Highland Highlight | A review of Torridon: Home of the Earls of Lovelace
The contents of Torridon House, a true Highland Victorian Country House, sold for over £800,000 in our auction on 28 October 2015. Lying beneath the dramatic mountain ridges of Beinn Alligin and Liathach, Torridon House has been lived in by the Earls of Lovelace since the 1960s. The collection included an accumulation of paintings, furniture, ceramics and works of art from the various other houses the Lovelace family have owned over the previous two centuries, notably Ockham Park and Horsley Towers in Surrey.
There was extensive interest in all areas of the collection, from paintings to fine furniture and ceramics. Furniture and works of art highlights included a French Louis XIV ebonised marquetry bureau which sold for £21,250, an early 18th century Japanese black and gilt lacquer cabinet on stand sold for £37,500 and a set of three 18th century Chinese armorial export porcelain chargers made £11,875. Interesting pieces from the extensive library included a Holy Bible produced by the renowned Oxford printer John Baskett in 1717 which sold for £6,750.
The historic paintings attracted a wide range of interest with highlights including a naval scene, Morning Gun, attributed to Peter Monamy that fetched £57,500, a portrait of Peter King aged 12 by Daniel Coning dated 1720 sold for £13,750 and an interesting 19th century painting of native Americans by a lake that reached £20,000.
The Lord Chancellor’s Purse, dating from the early 18th Century, belonging to Peter King, 1st Baron of Ockham and Lord Chancellor in 1725 sold for £11,250. From 1714 Sir Peter was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and was made Lord Chancellor in 1725. An impressive portrait of Sir Peter as Lord Chancellor, from the dining room at Torridon sold for £20,000. He was created Baron King of Ockham (the family seat being Ockham Park) in the same year and two years later was a pall bearer at the funeral of Sir Isaac Newton.
Sir William, 8th Baron (1805 – 1893) was raised to the peerage as 1st Earl of Lovelace in Queen Victoria’s Accession Honours list of 1838. In 1835 he had married Ada Byron, only daughter of the celebrated poet Lord Byron. She was an important figure in her own right; a mathematician and writer, she is known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical computer and is often regarded as the first computer programmer. In the mid 1800’s the 1st Earl acquired Horsley Towers, built by Sir Charles Barry, and set about expanding it in the gothic style from the 1840s. It is thought that Sir William commission several pieces of dramatic gothic style pieces of furniture during this period, including a large carved oak sideboard, bearing the family coat of arms, which fetched £22,500.
Other unusual items included a number of sporting trophies from Sir Peter, the 4th Earl (1905-1964), hunting trips to East Africa. Sir Peter, divided his time between Torridon and Africa from the 1920s; an enormous buffalo head sold for £4,000, situated in the gun room at Torridon House it was a memento of his time in Africa. In 1951 the 4th Earl married Baroness Von Blixen-Finecke, the widow of a friend from his African days and a relation of the celebrated Out of Africa author Karen Blixen.
Torridon Estate was bought in the 1950s by the 4th Earl of Lovelace from lands belonging to the Lord of the Isles. The 4th Earl moved the family moved from Beinn Damph House in the 1960s as the new public road was thought to be too close and they settled in Torridon House.
The Lovelace title belongs to the King family, who trace their history back to Exeter. Gavin Strang, Managing Director of Lyon & Turnbull said “We had interest in the sale from far and wide, with internet and phone bidders from around the world as well as a very busy saleroom.”
“Torridon is an extraordinary place and it has an extraordinary story to tell,” said Peter Lovelace the 5th Earl. “I reluctantly decided to sell the house and its contents and I sincerely hope those who have bought lots from the sale will enjoy owning a piece of our remarkable family history. There were many beautiful pieces in the sale and I shall be sorry to see them go, but it is time for me to hand on their care to new owners.”