Berwick House auctions paintings & antiques
26 May 2021
by Cathy Block

A sale of some of the contents of Shrewsbury's Berwick House has raised over £200,000 - and with Old Masters pictures due to go under the hammer this week, that figure looks set to rise considerably, says Cathy Block. 

Berwick House is a beautiful Georgian building approximately three kilometres out of Shrewsbury with grounds backing onto the River Severn. It was the former residence of prosperous shipbroker and merchant mill James Watson, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury from 1885 to 1892. He added a magnificent west facade overlooking a meander in the River Severn and turned his home into the pinnacle of Victorian comfort and convenience. It was also Watson who was responsible for amassing a collection of suitably impressive paintings and furnishings for his renovated mansion. 

Recently, some of this collection has been put under the hammer at Dreweatts auctioneers in Newbury - a range of furniture, ceramics, clocks, sculpture and works of art raised £220,000 on May 12. Further items will be sold across other specialist auctions including Old Master, British and European Art (May 27) and Fine Jewellery, Silver, Watches and Objects of Vertu (July 7) among others. The auction on May 27 includes an impressive collection of paintings set to fetch up to £300,000.

The standout lot in the Interiors auction on May 12 was Lot 58, a suite of Aesthetic movement bedroom furniture. Decorated in matching style with painted and gilt panels, the suite comprises several wardrobes, a washstand, writing table and bed frame. It was estimated to sell for £2,000 - £3,000 but reached a whopping £48,000!

Old Bedframe

Lot 58: A suite of oak Aesthetic movement bedroom furniture, third-quarter 19th century, Collier & Plucknett of Warwick & Leamington, who also designed Matilda Blanche Gibbs' fully fitted bathroom at National Trust Property Tyntesfield - Sold for £48,000

Other significant lots included a Regency mahogany library bookcase (estimated £2,000-£3,000)  which sold for £14,000, a walnut, parquetry inlaid occasional table attributed to Donald Ross, which sold for £3,000, almost double its estimate, and a Victorian oak and button upholstered sofa which sold for £2,000. 

The Old Master, British and European Art auction on May 27, lists a fantastic collection of works from Berwick House, including two paintings by British landscape artist Frederick Lee Bridell (1831-1863). Some of the works he created were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Liverpool Academy, attracting numerous wealthy collectors, including James Wolff, a shipping merchant. Wolff became Bridell’s main patron and built a Bridell gallery in his home, to house twelve of his large-scale landscapes.

Following on from this success and under the patronage of Wolff, Bridell moved to the continent for four years, where the two paintings in this sale were created. The Temple of Saturn, the Forum and the Colosseum, Rome (lot 55) and The Arch of Titus at Rome looking towards the capital (lot 56) are both created in oil and canvas and capture his passion for the landscape near Rome. They each carry an estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn, the Forum and the Colosseum, Rome by Frederick Lee Bridell (1831-1863) Estimate £20,000-£30,000

Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus at Rome looking towards the capital (lot 56) by Frederick Lee Bridell (1831-1863). Estimate £20,000-£30,000

There is also an important work from the studio of the Flemish artist Artus Wolfforts (1581-1641), listed for auction, titled The Adoration of the Shepherds. Wolfforts was a highly-respected Flemish who predominantly carried out private commissions for large life-sized religious and mythological scenes, which he created in oil on canvas. This particular work, Adoration of the Shepherds, depicting the shepherds as witnesses to the birth of Jesus, has been painted in his later dynamic, Baroque style and dates from circa 1630. It has an estimate of £12,000-£18,000.

Adoring Shepherds

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Artus Wolfforts (1581-1641). Estimate £12,000-£18,000

Another spectacular painting is from the Spanish master of still life, Juan van der Hamen y León (1596 – 1632), titled: A Basket, Dish and Plates of Fruit on a Table-Top with a Jug, Glasses of Wine. Hamen was an important influence on many artists working in Spain during this time, although died at an early age. The painting is estimated to fetch £15,000-25,000.

Bowl of Fruit and Jugs

A basket, dish and plates of fruit on a table-top with a jug, glasses of wine by Juan van der Hamen y León (1596 – 1632). 
Estimate £15,000-£25,000

An early painting by one of Lombardy's leading painters of the mid-17th century, known for his portraits and religious scenes, Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (1609-1661), also features. The Madonna and Child with Saints is believed to be an early painting by the artist, dating from between 1630 and 1635. The painting offered in the sale is in oil and canvas and is estimated to fetch £15,000-20,000.

Madonna and Child

The Madonna and Child with Saints by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (1609-1661). Estimate £15,000-20,000

For full details of the various auctions comprising the selected contents of Berwick House, visit