Shipping memorabilia was the order of the day in Tennants Auctioneers’ Toys, Models and Collectables Sale on 27th November, and leading the way with a hammer price of £9,000 was a 2-foot-high cast bronze letter ‘M’ from the starboard hull nameplate of the legendary Cunard liner R.M.S. Mauretania. This unique piece of shipping history was bought for less than 10 Guineas in an auction of the ship’s fittings after her decommissioning in 1935.
The Newcastle-built Mauretania was, at the time of her launch, the largest moving structure ever built; she weighed in at over 30,000 tons, and thanks to new quadruple screws was 75% more powerful than any other ship. She held both the Eastbound and Westbound Blue Ribands for Atlantic crossings for almost twenty years, and after the outbreak of the First World War served as troop transport, hospital ship and ship of mercy. Once decommissioned, the Mauretania was taken to Southampton Docks, where Hampton & Sons of St. James’s, London were tasked with auctioning the ‘Appointments, Furnishings, Panelling etc. of the World Famous Cunarder’. The sale was reported in the Daily Telegraph, which described the starboard bow lettering being sold “letter by letter”, and that “The letter ‘M’ will hang in the home of a Reading seed merchant [Martin Sutton] who made several trips in the Mauretania.” The letter ‘M’ was acquired from the Sutton family in the 1950s by the present vendor’s father; it thought that this is the first Mauretania letter to appear on the open auction market since the original sale.