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A collection of true note

PUBLISHED: 07:59 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:01 22 October 2010

ED FOSS

Experts have described it as "spectacular", "unique" and "the leading collection of the generation" - and it was put together in a Norfolk farmhouse by one of the county's truly notable but little-known characters.

ED FOSS

Experts have described it as "spectacular", "unique" and "the leading collection of the generation" - and it was put together in a Norfolk farmhouse by one of the county's truly notable but little-known characters.

The collection of banknotes gathered over decades by the late Godfrey Burr has caused a huge buzz of excitement.

The first part of a three-part auction of the notes will be held in London next week and the entire collection could sell for an estimated £500,000.

Included in the first sale, which will be held by specialist auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb (DNW) on Tuesday, are notes from bygone East Anglian banks such as Aylsham, Norwich, Ipswich, Norwich & Swaffham, Yarmouth & Suffolk and Woodbridge.

Many notes date back to the 1800s and several have been described as "hugely rare", apparently even encouraging some previously retired collectors to come back into the market.

Although Mr Burr lived his life quietly and out of the public eye, he led an extraordinary life until his death in September, aged 77.

Born into a landed family, he was said to be a reluctant farmer and best known by friends and family as an inventor and innovator. His creations included some of the first tractor and combine cabs, corn driers and egg-turning equipment.

He also designed and then manufactured the Gobur Caravan with another man, John Goodwin. Still produced in Norfolk today under different ownership, the Gobur can be towed behind a car like a traditional trailer, but folds out as a caravan.

One of Mr Burr's most eccentric projects saw him build his own swimming pool in his farmhouse at Burgh, near Aylsham, which included laying some 90,000 tiles himself.

Mr Burr's family history was also colourful, with a lineage dating back to the 13th century and connections to well-known land-owning families such as John of Gaunt and royalty including King John and Henry III.

The dispersal of his bank-note collection is a significant event for many people, including DNW auctioneer Mike O'Grady, who knew Mr Burr for many years. "He was a pioneer in the field, both in terms of how long ago he started collecting and also in the way he collected," said Mr O'Grady. "Generally English collectors collected English notes and Scottish collectors collected Scottish notes.

"But Godfrey collected everything, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Irish, everything. And he started when collectors were viewed as an irritant by the banks."

A distinct feature of Mr Burr's character was his willingness to share his knowledge with other collectors, said Mr O'Grady. "His openness was very refreshing and he was a major influence on the hobby in this country. He was a great guy to deal with."

Close friend Marie Wright, who still lives in Mr Burr's former home at Burgh, said "Each note sold will be put in an envelope with Godfrey's photograph on it, which I feel is fitting."

The first auction will be held at the New Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden on Tuesday, starting at 3.30pm. Viewing on the day will be at the saleroom from 8am, or in advance at DNW's office in Piccadilly. For details contact DNW on 020 7016 1700.


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