‘A beady eye for the beautiful’: Eclectic pieces from famous designer’s home go under the hammer


British designer Jasper Conran recently moved from the principal apartment in New Wardour Castle to a more modest country house in Dorset - prompting a remarkable sale of furniture, art and objects.

An “eclectic” and “intimate” collection of artworks, furniture and objects from the country house of celebrated British designer Jasper Conran is being auctioned off this month.

Conran (son of the late Sir Terence Conran) has designed a lot of things in his 60-odd years, from Royal clothes and Debenhams womenswear to Land Rover interiors, Chesney’s fireplaces and Wedgewood crockery. He’s also furnished and lived in some extraordinary residences, including Walpole House in Chiswick, Flemings Hall in Suffolk, Ven House in Somerset, and most recently New Wardour Castle in Wiltshire.

“New Wardour Castle is the perfect vision of an English country house,” says Benedict Winter of Christie’s Private and Iconic Collections department in London. “It has this clarity of line which gives it a timeless quality. It could almost be modern.”

Conran moved into New Wardour Castle’s 23,154 sq ft principal apartment in 2010, but sold his chunk of the Palladian-style Wiltshire mansion (the largest in Wiltshire), which was designed by the architect James Paine in 1769, last year for around £4m.

He has moved to the slightly more modest Bettiscombe Manor in Dorset (which he acquired from his step-mother, Lady Caroline Conran) – prompting a sale of furniture and furnishings. “Given the scale of our new home, there is simply nowhere to put the collection that I have gathered,” says the designer. “I would much rather that, instead of being hidden away in some dark storage places, these lovely objects go on to have new lives in new homes. That, after all, is what they were made for.”

Auction house Christie’s is handling the sale, describing Conran as “the definitive voice of style and taste […] known not only for his influence in fashion, but also for his passion for the English country house.” Estimates for the 500-or-so lots range from £500 up to £80,000.

Conran has accumulated the collection “instinctively”, rather than through any strategic collecting. “What I am involved in is an aesthetic marriage of objects,” he says. “I don’t lay any claim to being the world’s greatest expert, but I do have a beady eye for the beautiful.”

Sale highlights span four centuries, and include a pair of George III Chippendale tables, a giltwood chandelier from Longleat House, a pair of George III window seats from Forde Abbey in Dorset, and a dinner service formerly owned by Yves Saint Laurent.

There’s also a George I “angel bed” from Hawarden Castle in Wales, which once belonged to the family of the Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone. Winter explains that its unusual name derives from the bed’s suspended canopy, which appears to “float like an angel”.

The sale is being held in two parts: online for three weeks until 21st September, and in real life in London on 14th September (viewings at King Street from the 6th). More info at christies.com/auctions/jasper-conran-the-collection

In Pictures: New Wardour Castle All interior photography © Simon Upton
Highlights: The Jasper Conran Collection via Christie’s


Main image: The Rotunda at New Wardour Castle (Photo © Simon Upton)