Churchill’s reading glasses fetch £6,000 at auction

Reading glasses worn by Sir Winston Churchill have sold at auction for £6,000 (€6,800) - more than three times the amount expected.

The tortoiseshell spectacles, which were made for the wartime prime minister by opticians CW Dixey & Sons, had been anticipated to fetch up to £2,000 (€2,270).

The round-rimmed glasses went under the hammer on Wednesday in the Catherine Southon Auctioneers & Valuers sale at Farleigh Golf Club in Surrey, just 11 miles from Churchill’s Kent home.

A spokeswoman for the auctioneers said: "There was fierce bidding on the phones versus the internet and eventually (the spectacles) went to a telephone bidder."

The successful buyer will pay a total of £7,296 - the £6,000 (€8278 - €6,800)sale price plus an auction premium, the spokeswoman said.

Churchill was fond of distinctive eyewear and normally had three pairs made per prescription so, when he had to return one for repair, another could be sent back to him immediately. The auctioneers said the glasses were as "iconic as his cigar and hat".

Each pair would have metal dots in the corner of the frame to indicate their purpose - one dot for reading only and two for speeches. But Churchill also had specially made glasses for sketching, painting, or for playing cards.

The glasses sold on Wednesday had been sent back for repair and were the last of three pairs the opticians had in their possession when Churchill died in 1965.

They are displayed in an embossed leather case which includes a typed note from opticians director Mr P Varnes to confirm they were made for the politician.

They had been given to the most recent owner, also an optician, by Mr Varnes as inspiration for a new range of glasses in the style of Churchill.

It is not known exactly when they were made or when they were worn by Churchill, a spokeswoman for the auction house said. But he was often seen wearing round-rimmed tortoiseshell spectacles in his later years.

The sale began at 10.30am. Lots yet to be sold include work by renowned cartoonist Smilby.

Some 60 of his Playboy cartoons sold for £8,000 (€9,077) alone when the first part of his collection went up for auction last month. Another 60 pieces are due to go under the hammer in Wednesday’s sale.

The collection of Smilby cartoons sold for almost £5,000 (€5,670), with all but two of his pieces being snapped up, a spokeswoman for the auctioneers said.

Another surprise sale was a brass 12-inch sextant bearing the name plate of the Duke of Clarence.

The navigation instrument was expected to sell for up to £2,000 (€2,270) but sold for more than nine times its top estimate at £18,500 (€).

With an auction premium, the buyer has paid a total of £22,477.50 (€21,000) for the item which was made by mathematician Jesse Ramsden who produced astronomical and scientific objects in the 18th century.

The case has a brass nameplate screwed to the lid, which is inscribed with "His Royal Majesty’s The Duke of Clarence".

Auctioneers believe this was presented to William IV, who had held the title before becoming king in 1830.


 

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