Earl of Sutherland makes £732k at auction of Dunrobin Castle 'clutter'

Serious cash in the attic! Earl of Sutherland who sold off ‘clutter’ to pay for upkeep of 189-room Dunrobin Castle makes £732,000 at auction – almost DOUBLE the estimated amount

  • Earl of Sutherland auctioned off family heirlooms at Bonhams yesterday 
  • Wanted to raise funds for the upkeep of the family seat of Dunrobin Castle 
  • The lots, including a duchess’s coronet, fetched £732,528 – double the estimate

An Earl who sold off ‘clutter’ to pay for the upkeep of his 189-room ancestral home has raised more than double the expected amount at auction. 

The Earl of Sutherland cleared out the attic and cellars at Dunrobin Castle, in the Highlands, and auctioned off the heirlooms and historical artifacts at Bonhams in Edinburgh yesterday. 

It made £732,528 – almost double the expected £400,000 – with a duchess’s coronet being snapped up for £11,475, rather than the anticipated £1,500. 

Alistair Sutherland, the 25th Earl, 74, wanted to generate funds for the castle’s preservation after he was unmentioned in the will which his mother, Elizabeth, drew up three days before her death aged 98. 

The Earl of Sutherland cleared out the attic and cellars at Dunrobin Castle, in the Highlands, and auctioned off the heirlooms and historical artifacts at Bonhams in Edinburgh yesterday. A set of four carved oak armorial panels (one pictured), from the Queen Regent’s House in Blythe’s Close, Edinburgh, sold for £17,750, well above the estimate of £4,000-£6,000

A pair of Scottish all-metal flintlock pistols given by William Gordon, 18th Earl of Sutherland, to Captain James Sutherland sold for £44,000. They had been expected to fetch up to £10,000

An Edwardian silver-gilt duchess’s coronet by Garrard, London 1901 (pictured) sold for £11,475 far above the estimate of £1,000 to £1,500

Dunrobin Castle near Golspie in Sutherland, Scotland,  has been home to the earls and dukes of Sutherland since the 13th century

Instead, she bequeathed £3.5 million to her only daughter, Lady Annabel Bainton, and £250,000 to Alistair’s twin brother, Martin. 

Among the 416 lots – many of which had never come on the market before – was a set of four carved oak armorial panels, from the Queen Regent’s House in Blythe’s Close, Edinburgh, which sold for £17,750, well above the estimate of £4,000-£6,000.

Three are thought to date probably from the 16/17th century and the fourth from the 18th century. 

The third panel shows the impaled arms of the king of Scotland King James V and Mary Guise, Duchess of Longville, who were married in 1538 at Notre Dame in Paris.

Their daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, would have displayed the same arms and as they would have ceased to be used after her death, experts said it points to the panel being in use for the period 1538-1587. 

Other highlights from the sale include a collection of Victorian pewter ice cream moulds which sold for £1,020, far higher than the estimate of £80-120.

Other highlights from the sale include a collection of Victorian pewter ice cream moulds, pictured, which sold for £1,020, far higher than the estimate of £80-120

A rare pair of Scottish all-metal flintlock belt pistols given by William Gordon, 18th Earl of Sutherland, to Captain James Sutherland in 1763 sold for £44,000. They had been expected to fetch £8,000-£10,000. 

An Edwardian silver-gilt duchess’s coronet by Garrard, London 1901 sold for £11,475  far above the estimate of £1,000 to £1,500.

A collection of Victorian telegraph cables sold for £5,100 despite only being expected to fetch £800-£1,200.

Among the items that were found at Dunrobin Castle near Golspie in Sutherland, Scotland, was portrait of the Duke of Brunswick by the Dutch golden age portraitist Jan van Ravesteyn, which was estimated to fetch between £8,000-12,000

Also up for sale was an illustrated manuscript survey of the north coast of Scotland which was estimated to fetch between £1,500 to £2,500 with Bonhams

The sale attracted customers from around the world who bid online, over the phone and in person in a mammoth auction lasting 11 hours. 

Charles Graham-Campbell, Bonhams managing director in Scotland, said: ‘With such impeccable and romantic provenance, we had many hundreds of people bidding from all over the world, eager to acquire a piece of history from one of Scotland’s grandest and most historic castles.

‘As we hoped, it proved to be the sale of the season and we are delighted with the result. It shows Bonhams at its best.’


Victorian silver-gilt goblets (left), which are expected to fetch between £3,000 to £4,000, and a collection of silver plates were found inside the castle

A Minton 27-piece part toilet set, which comprises of two pairs of candle sticks, three chamber pots and a basin, was expected to fetch between £400 to £600

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