Steeped in historical and cultural significance, Elveden Hall was originally a Suffolk based Georgian house purchased by Duleep Singh (1838-1893), the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire removed from his kingdom by the British East India Company and exiled to England as a boy in 1854. The Maharajah re-invigorated the exterior with the aid of John Norton in an Italianate style, as well as altering the interiors to reflect Mughal palace designs. The Maharajah left the UK in 1886 to journey to the Punjab to re-establish his dynasty, however he never returned. The house was thereby sold to the Earl of Iveagh after his death in 1893, whose family has owned the property ever since.
The sale includes Irish, English, Continental furniture, ceramics, carpets, textiles, works of art and taxidermy from Elveden Hall and Farmleigh House in Dublin. We have worked exceptionally hard over the past few months, carefully researching, photographing, and curating the sale, whilst being lucky enough to work within Elveden’s intricately carved walls.
'My family have either especially commissioned or have bought items we have wished to live with in our various households in England and Ireland.
In particular, my great-great-grandparents - Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927) and his wife, Adelaide (1844-1916) - amassed items to furnish their homes at Elveden, Suffolk and Farmleigh, Dublin.
At that time, English and Irish furniture making was at its height, with its craftsmen having the broad base of skills necessary to fashion items to keep pace with the enhanced trade links of the day, combined with a greater access to materials, such as tropical hardwoods, whose availability until this generation had been limited - and whose supply now, of course, is strictly curtailed.
I am delighted to offer these items for others to appreciate, as my family has ceased to live in the large-scale homes we have formerly enjoyed. It is likely that the quality of pieces such as these shall never be available again, given the advent of fast, cheap and throwaway furniture.
I wish all the recipients of lots from this Elveden auction years of enjoyment from their purchase, as I believe the vast majority of these items are likely to be heirlooms for generations of the future.'
Removed from his kingdom by the British East India Company, Duleep Singh (1838-1893), the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire, was exiled to England as a boy in 1854. He purchased Elveden Hall estate (once the home of Admiral Augustus Keppel) in 1863, and employed the architect John Norton to remodel the property with an Italianate exterior and interiors based on the Mughal palaces that had been his home. He transformed the run-down estate into a game reserve and it was here that Duleep gained his reputation as the fourth best shot in England. The estate became famous for its shooting parties that were a favourite of Queen Victoria.
Despite settling into life in the English countryside at Elveden - rebuilding the village’s school, church and cottages - the maharajah’s heart was still in India, so much so that he left Elveden in 1886 to journey to the Punjab in an attempt to re-establish his dynasty there. Unfortunately, this was a futile attempt and he never returned to England, dying in Paris in 1893.
Elveden Hall, along with its 16,000 acres, was sold to Edward Cecil Guinness (created Earl of Iveagh and Viscount of Elveden in 1919), and it was he who built the Elveden War Memorial - the towering 113-feet high Corinthian column made to commemorate the forty-eight men from the parishes of Elveden, Icklingham and Eriswell who died in the First World War. Today, it makes a popular landmark for holidaymakers on their way to the beaches of Norfolk.
It was Rupert Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh, who transformed the lands for agricultural use in 1927 and later ceded the hall for use as the headquarters of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War.
The entire contents, excluding items previously sent to Farmleigh, were sold at auction in 1984. Since then, the house has been closed to the public, although its unique and impressive architecture and surrounding landscapes are a popular venue for film and creative industries.
© Elveden Farms Ltd. All rights reserved
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Farmleigh, the Irish State Guesthouse, was bought by the 1st Earl of Iveagh in 1873 and extensively remodelled after the Guinness brewing business was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1886.
Although viewed as a rural retreat and used only for short periods in the spring and summer months (the family’s main residence was 80 St Stephen’s Green, now the Department of Foreign Affairs), it was nonetheless furnished with elements of what became an important art collection. Shopping at London galleries such as Duveen and Agnews, the 1st Earl acquired art and furniture for his many houses.
Farmleigh was sold to the Irish State by Arthur Guinness, the 4th Earl of Iveagh, in 1999. It includes the wonderful collection of books – from early bindings to modern first editions – assembled by Benjamin Guinness, the 3rd Earl of Iveagh.
Lots from Farmleigh are denoted by a ☘
Histories of the Guinness family tend to start with Arthur Guinness (1725-1803) who, in 1759, left his home town of Leixlip to take over a small brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin. He started out by brewing a standard Dublin ale, but by 1799, production of ale had ceased with the popularity of a darker beer he made using roasted barley.
By the 1860s, Guinness stout was available all over the world and its golden harp an internationally recognised trademark. But the firm was also becoming prominent in other ways - a level of employee welfare had been pioneered, while the Guinness family had begun to give back to the city where they had enjoyed so much success. A philanthropic tradition, that began with Arthur Guinness himself, has been passed on from father to son for generations.
The present-day Guinness baronets descend from the great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, namely Edward Cecil Guinness (1847–1927), 1st Earl of Iveagh and Viscount Elveden. Managing director of the Guinness partnership from 1868, by the age of 29 he had taken over sole ownership of the Dublin brewery and brought unprecedented success to St James’s Gate. When, in October 1886, Guinness became a public company, it was averaging sales of 1.138 million barrels of beer a year.
Edward Guinness remained chairman of the board for life and the company’s largest shareholder. However, in semi-retirement he was also able to turn his attentions to other passions. Alongside the Guinness Trust in London and the Iveagh Trust in Dublin - both established to help the underprivileged in the inner cities - from the 1870s, Edward Cecil amassed a distinguished collection of Old Master paintings, antique furniture and historic textiles. His London home at Hyde Park Corner, Farmleigh in Dublin (bought in 1873), and later the Elveden Hall estate in Suffolk (1893), all became vehicles for his taste.
Much of his collection of paintings was donated to the nation after his death in 1927 and is housed at the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood, Hampstead. However, many other heirlooms remained in the Iveagh family, some of them offered for sale here for the first time in generations.
Elveden Hall, London Road, Elveden, Thetford IP24 3TQ
Saturday 9 September, 10am - 4pm
Sunday 10 September, 10am - 4pm
Monday 11 September, 10am - 7pm
Tuesday 12 September, 10am - 4pm
Wednesday 13 September, 10am - 4pm
Entrance by catalogue only, admits two.
Refreshments by Maison Bleue available on site.