Thanks to over a thousand people registering to bid online during Mitchells Antiques & Fine Art Sale last week, their three day sale was a success in spite of only a handful of bidders being in the saleroom due to social distancing because of coronavirus.

The highest selling lot by far was an historic military archive belonging to the engineer who oversaw the design of the Mulberry Harbours in the Second World War which sold for £28,000 to The Royal Engineers Museum in Kent bidding by telephone.

The personal archive belonged to Colonel Vassal Charles Steer-Webster OBE (1897-1970) who led the design and construction of the famous floating Mulberry Harbours used to land troops, vehicles and supplies in the battle for Normandy.

The colonel was in almost daily contact with Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the run up to D-Day and the archive included personal correspondence from Churchill, Eisenhower and Mountbatten, medals, models, engineering designs, documents and over 150 photographs as well as personal items from the First World War including dog tags and a bullet removed from Private Steer-Webster when he was injured.

The archive was handed down to his nephew who lives in Keswick but is now 87 years old and has no family to leave it to. He asked for the archive to be sold in its entirety rather than split up into lots to preserve its integrity and he is delighted that the archive has now found a new home at the Royal Engineers Museum.

Asian vases also did particularly well with several lots selling for considerably above estimate. The most valuable and the biggest surprise was a Chinese blue and white Kangxi (1662-1722) vase (134) which sold for £4,000 against an estimate of only £500-£800 with another Chinese blue and white ‘Hundred boys’ baluster vase (133) from the same period with an estimate of £300-£500 making £1,800.

A pair of Japanese Satsuma reticulated vases (135) from the Meiji period circa 1900 also did extremely well with a hammer price of £1,300 against an estimate of £250-£350. A good Japanese Satsuma vase from the Meiji period (1868-1912) (212) signed Dai Nihon Kokuda Ga sold for £2,300 just above estimate.

Artworks by the celebrated local artist Percy Kelly (1918-1993) continue to grow in value. A watercolour “Village Backs” sold for £3,000, a watercolour of a lane, cottages and mountains sold for £2,200, an ink and wash titled “Black Cloud above Allonby” (above) sold for £2,000 and a less typical pastel of trawlers in harbour in Cornwall sold for £1,500, most exceeding their estimates.

Another fine painting of local origin by William Mitchell of Maryport (1806-1900) “Three Masted Schooner Running into Port” off Maryport sold for £1,900.

A letter written by Mrs Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, to her first farm manager John Mackereth who lived at Hill Top dated June 24th 1918 achieved a hammer price of £1,600 against an estimate of £400-£600.

The letter describes a journey through Bothel, Carlisle, Langholm and the Cheviots enroute to her brother’s funeral and was sold together with a photograph of John Mackereth, a copy of Margaret Lane’s book “The Tale of Beatrix Potter, A Biography”, a letter of provenance and a postcard of a shearling tup with Mrs Heelis’ handwriting on the back detailing prizes awarded at local shows.

The most valuable lot amongst the furniture was a George III mahogany longcase clock with an eight day striking movement by Emanuel Burton Kendal which surprised bidders by exceeding its £1,500-£2,500 estimate selling for £3,200.

Other lots in the top ten were an 18 ct white gold tennis bracelet set with 40 diamonds sold for £2,900, a slip cast pottery model of a Kookaburra by Maud O’Reilly (Australian, 1886-1971) sold for £2,600 and a walnut canteen of silver cutlery by Hampton Utilities sold for £2,600. A 1960s gentleman’s 9 ct gold cased Zenith chronometer wristwatch which had been expected to sell for £150-£200 greatly exceeded its estimate selling for £1,200. The most valuable coin was an Edward VII £5 gold coin from 1902 which sold for £1,180.

A fully illustrated catalogue with all the hammer prices achieved during the sale can be viewed online at

Mitchells saleroom wishes to give notice that, due to government restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus, all future sales at their town centre saleroom will now be postponed until further notice. Mitchells would like to thank all their clients and customers for their continued support during this difficult time.