1.Sandford Orcas Manor.

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When Duke’s (25% buyer’s premium) of Dorchester sold the contents of Sandford Orcas Manor, a Grade-I listed stone Tudor house situated near Sherborne, it was something of a rare occasion, as the firm’s consultant Guy Schwinge pointed out.

“Good old-fashioned country house auctions, where the vendors have been in residence since the 17th century and everything is to be sold, are a real rarity. After the First World War they were a regular occurrence but genuine country house sales are like hens’ teeth”, he said.

“It was a lovely auction to preside over”, added Schwinge, saying of the house itself: “It had a very special atmosphere, that sleepy quality, an antiquarian’s dream.”

This March 6 sale offered nearly 500 lots and in typical country house form these ranged from the rare to the everyday: oak and classic Georgian furniture; early silver, Tudor textiles and Old Master paintings, family mementos, Dinky toys and flowerpots and garden tools from the outbuildings.


Card table with a pentagonal Italian scagliola top, £50,000 at Duke's.

All, however, had the bonus of a primary provenance and a long family history. Sandford Orcas had been occupied by only two families, the Knoyles and the Medlycotts,since it was built in c.1550. The sale had come about following the death of Sir Mervyn Medlycott, the 9th Baronet, in 2021. His family made the decision to put the house on the market and offer the contents at auction.

A rare and choice ‘time capsule’ buying opportunity - but the traditional furniture market is not bullish and buying remains selective so, mindful of this, Duke’s kept the estimates realistic.

It resulted in a global audience for this event with bidders from the US, China and the Eurozone as well as from the UK.

In total the sale had around 3000 bidders; in person, on the phone and across its three platforms. There were around 100 people in the room which is a significant number these days with the ever-growing popularity of online buying. The room and the phones made up 50% of the successful bids for this event.

Bidders were a mix of trade and the public but it was the latter who were in the majority in situ.

Almost every lot sold (98.5%) for a total of just over £1m and following aftersale negotiations everything has now found a buyer. Moreover, a number of lots made significantly more than the estimates.

“The results illustrate that there is still mileage in the best”, said Schwinge.

It is also understood that a number of significant items will be entering public collections through the government’s acceptance in lieu scheme, negotiated by Schwinge.

The Medlycott family’s primary seat was Ven House in Somerset which was sold in 1957. During the 20th century a number of its more significant furnishings had come from there to Sandford Orcas, which had been let out to tenants at times over the years.

Exotic creation


Card table with a pentagonal Italian scagliola top, £50,000 at Duke's.

While Sandford Orcas unsurprisingly contained quantities of early oak and Georgian walnut that was in keeping with its Tudor date, the most expensive piece in the sale was a more exotic creation: a card table with a pentagonal Italian scagliola top.

Tables with colourful scagliola tops continue to have a decorative appeal that lifts them above traditional Georgian brown antique furniture. This example, measuring 3ft 10in x 4ft 1in (1.18 x 1.25m) across the top and set onto a walnut base, was propelled by keen competition to £50,000. It sold to a private UK collector.

The pentagonal top is thought to have been purchased on the Grand Tour and then inserted onto the George II period walnut frame set on five cabriole legs. It is inlaid with a design of playing cards, flower trails and scallop shells within strapwork borders and is thought to have been conceived for playing Ombre, a card game for five players and to have been commissioned for Ven House.


Pair of George II period mahogany tripod tables, £22,000 at Duke’s.

A more typical example of classic early Georgian furniture that had come from Ven House and was also up among the top sellers was a pair of George II period mahogany tripod tables with 2ft 1in (63.5cm) diameter pie crust tip up tops set on typical acanthus carved legs terminating in ball and claw feet. One bore a label reading Ven House Drawing room. They came in within estimate at £22,000.


Single tripod table in mahogany, £16,000 at Duke's.

A single tripod table in mahogany, this one with a baluster gallery to its tip up 2ft (61cm) diameter top and carvings of acanthus and rocaille to the base, had two labels inscribed Ven House Hall and was almost certainly supplied to the house between 1755- 65. This ended up selling for £16,000 against an £8000-12,000 guide.


Queen Anne upholstered walnut wing armchair, £15,000 at Duke's.

Keen demand emerged for the opening lot of the auction: a Queen Anne upholstered walnut wing armchair which, like the pair of tripod tables, was placed in the Great Hall and, according to the family records, was another Ven heirloom.

It outstripped a £1500-2500 guide to take £15,000.

Silver challenges

Demand was rather more muted for the selection of early silverware in the house with the potential best-seller, a shaving dish by Paul de Lamerie, failing to get away at the actual auction.

Another early piece, an imposing pair of Restoration Carolean period covered ginger jars richly embossed and chased with flowers and putti in the Dutch style and made by Jacob Bodendick, a leading London smith of the later 17th century, went some way under the £15,000-25,000 guide at £12,000. Their provenance is thought to go right back to Thomas Medlycott (1628-1716), recorder of Abingdon, Oxfordshire from 1675-86.


Queen Anne gold medal by John Croker commemorating the union of the Parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707, £28,000 at Duke's.

One section where prices were above estimate was a group of five gold commemorative medals spanning the reigns of William and Mary to George IV, all but one of which surpassed their guides.

Topping the bill at a quadruple estimate £28,000 was a Queen Anne period 1.4in (3.5cm) medal designed by John Croker commemorating the union of the Parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707.

The obverse depicted the queen looking to the left and the reverse the arms of Britain within a shield, with a rose and a thistle below and a crown held by two infant genii

Chinese bowl

Asian ceramics in the sale were mostly Export pieces but one notable exception was a 15in (38cm) diameter blue and white bowl decorated with lotus and scrolling foliage which realised £19,000. It bore a six-character Jaiqing mark but was catalogued as probably Kangxi.

Bombard bonanza


Bombard dated 1646 as well as featuring a crown flanked by CR, possibly applied later, £10,000 at Duke’s.

Bombards or blackjacks were leather vessels made to carry water or ale. They were stitched together when wet to render them watertight. Many of them have inscriptions, initials or stamps indicating for whom or for where they were made that adds to their collecting appeal.

This 22in (55cm) high example at Sandford Orcas was dated 1646 as well as featuring a crown flanked by CR. It also had a label inscribed H, possibly indicative that it was acquired by Hubert Hutchings, an ancestor and antiquarian who lived at the house during the 19th century.

The condition report for this lot noted that the auction house were not certain whether the date and crowned CR were applied later but the bombard evidently proved to be in demand on sale day. It made £10,000, five times the low estimate.


Stained-glass triangular panel, £3000 at Duke’s.

A section of stained glass in the sale ranged from entire windows inset with stained roundels to smaller fragments and in date from the medieval to the 18th century. Some of this was withdrawn prior to auction but there were also high prices paid for some of the earlier elements on offer.

Among them was this triangular panel measuring 10 x 7in (25 x 18cm) decorated with a chalice and host dated to the 15th century, which is thought to have come from Bishops Caundle church in the West Country. It was offered together with a similar-sized oval Flemish glass panel dated to the 16th century and sold for £3000 against a £300-600 guide.

When it comes to Delftware, whether English or Dutch, inscribed and dated pieces are always at a premium. This pair of English plates are decorated with an elaborate armorial and the date 1662, making them early specimens. They sold for £5000, well above the £500-1000 estimate.

An additional attraction and probably material to their price was the detailed manuscript label note dated 1724 applied to their underside about the armorial giving the pedigree of Christopher Savery of Shilstone and the Servington family of Tavistock in the county of Devon.


Small collection comprising a pair of Tudor period children’s leather shoes, a bone comb, wooden spindle of string and five much decayed documents, £1100 at Duke’s.

This small collection comprising a pair of Tudor period children’s leather shoes, a bone comb, wooden spindle of string and five much decayed documents, was discovered in 1978 behind a lathe and plaster wall between the Gatehouse Anteroom and the upper part of the Red Room when the area was treated for dry rot.

One of the documents was a lease of a tenement in Sherborne by the Knoyle family dated 21st Henry VIII, ie 1531, and it is suggested that the cache was hidden on purpose with when the house was built c.1550.

The collection sold for £1100 against a £100-200 guide.

Tempting textiles


Needlework bedspread, £3000 at Duke’s.

Sandford Orcas Manor was notable for some early textiles dating back to the Elizabethan era (a blackwork coif of c.1580 which was found in a chest of drawers sold with an Elizabethan embroidered stomacher for £2200).

The much larger piece shown here is a needlework bedspread measuring 7ft 4in x 5ft 9in (2.26m x 1.77m) and now backed onto hessian. It has a circular heraldic panel that is dated 1691 and also features the initials ARK, suggesting that it belonged to the Knoyle family who lived at the house before the Medlycotts. It sold for an upper-estimate £3000.


Crewelwork hanging, £4200 at Duke’s.

Making more was a well-preserved crewelwork hanging measuring 5ft 10in x 3ft 3n (1.8 x 1m) plus two smaller panels dated to the 17th/early 18th century and worked with a bold design of scrolling tendrils in strong colours. These were bid to £4200, a multiple of the £300-500 guide.

Garrick's gift


Section of mulberry branch surmounted by a man aiming his musket, inscribed From Shakespear’s Mulberry Tree given by Mr Garrick, 1778 to Thomas Hutchings Medlycott, £4200 at Duke's.

Discovered in a cabinet in the house was this 5½in (14.5cm) high section of mulberry branch surmounted by a man aiming his musket, the silver mounts to the top and base inscribed From Shakespear’s Mulberry Tree given by Mr Garrick, 1778 to Thomas Hutchings Medlycott.

While numerous souvenirs purport to have been made from the tree felled in the garden of Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon, the inscription on this piece indicates that it was a personal gift from the famous actor David Garrick to Thomas Hutchings Medlycott.

No link between the two has been established but Sir Melvyn Medlycott conjectured that they may have been shooting acquaintances. It sold for £4200.

It is perhaps no surprise to see some tribal art turn up at Sandford Orcas; many country houses have had some examples squirreled away in their attics acquired by previous generations.

There were no earlier provenance details with this group of five Polynesian paddles that were included in the sale, the longest of which measured 5ft 7in (1.7m) in length but good Oceanic material is on something of a roll with collectors these days. The paddles were dated to the 19th/20th century and one of them had a pommel carved with a Tiki figure, a common motif in Polynesian culture.

They evidently attracted a considerable following, being hammered down for £5500 against a £400-500 guide.

Affordable artwork

At the other end of the price scale were a number of artworks by members of the Medlycott family.

The Rev Hubert Medlycott was a talented watercolourist who exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours among others and as well as various views and landscapes the sale featured watercolours by him of Sandford Orcas itself. As the catalogue pointed out, these present an invaluable document of the interior of the house almost 150 years ago and allow for the identification of many lots in the auction.

Shown here are two views of the Great Hall signed and dated 1885 which realised £900.


Folio of unframed botanical studies by Cicely Glyn de Beers née Medlycott offered together with four oils on canvas and one on board from 1957-8 which realised £80 at Duke's.

The sale also featured a section given over to the paintings of Cicely Glyn de Beers née Medlycott (1892-1973). They were offered as multiple lots, a mix of landscapes, abstract and other views, and mostly sold for prices in the £50-150 range. Pictured here is one sample, a folio of unframed botanical studies offered together with four oils on canvas and one on board from 1957-8 which realised £80.

Personal matters


Medlycott family bible, an Old and New Testament copy of 1701-2 from the University Printers Oxford, £5500 at Duke's.

Almost inevitably an entire contents sale of this nature will include many elements having personal associations with the previous owners.

Featured in the small book section was a one of these - the Medlycott family bible, an Old and New Testament copy of 1701-2 from the University Printers Oxford. Bibles in general do not make large sums unless they are particularly rare, early or have some other feature.

This one was contained in a fine gilt, blue and red tooled morocco Oxford binding and was inscribed A gift of William Coles to William Coles Medlycott, 1st Baronet 1824 as well as featuring extra later signatures and inscriptions. It sold for £5500, a multiple of the estimate.

The highest price in this section at £12,000, again well over estimate, was a calf-bound copy of Colen Campbell’s architectural work Vitruvius Britannicus in three volumes with 200 folio plates together with two additional volumes by Woolfe & Gandon Architects published 1767.

This had a provenance to Hubert Hutchings, an antiquarian ancestor who lived at Sandford Orcas in the 19th century, was inscribed HHand The Gift of the 3rd Duke of Leinster, 1873, and was formerly in the library of Lord Selsey at West Dean, Sussex.