A mysterious vampire-slaying kit containing objects reputed to ward off the blood-thirsty monsters sparked an international bidding battle – and smashed its auction estimate to smithereens.
The find went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on June 30 with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000 but it soared to a hammer price of £13,000 – more than six times its low estimate. It was purchased by a private UK buyer after a fierce bidding competition. The total price paid with buyer’s premium was £16,900.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “Interest in this item ahead of auction, both from potential buyers and media outlets all over the world, was intense. It attracted strong advance bids. Nevertheless, the result exceeded all expectations. Bids came in from across the globe including France, America and Canada – and the news story about the find went viral.
“It made headlines galore as far afield as Australia and America. Objects like this fascinate both collectors and people in general – and this vampire kit had particularly interesting provenance.
“It originally belonged to Lord Hailey, a British peer and former administrator of British India. Whether through fear or fascination, it’s interesting to know a member of the highest aristocratic social order, a man with a place in the House of Lords, acquired this item. It reminds us that the vampire myth affects people from all walks of life. I think the aristocratic connection made this object even more desirable and, perhaps, helped it on its way to a particularly strong result.”
Items in the late 19th century kit are stamped with Lord Hailey’s initials and it contains his name and address. The lockable box, which contains tools and holy objects to ward off vampires, features two brass crucifixes on the lid which act as a sliding secret locking device. Inside are more crucifixes, a matching pair of pistols, brass powder flask, holy water, Gothic Bible, wooden mallet, stake, brass candlesticks, rosary beads and Metropolitan police paperwork from the period.
Charles said: “William Malcolm Hailey, 1st Baron Hailey (1872-1969) was recognised for his intellect. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He was Governor of the Punjab from 1924 to 1928 and Governor of the United Provinces from 1928 to 1934. And yet, amid his illustrious career, he was drawn to this vampire-slaying kit. That’s understandable. These objects are both curious and intriguing.
“Belief in vampires, an undead creature said to need human blood to survive, goes back hundreds of years and persists in some parts of the world today. They are enshrined in European folklore. The publication of John Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819 had a major impact and that was followed by Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic Dracula.
“The task of killing a vampire was extremely serious and historical accounts suggested the need for particular methods and tools. Items of religious significance, such as crucifixes and Bibles, were said to repel these monsters, hence their presence in the kit.”
The Derbyshire owner of the vampire slaying kit, who did not wish to be named, said: “I was stunned and delighted by the result. It’s a fascinating item, a conversation piece. I came across it in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, fairly recently. I liked it for its novelty and historical value. Interestingly, Lord Hailey has a memorial tablet in London’s Westminster Abbey which pays warm tribute to him.”
The plaque states that ‘Baron Hailey of Shahpur and Newport Pagnell’ was a ‘ruler of great provinces in India’ and ‘In Africa no less renowned for labours which gave shape to African freedom’. It also states that he was ‘adorned with grace of wit’ and was ‘wise, kind, faithful in all his dealings, tolerant and humane’.
The vampire slaying kit, lot 174, sold in Hansons Auctioneers’ June 30 Fine Art Auction at Etwall Auction Centre, Derbyshire. To find out more, or to consign objects into the next Fine Art Auction, email Isabel Murtough: [email protected].