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1932 Auction

In 1932 a fourteen day auction took place at Lambton Castle during which many of the contents of the Castle were auctioned off by Lord Durham as a way of raising funds in order to pay heavy death duties to the Government. A newspaper article from November 1931 gives the reasons for the auction......

Ottowa Citizen, 12 November, 1931

…Now comes the news that the Earl of Durham is closing his country seat at Lambton Castle near Durham, and selling most of the valuable furniture and pictures which decorate its vast range of rooms. Lord Durham himself for some years has lived quietly in a modest ivy-clad house in a Sussex village, using Lambton Castle only occasionally and during the grouse shooting season. Death duties have taken heavy toll of this particular estate, for the 3rd Earl of Durham, died in 1929, and his twin brother, the 4th Earl a few months later. The third Earl left £5,500,000 and the exchequer promptly claimed £400,000 in death duties. Another slice, almost as large, was lopped off a few months later when the 4th Earl died. The Durham property is largely in coal mines – which means, of course, that revenues have shrunk very heavily in the last few years.


The auction itself began at midday on Monday 18th April 1932 and was conducted by Anderson and Garland of New Market Street, Newcastle. Below are images taken from one of the original auction programmes as well as a contemporary newspaper report of the first day of the sale.
Above: front cover of the original auction booklet for the first day's sale on 18th April, 1932. Some of the contents pages are shown below (click to expand....)

The Times, Monday, April 18, 1932; pg. 8; Issue 46110; col D

Lambton Castle Sale Today. Opening Today. Lawrence’s “Red Boy.” From our Special Correspondent. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, April 17. In the history of famous art sales it is probable that few dispersals have aroused wider interest than that of the contents of Lambton Castle, the Durham seat of Lord Durham, which will begin to-morrow and will continue for five days a week until May 5. The description published in The Times on March 3 of the chief lots to be sold produced a deluge of the catalogue from collectors and dealers all over the world and it is doubtful if any but those who put in a very early appearance will gain admittance when the sale opens at midday to-morrow. From last Wednesday, when the Castle was thrown open to public inspection, crowds of interested visitors and prospective buyers have thronged the rooms and by the time the gates were closed at 4 o’clock yesterday, it was estimated that over 20,000 people from every part of England, had inspected the pictures, china and furniture now to be dispersed. Interest centres, of course, in Sir Thomas Lawrence’s famous portrait of Master Charles William Lambton, known throughout the art world as “The Red Boy” and the auctioneers, Messrs Anderson and Garland, inform me that they have had inquiries regarding it from all parts of the world. There is much speculation as to the sum it will realize, owing to Lord Durham’s efforts during the past three years to sell it privately. In 1929, the price demanded was £200,000 to be later reduced to £150,000 but, as already stated, the maximum offer received was below the latter sum and negotiations subsequently fell through. Agents of great American and Continental collectors – Lawrence’s work is very popular in France – are already in Newcastle, awaiting the sale, but with the reserve price a closely-guarded secret, no one can foretell to what heights the bidding must reach before the picture is actually sold. Lawrence’s present auction record stands at 74,000 guineas, paid for his delightful portrait of “Pinkie” at Lord Michelham’s sale in 1926.

Hoppner Portrait Group. Though the publicity given to the sale of “The Red Boy” has made this picture the outstanding item in the sale, there are several other works, for which high prices should be forthcoming. The Hoppner portrait group of Lady Anne Lambton and her children, reproduced in The Times on March 3, is without question far superior to the same artist’s portrait of Lady Louisa Manners, sold for 14,050 guineas over thirty years ago and bought in at 18,000 guineas at the Michleham sale in 1926. Much too, is expected of Lawrence’s magnificent full-length portrait of Louisa Countess of Durham, while Zoffany’s interesting painting of a scene from The Farmer’s Return, in which Garrick is depicted, should approach, if not exceed, the 7,000 guineas record auction of this steadily appreciating painter. This picture, which Garrick bought from the artist when it was painted in 1762, first appeared at auction at Mrs Garrick’s sale in 1823, when it realized the trifling sum of 32 guineas. Over 3,000 lots are to be sold between now and May 5, but it is the sale of “The Red Boy” which will give the dispersal a lasting position in the annals of famous art sales.