Tall grass but no tall tales from Mark Hannam who recounts a story which is far from Boar-ing!
It became known as hidden in the long grass, at least that’s what the press reported it as, but in truth it was found by chance, hidden under a Rhododendron bush!
Towards the end of November in 2013 I received a telephone call from a lady whose relative had just recently passed away asking if I could come immediately to a property North of Worcester. I enquired why such urgency? She answered that they were concerned about the contents. Her late aunt was an avid collector and felt the collections were in a vulnerable and isolated location in the woods overlooking the river Severn. We were currently on view for a Fine Art sale, after explaining the situation with my colleagues and having a good instinct, I set out on my way to Holt Fleet not far from the Village of Ombersley
I was greeted on the balustrade by a pair of stone recumbent lions guarding the property, these would later be sold for over £2000. Meeting the clients I was taken around the house which was full of period furniture, paintings and clocks, a word of warning was, if you hear “scratching noises”, don't panic it will probably be the mice running between the walls! I have been valuing contents of properties for over the past forty years and nothing phases me, the overalls were put on and I began listing the chattels in each room.
After about an hour I was nearing the end of my report and from the upstairs bedroom I looked out of the back window across to the old overgrown tennis court seeing a line of cast iron and stone terrace urns, I decided to investigate. The weather was not pleasant and standing on the sodden grass I looked back at the property which was in a tired state. To the right of the house was what appeared to be a grey arm holding a stick protruding from a bush. Pushing through the wet leaves there suddenly appeared an amazing life size lead figure of a boy fighting a wild boar and holding a spear in his right hand. I decided to look further and pulling decades of moss from the back of the plinth the words “Bromsgrove Guild Worcestershire” were revealed, the buzz and the excitement was evident and all thought of the cold and wet were forgotten at the importance and potential value and significance of this discovery.
The Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts (1898-1966) was a group of modern artists associated with the Arts and Crafts movement made famous for making the main gates at Buckingham Palace, they also made for private commissions garden features, statuary as well as working in other materials. Further research revealed that this particular sculpture was named “Dryad and Boar” and a replica resin copy resides in Bromsgrove town centre today. The Bromsgrove Guild (1898-1966) was founded by Walter Gilbert based on the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement. The Guild worked in a variety of mediums, bronze, lead, glass, wood and textiles employing highly skilled craftsmen. The original Dryad and Boar was made in bronze by Swiss sculptor Louis Weingartner of the Guild and a further example was cast in lead possibly for Nettlebed Park in Oxfordshire at a cost of £150 Subject of Medieval myth, the boar is the emblem of Bromsgrove , when once the town stood in a forest!
Reporting to the family they were amazed that something of this significance should lay hidden in the garden and so I enquired about its history. As a child my client could remember the figure that her uncle placed as a garden feature, she believed he bought it back from the Oxfordshire area. The rest of the house contents were moved with haste in case of burglary and a date was set to attempt to uplift the sculpture. With great difficulty our carriers moved and loaded the figure onto the vehicle breaking the power lifting gear in the process when delivering it to the sale room.
It was catalogued for a forthcoming Fine Art sale in with the estimate of £4000-£6000 and within a few days prospective buyers were enquiring about the figure and could they make an appointment for a private viewing. After fierce competition in the saleroom and battling telephone lines the gavel finally fell at a staggering £35,000 to a buyer in Staffordshire area, to be used once again as a garden feature. We learnt later that Dryad had been commissioned by the then Shah of Persia in 1925 for the sum of £150 but he had defaulted on his payment for reasons unknown.
I occasionally have a chance meeting with my clients in Stourbridge who now have become friends, we pause and catch up and almost always Dryad comes up in conversation, I can still see the gleam in their eyes at what a fantastic result he made !
This was one of those memory moments that we as auctioneers often get, adding to an ever growing list of memorable tales which is often why we auctioneers make good dinner party guests! There's often a tale to tell of haunted houses (more of that another day), magical finds and auction fever! This is without doubt one of Marks favuorite finds and has become a tale often told and it also caused a bit of a media stir with the regional and national press taking the story up. See below the links to the story covered by various newspapers across the country.
It just goes to show that Marks gut instinct and inqusitive nature were absolutely spot on.....a great find, a great object, a great result but best of all a great story!
Garden stautory and architectural antiques remain a popular area of the market here in the UK, we love our gardens and love nothing more than adding to them with vintage pieces. Do you have a piece you'd like us to look at or would you like to know more about this popular area of collecting? If so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org we look forward to hearing from you.
Posted on 16 April 2020