Sold on a table from New Zealand and £5500 memories of Duleep Singh’s pet hawk

From the thousands of lots that appear at auctions every week on, here we focus on three exceptional lots bought by online bidders this month.

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A totara knot and hinan wood table c.1845 by Johan Marti Levien, £12,000 at Dreweatts.

A totara knot and hinan wood table by Johan Marti Levien, £12,000

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The label to a table by Johan Marti Levien, £12,000 at Dreweatts.

This occasional table is made in totara knot and hinan woods - a clue to its exotic origins. A label to the underside reads: 'This wood imported from Wellington, New Zealand and manufactured GDM Levene, New Zealand House, New Broad St, London.

Born in Prussia where he took his cabinet-making apprenticeship, Johan Marti Levien (1811-71) is today best known for his associations with New Zealand where he worked for a handful of years in the early 1840s and later used to supply exotic timbers to his London workshop. His clients included Queen Victoria, from whom he received a royal appointment, and Baron of Rothschild, who requested an entire room made of totara and hinau. 

This table, estimated at £1500-2000 but sold to a buyer via at £12,000, dates from around 1845. It formed part of a showpiece sale conducted by Dreweatts from Donnington Priory saleroom this week: the private collection of the architect Sir William Whitfield (1920-2019).

The 570 lots, sold across two days on March 10-11, came to Newbury from St Helen Hall in County Durham, the Palladian house that Whitfield purchased in 1967 and restored and furnished with high quality objects over 40 years.


A silver hawking bell inscribed for Duleep Singh, £5500

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A white metal hawking bell inscribed for Duleep Singh, £5500 at Kingham & Orme.

Objects with a close personal connection to Duleep Singh (1838-93), the last maharaja of the Sikh Empire who was exiled to Britain at the age of 15, carry a particular resonance in the Sikh community. This white metal hawking bell is inscribed HH Prince Duleep Singh, Mulgrave Castle, Whitby, Yorkshire, £2 reward. Mulgrave is where Duleep Singh lived from 1858 until 1862 with this bell perhaps belonging to one of the pet hawks he brought with him. It came for sale at Evesham saleroom Kingham & Orme on March 5 with an estimate of £80-120 but sold to an online buyer for £5500. 

A rare 17th century plaque broadside, £2800

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London’s Lord Have Mercy On Us, a rare 17th century broadside sold for £2800 at Mallams.

Among a number of items consigned by a local couple to a February 26 pictures and prints sale at Mallams of Oxford was this bill of mortality issued at the time of London’s ‘Great Plague’.

London’s Lord Have Mercy On Us gives details of ‘Seven modern Plagues or Visitations’ that had blighted London since 1592. In this copy the figures have been updated in ink with the grim numbers who perished in the terrible period from July 4, 1665, to September 18, 1666.

Weekly broadsides like this flourished during the 17th century plague outbreaks. Those who bought them served as amateur demographers by recording mortality statistics for their local communities in the blank columns provided by the publisher.

Among remedies against the plague suggested in this sheet is ‘An Ale Posset-Drink with Pimpernel seethed in it, till it tastes strong of it, drunk often, though it hath got to the very Heart’. Another advises readers to ‘Take a pint of New Milk, and cut two cloves of Garlick very small, put it in the milk, and drink it mornings fasting, and it preserveth from infection’.

This fascinating and rare survival sold at £2800 on


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