News & Insights

Auction: 15th January 2021

18th November 2020.

Hodnet Hall in Shropshire has been the home of the Heber family for generations. Situated in a park and gardens with a long history, the Hall is the last in a series of dwellings on the Estate. A 12th century Norman Castle and a 16th Century Tudor mansion, remnants of which are incorporated into the extant stable block, preceded the 19th century Neo-Elizabethan building which remains the home of the Heber-Percy family today.

The collection of Natural History and Taxidermy dates from the early 1870s to the 1930s, and was amassed by several generations of the family on frequent expeditions around the world, many of which are detailed in written accounts and photograph albums, which have been leant by and reproduced with kind permission of the Heber-Percy family.

Amongst an extraordinary litany of voyages around the world were two hunting trips made by Algernon Heber Percy (1845-1911) and his wife Alice to Canada in 1877 and 1878. The pair travelled by horse and wagon-train across the vast prairies west of Manitoba to the mountains bordering British Columbia. Their journeys are recounted in a privately printed book – illustrated with photographs and watercolour paintings – which include accounts such as a thrilling horse-back chase hunting down a buffalo, the trophy of which is now up for sale (estimate: £700-900 plus buyer’s premium). The book is a fascinating account of their expeditions, hunts and encounters in a vast wilderness with both native tribes and hard-bitten settlers.

Many the trophies in the sale were taken by Hugh Lewis Heber-Percy (1853-1925), the origins of which were gleaned from his game book, on loan from the Heber-Percy family. Hugh embarked on numerous trips to Australia, Africa, India, the Far East and beyond. Details of quarry bagged are meticulously recorded, but personal recollections of these extraordinary journeys across the globe are sparse – six-month expeditions condensed into a few sentences. Tantalising glimpses into his adventures include:

“I burned Alice’s umbrella in lava on Vesuvius”.

 “Charles our headman was bitten by a snake but recovered with a bottle of whisky”.

 “Were wrecked on Cape **, Philippines, lived under tarpaulin 6 days, rescued by S.S. Australia on way to Hong Kong”.

 However, the game book is accompanied by a photograph album, in which snapshots of shooting parties both home and abroad are captured, along with signatures of all those involved. One such party was during a trip to India in 1901, during which time both Queen Victoria and Hugh’s father, Algernon Charles Heber-Percy, died. Staying at Cooch Behar Palace with the Maharajah, he and his fellow guns embarked on a long hunt, which resulted in a bag that included 11 tigers, 5 leopards, 3 bears and three rhinoceroses.

The family’s trophies were preserved by leading London taxidermists, as well as those local to the family seat in Shropshire, and were originally displayed in pride of place in the main hall. Following the use of Hodnet Hall as a convalescent home for wounded officers in the First World War, the trophies were given a new home in the stables. The stables were later turned into a tearooms to visitors to the spectacular gardens at the hall, where the trophies have amazed visitors for years. Now the restaurant is due to be refurbished and modernised, the trophies are to be sold at Tennants Auctioneers in January 2021.

Highlights include:

A Large Cased Diorama of Birds Native to India, circa 1827, signed Henry Shaw, Salop - Estimate: £6,000-8,000 (plus buyer's premium)

All auction entries are sold strictly in accordance with CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) regulations, and any necessary licences or Pre-sale approvals are obtained from Animal Health, Bristol.

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