribed John Temple Pleydell Leader 1914, which sold for £180.
A month later, a lot catalogued as “An early 20th century family photograph album, including Leader and Pleydell-Bouverie family, few Sierra Leone, Jamaica earthquake, regimental etc.; family holiday album of beach scenes; and others similar”, sold for £600.
And alongside the medals group in that Cheffins Connoisseur’s Sale on January 5, a Victorian silver mounted officer's belt pouch more than doubled the low estimate to make £320. Made by Bent & Parker, Birmingham, with period addition of an inkwell interior, it included a scrap of paper within inscribed Lt Colonel The Honourable John Pleydell-Bouverie.