Online Bidding

Top hat & effects belonging to Poet Laureate John Masefield up for auction…

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Ben Gamble admires the top hat that once
belonged to the Poet Laureate, John Masefield.

Fans of the literary arts will be interested to hear of an item that’s set to come under the hammer at Staffordshire auction house Cuttlestones’ 1st April specialist collector’s auction. A top hat which, in its original box and along with its key and brush, is thought to have once belonged to the Poet Laureate John Masefield (served 1930–1967), also carrying a signature within the rim.

Masefield, born in Herefordshire in 1878, became a well-known author and poet; penning classic children’s novels including The Box of Delights and The Midnight People and epic poems including The Neverending Mercy, Gallipoli and Sea-Fever – despite a somewhat unorthodox education.

Following the death of his mother, Masefield attended The Kings School at Warwick as a boarder between 1888 and 1891 before joining the crew of the HMS Conway to prepare him for a life at sea. However, contrary to his aunt’s wish that his new career would cure him of his ‘addiction to reading’, his time at sea afforded him the opportunity to read extensively and hone his writing skills. Over the following years he travelled the world as a sailor; spending time ashore in New York having become disillusioned with life at sea and taking work in a carpet factory and as a barkeeper’s assistant.

On his return to England in 1897 John met his wife, Constance, and embarked on his remarkable writing career. By the age of 24 his poetry was regularly published in periodicals and his first collected works, Salt Water Ballads, was published. By 1921, having generated a significant body of work and spent time lecturing in the US, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Oxford University and his star continued to rise. On the death of the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges in 1930, Masefield beat off competition from contemporaries including Rudyard Kipling to take on the mantle and remained in the position until his death in 1962; the longest length of service as Poet Laureate since Tennyson.

The handsome top hat is marked for Henry Heath’s located at 105, 107 & 109 Oxford St, London; a brand established in the reign of George IV and which remained a prolific hatters throughout the Victorian era. With its pedigree it is likely to attract interest from both literary and vintage clothing enthusiasts as MD and Head Auctioneer, Ben Gamble, explains:

This is a really interesting lot – its links to John Masefield mean that it’s likely to have broad appeal and we’ve got high hopes for it achieving a good price. Even better, this is being auctioned on behalf of the charity Helen and Douglas House, having been donated by the chairman of Cheshire Homes who bought it at auction in 1987 for £79 – the fact that it’s in such good condition and comes complete with its original catalogue and receipt means we’re confident it will attract strong bids and hopefully make some good money for this worthy cause.

For further information on the top hat and the host of other interesting items that are being sold at Cuttlestones’ Friday, 1st April specialist collector’s auction visit or call 01785 714905.

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