Stunning treasure just fit for a king

Its colourful images depict a king and his young love, along with birds, animals, flowers and fruit. For years its home was Wilby House at Wilby, near Eye - a house “untouched” by the 20th century.

Its colourful images depict a king and his young love, along with birds, animals, flowers and fruit.

For years its home was Wilby House at Wilby, near Eye - a house “untouched” by the 20th century.

But yesterday this rare embroidered cabinet found a new owner after a special antiques sale at Diss Auction Rooms, where about half of the 693 lots were furnishings and effects from the estate of well-known former magistrate Ann Marriott.

Miss Marriott died in April, aged 76, after collapsing in the grounds of her home of 50 years.

Over the coming weeks the contents of Wilby House will be auctioned by Gaze & Son, but the star lot at yesterday's sale was a Charles II needlework two-door cabinet, with finely coloured panels, drawers and compartments.

The cabinet, which has its own oak carrying case, dates from between 1660 and 1680 and had a guide price of £7000 to £9000, but after brief bidding it went to a dealer in Oxfordshire for £14,000.

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It was one of an eclectic mix of items that filled Wilby House, which according to auctioneer Jeffrey Bowles, remained unaffected by modern life.

Mr Bowles, who dealt with Miss Marriott and the Wilby estate for 30 years, said:

“She was a great character and hugely respected in the community.

“The thing about the house and its contents is that the 20th century didn't really intrude.

“That's why there is such fascination because the contents haven't been seen. There are things that have been passed on from generation to generation and have been in the house for a long time.

“The house was like a time warp, nothing had been thrown away so it was a lovely complete house full of things which hadn't been altered. It was a bit of a social document.”

He added: “She was a totally charming lady and in her time a great horticulturist. She loved the garden, it was her place.”

Commenting on the cabinet, fellow auctioneer Alan Smith said:

“We have acted for the family for years and we've known this item was in the house.

“It's been a lovely sale. We are very pleased and overall it's exceeded our expectations. It think the cabinet did well, but because of its brightness I thought it would have made a little bit more, but it was a good figure.”

He added: “Young ladies would learn the skill of embroidery and do samplers. The best of them, the ultimate thing to embroider and have was one of these cabinets.

“It needs a little bit of work but it's a lovely piece. The likelihood is that it would have been passed through the family.

“The British Museum have got a few, but by comparison with theirs we think the colours of this are brighter. It really is quite good. It's an iconic piece of early English antique.

“They rarely come up, in a national context you might see one or two a year.”

Mr Smith said interest in the piece was strong, with six telephone lines booked before the start of the auction.

Other pieces from the estate ranged from two African hardwood knobkerries, which sold for £1850, and a Polynesian paddle (£1700) to a 17th century oak court cupboard (£2100) and a Portuguese collectors cabinet (£8200).

Miss Marriott's family has lived in Wilby for more than 100 years and both her grandfather and uncle were rectors of the parish.

She was a former member of the Hoxne bench of magistrates, which sat at Stradbroke before being amalgamated into Hartismere Magistrates at Eye and finally Saxmundham Magistrates.

Miss Marriott, who leaves a brother, Francis, also served as a school governor, parish councillor and parochial church councillor.

She was a patron of St Mary's Church in Wilby, where she regularly attended services and was at one two days before her death.

Other items from the estate yet to be sold include pictures, silverware and garden architecture, as well as a collection of 200 stuffed birds and a library.