When a press release dropped into my inbox for a forthcoming attic sale at Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland, I think my jaw also dropped, just ever so slightly. Sales like this don’t happen very often. A recent decluttering of the attics and cellars at the Scottish castle revealed generations of long forgotten treasures of domestic life. Prior to the sale on 20 April 2021, Bonhams auctioneers in Edinburgh have curated a selection of some of the 450 lots with an evocative set of photos.
The 25th Earl of Sutherland is Alistair Janson who inherited Dunrobin in 2019 when his mother, Elizabeth 24th Countess of Sutherland passed away. The castle has continued to be privately owned by the Earls and Dukes of Clan Sutherland for seven centuries and during those 700 years, the design of the castle has changed quite a bit in both size and form.
What we see today was remodelled by the architect Sir Charles Barry (whose work also included the Houses of Parliament in London) in 1845 and who finished the building three times larger in 1851 with conical spires more resonant of French chateau style. What hasn’t changed though is that view.
When it comes to the upstairs/downstairs contents of a romantic Scottish castle overlooking the sea, you don’t have to be Daphne Du Maurier or Julian Fellowes to be just a tiny bit captivated by the idea of an attic sale. The photos alone offer up more than enough material for any screenwriter or novelist. And that’s not to mention inspiration for set decorators and interior stylists …
Bonhams Director of House Sales, Charlie Thomas says “Many of the items have been hidden away in Dunrobin Castle for generations and have never been seen on the open market before.” All of which I am sure is going to excite worldwide interest from the likes of interior designers, antique dealers and expat Scots.
Capturing the castle
Several items have been evocatively photographed complete with atmospheric cobwebs, peeling paint and wallpaper in the attics and cellars where they were found. The lighting is nicely contrasty with some images in near darkness while others are flooded with light depending on which room in the castle the image was taken.
When you see the multiples of items in the images you start to understand a little of the scale of running a 189-room castle on a 120,000 acre Highland estate.
Treasures range from paintings, portraits and historical photographs to marble sculptures, crested dinner services and tartanware. There are more ordinary objects too such as stone marmalade jars. Prices range from £8,000 – £12,000 for a portrait of The Duke of Brunswick by the Dutch Golden Age portraitist Jan van Ravesteyn to £80 – £120 for a collection of pewter sugar moulds.
The sale will be previewed at Bonhams Auctioneers in London and Edinburgh on the following dates:
London – 101 New bond Street, Sunday 28 March to Thursday 1 April 2021 inclusive. A selection of lots will be featured.
Edinburgh – 22 Queen Street, Tuesday 13 April to Tuesday 20 April 2021 inclusive. The sale in its entirety will be on view. The sale takes place on Tuesday 20 April 2021.
Visit Dunrobin Castle
Please check the castle website for updates regarding when (due to Covid restrictions) the castle is due to re-open to visitors.
Scottish style interior moodboard
Finally, here is a Scottish-inspired scheme with a little French connection. The mood is pretty and light drawing on the hues of heather, sand and sea of the Sutherland coastline.
Thank you so much for reading.
I hope you have been inspired by the Dunrobin attic sale. I am a great believer that antiques play an important part not only for their personality but also for their sustainability in a decorating scheme. If I can be of any help with an interiors project, please don’t hesitate to take a look at my affordable interior design service Styling Box.