It was about time at an antiques auction in the Cotswolds last week, when a collection of clocks from the estate of a renowned, and eccentric, horologist went under the hammer.
Group Captain Samuel Rexford-Welch, who died in February this year aged 97, kept a weird and wonderful collection of antiques his home in the village of Headley, near Newbury.
A box of glass eyes, an iron man trap, and a book of photographs of the nuclear mushroom cloud over Christmas Island – an event the collector witnessed first hand – were among the miscellaneous antiques to be sold by Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester back in March, while his collection of taxidermy – including pickled snakes, a rattlesnake’s rattle and a monkey skeleton – will go under the hammer at the company’s Sporting Sale on August 30.
After his retirement at the age of 70, Rex – as he was known to friends and colleagues – developed a passion for horology, and became an accomplished clock maker and restorer.
And at Moore Allen & Innocent’s Selected Antiques Sale on Friday (May 31) clocks from the Rexford-Welch estate achieved the top two lot prices of the day.
Standing at more than two metres tall, and with a thirty-hour musical movement, an oak long case clock by Edward Webb of Chew Stoke, Somerset wowed collectors, who bid £5,600 against an auctioneer’s estimate of £800 to £1,200.
And it was a similar story with an early 19th century mahogany long case clock in the French Empire taste by Barwise of London, standing at 193cm, which achieved a winning bid of £4,800 against a £1,000 to £1,500 estimate.
A Victorian ebonised and brass mounted musical mantle clock with pagoda top and pineapple finials, manufactured by Page, Keen & Page of Plymouth to mimic the eight-bell chime of Big Ben made £2,700 against a £1,000 to £1,500 estimate, while a Victorian ebonised cased and gilt metal mounted mantle clock in the 18th Century manner sold for £1,750 against an estimate of £800 to £1,200.
And a rosewood cased Chinese mantle clock achieved £1,500 against a £500 to £800 estimate, while a Victorian oak cased weather station with clock, barometer and barograph by Negretti and Zambra, made £1,350 against a £500 to £800 estimate.
And on the topic of scientific instruments, an 18th century brass universal equinoctial ring dial– once used for navigation aboard sailing ships, now beloved of maritime collectors – achieved £1,300 against an estimate of £500 to £800.
Outside of the horology section, there were more good results. In the jewellery section, an 18 carat gold mounted solitaire diamond ring, with a brilliant cut stone of approximately two carats, made the third highest lot price of the day – £3,500 – while a Roman engraved carnelian gemstone depicting Dionysus on the back of a donkey drinking from a chalice, set in a 19th century yellow metal ring, achieved £1,400 against an estimate of £200 to £300.
In the furniture section, the top price was achieved by an 18th century mulberry wood veneered and oak chest, which sold for £2,900 against an estimate of £500 to £800 despite significant alterations to the legs.
Elsewhere a 17th century sporting crossbow sold for £1,550, a 19th century Dieppe ivory carved panel depicting a fox attacking chickens achieved £1,500, and a quantity of military ephemera relating to WJN Cheatle, a Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who was killed in action at The Dardanelles on April 26 1915, aged 27, made £1,050.
The collection included two red tunics, a ceremonial sword, a silkwork panel depicting two flags with campaign honours, photographs, a newspaper obituary notice, and a tin trunk inscribed WJ Cheatle 1st KOSB.
In all, £120,000 of antiques were bought and sold, with 300 registered buyers bidding in the room, on the telephone, and online. The next sales will be held on June 14 and 28.