Carved wooden figures sell for 4 times expected price at Suffolk auction

These four figurines, carved by Harold Pepper, all show Ipswich legends and were sold by Lockdales Auctioneers.

These four figurines, carved by Harold Pepper, all show Ipswich legends and were sold by Lockdales Auctioneers. - Credit: Lockdales

A collection of carved wooden figurines of East Anglian legends sold for more than £15,000 when they went under the hammer at an online auction.

The two-day sale held by Lockdales Auctioneers came to a close last night after a number of exciting pieces of jewellery, watches, toys, art and antiques were put in front of online bidders.

Perhaps the most remarkable section of the sale was the collection of carved wooden figurines by the late Harold Pepper, a retired cabinet maker turned woodcarver. 

His hobby was researching and carving figures of quaint and sometimes infamous historic personalities - many of which were especially relevant to East Anglian local history and legends, and are about 12ins in height.

They include am embellished base with a short history about their achievements or misdeeds. 

The pre-sale estimate of these 144 figures was just £3,000 combined but, after causing much excitement and enquiries from interested bidders, the combined hammer prices exceeded £15,000.

By far the highest price of the section was £2,800 paid for just two figures - those of Daniel Lambert of Leicester/Stamford, and Edward Bright of Maldon, Essex. 

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These were two of the heaviest men in British history, with Lambert famed for his great strength, and also being the figurehead of a present-day civic society.

A section of fans followed this to round out the first day on Wednesday, February 17. 

What were some of the sales highlights?

Lot 349 - Ipswich interest

These four figurines, carved by Harold Pepper, all show Ipswich legends and were sold by Lockdales Auctioneers.

These four figurines, carved by Harold Pepper, all show Ipswich legends and were sold by Lockdales Auctioneers. - Credit: Lockdales

These four hand carved wooden figures comprise 'Margery Bedingfield', who alongside Richard Ringe were both executed on Rushmere Heath, Ipswich, in 1762 for the murder of Bedingfield's husband.

This was the last execution by strangulation and burning at Ipswich.

The second figurine is of Mother Lakeland, a witch who was burnt at the stake on the Cornhill in Ipswich in 1645.

Third is of 'William Pikes', a tanner of St. Margaret's Parish, Ipswich, who attended a bible reading meeting in Islington.

For the offence, he was burnt at the stake with five others at Brentford in 1558.

The final carving is of 'Robert Samuell', the minister of Bergholt, who was imprisoned and tortured day and night for being a protestant. He was burnt at the stake on the Cornhill in Ipswich in 1555.

The total lot sold for an impressive £340, opposed to its estimate of £60 to £80. 

Lot 342:

Lockdales

Lot 342: Two hand carved wooden figures, depicting interesting characters in history, each mounted on a hand engraved plinth describing who they were, both signed to rear side of plinth 'H. F. Pepper'. Estimated to sell for £30 - £50, but went under the hammer for £290 (£353 incl. premium). - Credit: Lockdales

Two hand-carved wooden figures, depicting interesting characters in history, each mounted on a hand engraved plinth describing who they were, both signed to rear side of plinth 'H. F. Pepper'.

The figures comprise 'Daniel Mendoza', the greatest bare fist fighter, born in Aldagte in 1764, and 'W. T. Ecclestone' (Jolly Jumbo).

Ecclestone was born in Great Yarmouth and opened the famous boxing booth Premierland in Blackfriars London.

He also trained many famous boxers, including Joe Jannet, Bomb Billy Wells, Ian Haigh, Digger Starkey and Pedler Patman.

He died in 1917, weighing 42 stone. 

The two figurines were expected to sell for £30 to £50, but instead brought in £290. 

Lot 344:

Lot 344 consisted of these Harold Pepper figures, including 'Thomas Clarkson', who was born in Wisbech and devoted his...

Lot 344 consisted of these Harold Pepper figures, including 'Thomas Clarkson', who was born in Wisbech and devoted his life to the emancipation of slaves. He was the first man to publicly denounce slavery. - Credit: Lockdales

These Harold Pepper figures consist of 'Thomas Clarkson', who was born in Wisbech and devoted his life to the emancipation of slaves.

He was the first man to publicly denounce slavery.

Clarkson was made a freeman of London and he died in 1846, and was buried in Playford churchyard.

Second is 'Elizabeth Woodcock', who in 1799 got caught in a heavy snow storm and took shelter under a hedge where 7ft of snow covered her.

Woodcock put a red handkerchief onto a long stick and poked it through the snow, she was finally spotted and rescued after eight days by a young farmer named Joseph Muncey.

The third figurine depicts 'John Bigg' - a wealthy man who upon the restoration became a hermit and lived in a cave.

Bigg would make his clothes and shoes by nailing together small pieces of leather.

The last figurine in this lot is of 'John Rutherford'.

At the age of 20, while aboard the brig Agnes, he went ashore in New Zealand for water.

Maoris boarded the ship and ate all the crew, except Rutherford due to his many tattoos. Later he was made chief, eventually managing to escape back to England where he toured and exhibited himself.

This lot was estimated to sell for between £50 and £70, but successfully sold for £420. 

Other items included in the sale was a range of jewellery, a silk fan depicting a French 'Lebaudy' airship, bi-plane and hot-air balloon, antique novelty biscuit tins and two original artworks by the cartoonist "Giles". 

Forthcoming auctions by Lockdales include The Banknote Sale from February 27 to 28, the Coins, Medals & Militaria sale from March 27 to 28, and Paper Collectables April on April 14 and 15.   

For more details, visit the Lockdales website.

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