Skin of man-eating tiger to go under hammer

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The skin of a huge tiger that terrorised an Indian village – and may have been responsible for the death of the school teacher’s husband – is the standout lot in the taxidermy section of Moore Allen & Innocent’s sale of sporting antiques next week (Friday, February 1).

The mounted pelt and head of the fearsome beast – which measured 3.3metres (10ft 10ins) nose to tail – will be sold along with the skin of a cattle-bothering leopard bagged during the same hunting expedition.

But what makes this lot really interesting is that it is accompanied by photographs of the hunter and his Indian guides posing with the animals, along with a colourful account of the expedition by the hunter, T H Jones.

The handwritten account tells of Jones’ journey by train to the Central Province of India, to ‘a one-eyed town’ with ‘an equally one-eyed station master’, with whom he had tea before heading off into the jungle.

“It was there that my visitors arrived. All five of them,” reads the account. “They were real jungle tough with horny hands.

“A guest volunteered information that the school teachers’s husband had just met a tragic death at the hands of a tiger.”

Once bagged, the tiger and the leopard were presented for preparation to the renowned Van Ingen & Van Ingen of Mysore, one of the world’s best known names in taxidermy.

The tiger skin is expected to achieve between £800 to £1,200, while the leopard should make £500 to £800.

From big game to small game, and a hunter’s gun used a little closer to home carries the largest estimate of the sale.

Used to bring down pheasant, partridge and grouse, the matching pair of 12 bore shotguns with 30-inch barrels, by the renowned gunsmith Henry Atkin, is expected to achieve between £8,000 and £10,000.

Atkin worked for Purdey’s – the biggest name in shotguns – between 1848 and 1860. After a spell with Moore & Grey, another renowned London gunsmith, he set up on his own in 1877 under the name Henry Atkin (of Purdey’s).

He counted many members of the aristocracy as clients, and the fine leather lined oak gun case with brass fittings, which forms part of the lot, is inscribed to Lt J Harcourt Powell of the Grenadier Guards.

Also in the gun section is a speculative lot: an air rifle which may be a prototype Webley. The weapon has an unusual locking and cocking mechanism, which the auctioneers hope might be recognised by enthusiasts.

A bid of £500 to £800 should secure the lot, while the section also includes early Webley air pistols, dating from the 1900s to 1920s.

In the fishing section, a small two-and-three-quarter inch Hardy Perfect reel is the standout lot, with an estimate of £800 to £1,000, but auctioneers also have high hopes for a circa 1920s four-and-a-quarter inch Wadhams reel named The Cowes after the Isle of Wight port. Bidders will need to find £400 to £600 to be in with a chance of a catch.

As always, the walls of the saleroom are decorated with sporting pictures, including a good smattering of signed limited edition prints by equestrian artist Snaffles.

But why – at an auction of sporting antiques – have the auctioneers hung a picture of ladies and gentleman in early Victorian dress perambulating around a formal garden?

The lithograph, by Mssrs E C Henderson & Sons, depicts The Horticultural Establishment, Wellington Road, St John’s Wood, London.

If that address sounds familiar, it’s because the horticultural establishment made way for a second cricket ground adjoining Lord’s – the home of cricket – and the north east end of the main cricket ground is known to this day as The Nursery End.

The framed lithograph is expected to achieve between £100and £150.

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