Summers Place Auctions to sell the ultimate 3D Puzzle – St John’s Barn

Summers Place Auctions to sell the ultimate 3D Puzzle
– St John’s Barn is expected to sell for a six figure sum

Images Courtesy of Tom Ames Photography 

Summers Place Auctions’ Spring Sale includes a magnificent barn, which was built within the original grounds of the Order of the Knights of St John Hospitallers in Suffolk where they first based themselves in 1154. The original part of the thatched roofed, wattle and daub clad oak framing of the building’s core was constructed between 1760 and 1780, but some of the oak timbers indicate that they had been incorporated in an earlier building, which could well have been dating back to the time when the farm was owned by Sir Thomas Gresham.

It is about 51 feet long and 20 feet wide and will be approximately 26 feet tall once it has been rebuilt. In total the timbers weigh in the region of 20 tons. It comes with its own legend, which is crucial as no two timbers are the same. If a barn hasn’t been taken down properly with every timber marked, it is virtually impossible to assemble it again.

The vendor purchased the barn from the company he worked for in 2001 with a view to have this as a retirement project. The company, specialising in selling English barns all over the world, had bought it from the parents of the present owner of St John’s Manor, Battisford in 1985, John and Pat Knock, who wrote a fascinating booklet on the history of the manor and its barn. This magnificent barn is expected to sell for a six figure sum and the buyer will need to take into account that the barn will need a suitable plot of land to be rebuilt.

Not only does this sale offer the rare chance to own an English barn, but one with a fascinating history and the current owner as well as the previous owners have spent years researching its history and that of the estate it came from.

Sir Thomas Gresham was instrumental in setting up the Royal Exchange under Queen Elizabeth I and the building also included an oak frame made of wood from his estate. The Royal Exchange celebrated its 450th anniversary in January to commemorate the Queen’s visit to Gresham’s huge Bourse, which she then proclaimed to be renamed ‘The Royal Exchange’.

The Barn was built in the original grounds where a Preceptory was established in 1154 and by the mid 1300s the military arm of the Order had turned it into a substantial fortification known as a Commandery. In the 1530s, during the Reformation under Henry VIII, it was seized and confiscated.

It was a common practise during the early English framing periods (15thC – 18thC) to incorporate timbers from earlier buildings and some of the timbers from this barn show carpenters’ earlier workings and thus it is thought highly likely that at least a small percentage of those timbers date back to the Tudor period.

From a 2013 Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory report it could be deduced that the wall timbers were converted from trees which showed signs of intense management practise. This is consistent with evidence that Battisford and Ringshall in the 14th to 18th Centuries comprised vast oak woodlands which would have been actively managed. A 2015 Oxford University Radiocarbon analysis showed a 96% certainty that the building was reconstructed between 1760 and 1780. Knights of St John and the 16th and last Commander at Battisford, prior to the Reformation was one William Tyrell. The interior of the barn can be seen to match the exterior of the barn in situ – the two windows and the grey door opening being visible in both the interior shot and the authenticated aerial photo of St John’s Manor Barn taken by Skyviews on 16th May 1985 (By courtesy of Skyviews Aerial Archives, Leeds, LS15 4JJ).

Further information

The Greshams:
Following the seizure of the Battisford Commandery by Henry VIII during the Reformation, not much is known about what happened for the next few years. However records show that in 1544 the estate was sold to Richard Gresham (1485- 1549), an important noble at the Court of King Henry VIII. Richard’s son Thomas, inherited the estate in 1549 and lived through the years of the death of Henry VIII, the brief years of reign of Edward VI and Queen Mary I, before becoming courtier to Elizabeth I who was crowned in 1558. After re-introducing his family name at Royal Court, Thomas was shortly thereafter appointed Royal Agent at Antwerp, Belgium, at a time when it was necessary for the English Crown to raise money abroad. Seeing the vast wealth of both Venice and Antwerp originating from the financial wizardry of those cities’ merchants, Thomas then put into practice an idea his father had had, namely that London should have its own Bourse. He acquired land along Lombard Street and at Cornhill, where he built London’s new Bourse. Thomas was given a knighthood for his efforts, and like his father also became Lord Mayor of London. At his death not many years later, he was said to have been the wealthiest noble in England. Sadly his amazing building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London (1666).

Battisford Oak use to build the new Bourse:
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), Battisford was well-known for the quality and abundance of its oak trees and so it was an easy choice in 1566 for Thomas to have his proposed Bourse framed in oak, from his own woodlands. Records show that the huge oak frames of this mighty building were framed at Battisford Tye (or Common) and thence dismantled, taken by barge around the coast and up the river Thames, to the Port of London, and thence transported to Cornhill to form the new Bourse. Completed in 1568 and of faux stone & brick cladding over the mighty oak frames, it was said that ” a more noblier frame ne’er was built”. In 1570, Thomas Gresham accompanied Elizabeth I around the huge building, who proclaimed it be henceforth known as The Royal Exchange.

The Order of St John’s Hospitallers:
The monastic order of the Knights Hospitaller was founded after the First Crusade by the Blessed Gerard and confirmed by a Papal bull (or charter) from Pope Paschal II in 1113. They established the first significant Hospitaller infirmary near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and provided pilgrims with armed escorts for their journey, but before long grew into a substantial force and they quickly became the most powerful

Christian group in the area.
With its increasing recognition and acceptance in England and Normandy, the Preceptory at Battisford was established, probably on a nobleman’s land in Battisford in 1154, according to the records at the Order of St John’s Hospitallers headquarters in St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, London. One hundred and fifty six years later, in 1310, it was then chosen by King Edward II (1284 – 1327) as a Commandery – a Manor under the control of a Commander of an Order of Tyrell.

For more press information, images & interview requests, please contact Silke Lohmann: or 07932 618754. For further information on the auction, please visit or call 01403 331331.

Cast to stone

Cast to Stone – John Vincent tells the tale of the creature from antiquity that rose from the dead

Eighth Evolution Sale Shines Light on Oceans

Eighth Evolution Sale Shines Light on Oceans
Summers Place Auctions will be holding its eighth Evolution Sale on Tuesday, 24th November 2020 and this time the sale includes some phenomenal examples of former inhabitants of the oceans. Today, we are more concerned than ever about our oceans and these fine examples are not just decorative objects for our homes but a reminder of how fragile nature is.

Summers Place is proud to be able to offer a Coelacanth Painten for auction as this prestigious 200 million year old fossil is rarely uncovered and they almost never come up for sale. Coelacanths are one of the great icons of natural history and this impressive specimen is 46cm long and estimated at £30,000-50,000. The rather limb-like structure of the fins shows clearly how the evolution between fishes and amphibians could have begun to occur. More celebrated, however, is the spectacular nature of a living specimen in 1938! Several species had been known from the fossil record but all coelacanths had been considered extinct for almost 70 million years.

So when a freshly caught example was spotted by chance at an open air fish market in South Africa, the discovery caused a sensation. The coelacanth quickly became something of a ‘cause celebre’ among those who like to believe that long-extinct creatures might still survive in remote parts of the world. This particular example is especially fine, clearly showing all the features of coelacanths. It comes from the rich deposits around the famous fossil localities around Solnhofen in Germany where so many wonderfully preserved creatures have been found.

Another Jurassic icon included in the auction is a Crinoid plaque from Holzmaden, Germany. It’s 105cm by 132cm in size and estimated to fetch £25,000-40,000. The Jurassic deposits at Holzmaden in southern Germany have long been known for the exceptional preservation of its fossils. Among the most sought after are the perfectly
detailed examples of crinoids – creatures that are sometimes called sea lilies. Not only are these wonderfully preserved and detailed fossils, they also sometimes make the most spectacularly decorative shapes. The present example perfectly illustrates this. However, such fossils are not actually found with their magic exposed. Although
the form is perfectly natural and has not been tampered with, it takes hours and hours of expert preparation to reveal the magical beauty. Layer after layer of rock must be drilled away before the shape that has been hidden in the rock for millions of years is laid bare and revealed in all its splendour. During this whole process there
is little room for error and it requires enormous skill and a great deal of patience.

The decorative beauty of this particularly wonderful example is enhanced by the presence of two belemnites which were fossilized along with the crinoid. 

Third on the list of Ocean icons is a rare and impressive giant Japanese spider crab mounted on board (122cm by 170cm) and is estimated at £8000-12,000. As its name suggests these crabs can grow to frighteningly huge size, and can have by far the longest legs of any arthropod. But not all of them do! Most remain comparatively small and remain in shallower water. The true giants just grow and grow and as they do they sink to deeper and deeper water, and once they reach the depths they are usually only caught accidentally by fishermen dredging for other creatures. Even when they are snagged they rarely reach the surface in one piece as, unfortunately, the intense sudden changes in pressure causes the poor creature to disintegrate. So complete specimens have always been rare. Nor is this the only hazard that prevents them from being preserved as specimens: as its name suggests the species only occurs in seas around Japan and to Japanese culinary devotees they are regarded as a great delicacy. Normally it is only the smaller individuals (the more easily taken inhabitants of shallower waters) that become available, so when a true giant is fished up it causes something of a stir among the local culinary community. So this magnificent example provides a rare opportunity to acquire a sensational and truly decorative icon of natural history.

Also included in the sale are two giant fossil Crayfish (Thallasima) from Java estimated at £2000-3000 and a fossil Dapedium Lower Lias from Lyme Regis (31cm long) carries an estimate of £5000-8000.

For Jurassic Park fans, there are two dinosaur eggs (Oviraptor spp.) included, each 15 cm long and together estimated at £1200-1800, while the sale also includes several Burmite amber fossil specimens. The most expensive is a very rare piece snake and millipede remains, as well as other insects and organic inclusions. 99 million years old, its size is 33.26 x 18.52 x 10.33mm and is expected to fetch £2000-3000.

If Ice Age is more your thing, Summers Place is offering a fine 78 cm long Woolly rhinoceros skull from Siberia. It is at least 10,000 years old and exceptionally preserved and therefore expected to sell in the region of £4000-6000, while a Bison (Bison antiquus) skull and horns from the same time and area carries an estimate of £3000-5000. A massive Mammoth tusk, which is 282cm on the outside of the curve and weighs an impressive 54kgs is expected to fetch £12,000-18,000. The exceptional size suggests it came from a mature bull mammoth of impressive size.

There are several minerals included in this auction with estimates starting from £200, with the highlights being a Madani quality rough cut Lapis lazuli freeform (42cm high by 22cm wide by 10cm deep, 11.7kg) estimated at £3000-5000 and a massive red jasper freeform from South Africa (67cm, 163kg), which carries an
estimate of £2500-4000.

It wouldn’t be a Natural History sale, if it didn’t include some fine examples of taxidermy – among them a Duckbilled platypus from the late 19th/early 20th century (34cm by 53cm/ est. £2000-3000), a cased otter with pebble by Peter Spicer from the late 19th century (79cm by 94cm/ est. £1800-2500) and a full mount Pangolin from the same time (68cm est. £2500-3000. Among the birds are a large case of colourful North and South American birds including trogons and a Spur-winged lapwing and Motmots from circa 1860 (104cm high by 120cm wide/ est. £1500-2500), a pair of Barn owls probably by Shaw of Shrewsbury from circa 1880 (74cm high/ est. £1200-1800), a Himalayan Monal under glass dome probably by Gardner from circa 1900 (64cm high/ est. £1200-1800), a Toucan (65cm high/est. £2000-3000) and a Kea (39cm high/ est. £1000-1500).

The auction also has a section with animal sculptures including Lucy Kinsella’s monkey ‘Scout‘ (61cm high by 83cm wide by 15cm deep/ est. £6000-8000), Marjan Wouda’s bronze ‘Running Dogs‘ (80cm high by 70cm deep by 170cm long/ est. £6000-8000) and the wonderful ‘Stalking Fox’ bronze by Donald Potter (1902-2014)
(22cm high by 105cm wide by 15cm deep/ est. £2000-3000).

The sculptures are made of a wide variety of materials, including the fabulous ‘Turning Leopard‘ made of laminated beech by Bill Prickett (84cm high by 118cm wide by 62cm deep/ est.£4000-6000). Zhaohui Liu’s ‘Polar Bear‘ is made of marble (150cm long by 98cm high by 54cm deep/ est. £2000-4000), Wilfred Pritchard’s ‘Giant Tarantula’ made of steel (680cm wide by 640cm deep by 420cm high/ est. £10,000-15,000) and an Imperial Eagle from the Black forest is carved in hardwood (47cm high by 53cm wide by 11cm deep/ est. £1200-1800).

For more press information, images & interview requests,
please contact Silke Lohmann: or 07932 618754.
For further information on the auction, please visit or call 01403 331331.
Summers Place Auctions are the world’s leading auctioneers of Garden Statuary and Natural History. The sales are held in the award winning 5,000 sq ft gallery nestling within 6 acres of walled gardens and the arboretum of the Victorian mansion, Summers Place, outside Billingshurst in West Sussex.

Forthcoming Auctions:
4th November 2020 Home & Garden (sealed bid auction)
24th November 2020 Evolution sale

News Travels Fast – Japan Today

A rare giant Japanese spider crab

CRAB FAB: A rare giant Japanese spider crab (estimate £8,000-£12,000) is seen during a preview of a forthcoming sale at Summers Place Auctions, Billinghurst, England. (Courtesy of The Irish Times/The Telegraph Photograph: Gareth Fuller/Press Association)

24th November Evolution Auction