Rural way of life captured

THEY are incredible images of East Anglian life which were part of a collection accumulated by one man over a 40-year period.

And on Saturday the whole collection of postcards and cigarette cards – which includes an image of the famous 1917 Zeppelin crash in Suffolk – raised more than �100,000 at auction.

The David May Collection went under the auctioneer’s hammer in Colchester at an all-day event which far outstripped the original estimate for the sale.

Auctioneer Michael Bowles knew Mr May, and was surprised and delighted by the success of the sale.

He said: “David died in August last year and it has taken us a long time to collect up and catalogue all the lots for the auction.


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“We had put an estimate of �40,000-�45,000 on the sale – but the final total was a real surprise to us.” Most of the postcards featured north Essex – Mr May lived in Great Horkesley – but there were also pictures of Suffolk scenes including the famous 1917 Zeppelin crash at Theberton, near Leiston.

The Zeppelin – L48 – was shot down on June 17, the last to be brought down over Britain during the First World War.

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It came down on fields which were part of what is now Theberton Hall farm, near the village church and the incident attracted national attention.

Postcards showing the crashed airship became quite common and it made front-page news in national newspapers.

The collection also included postcards of the Stour valley and pictures of railway stations across the region – including the Southwold line which closed in 1929.

Among the Essex pictures were some real social history – including the eviction of a smallholder from Boxted who was removed from his home by his Salvation Army landlords after a dispute which led to a rent strike.

Mr Bowles said he was particularly pleased that many of the pictures were bought by communities which had a direct link to them.

He said: “In many cases they will now be a community resource – so people can see how their town or village has changed over the years.”

There were a total of 544 individual lots.

The highest price for a single lot was �2,600 for an album of postcards capturing the social history of north Essex.

The lot containing the picture of the Boxted eviction fetched �920 – more than 10 times its estimated value before the sale.

Mr Bowles said: “That is a great piece of history for the village, capturing a moment in time – the eviction happened in 1912 and came at the end of quite a long dispute between the smallholders and the Salvation Army.

“There was a lot of sympathy for the smallholders in the village, and the local police who had to carry out the eviction had quite a tough time afterwards.”

Another good price was paid for a sweet cigarette card from Crescent sweets in 1928 featuring cricketer Walter Hagen. It made �400.

Mr Bowles said Mr May, a bachelor, had been collecting for more than 40 years and it took months to catalogue his entire collection.

He said: “I knew him for 30 years and I knew that he had built up a fantastic collection – the kind of thing you find very rarely these days.

“It was full of the kind of thing we all throw out at some point – it is absolutely fascinating and it is so good that many pieces have now gone to places they were originally associated with.

“However, there was interest in this sale from across the country.”

As well as the postcards and cigarette cards, the collection also included other items such as enamel advertising signs, kitchen equipment, crockery and even old Christmas decorations.

“It was a wonderful sale. We were very pleased at how it all went,” said Mr Bowles.

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