We were proud to be able to offer a selection of pieces of Scottish silver from the collection of Sir John Noble of Ardkinglas in our August 2013 Scottish Silver & Accessories auction. Highlights included a fine lidded tankard by Glasgow maker Robert Luke, sold for £12,500, and rare Banff wine funnel by John Keith that fetched over £7,000.
The Noble Collection was originally the creation of by Sir John Henry Brunel Noble, 1st Baronet of Ardkinglas, one of the renowned collectors in the relay part of the 20th century Sir John H B Noble’s collection was formed at a time when many treasures of British and European silver were available to collectors and his insatiable appetite for acquiring new and more important examples of the goldsmiths crafts saw him secure many internationally important items. His mantra in collecting can be seen throughout his lifetime with the collection being continually improved and ‘lesser’ pieces sold. This collection, including pieces from many of the most important dispersals of the period through Christies and Sotheby’s, was curated by Crichton Brothers of Bond Street London, a name recorded as buyer of much of the most important plate sold at the time.
Sir John H B Noble’s collection grew and was originally housed in The Manor House Newcastle, it was moved to Ardkinglas by 1919 when John inherited the house from his father Sir Andrew Noble. Sir Andrew had had the house built by Sir Robert Lorimer and it was completed in 1907 and used as a summer retreat. Rightly considered one of Lorimer’s masterpieces it was constructed in remarkably quick time with the inclusion of many modern features and designs. Following the baronial Scottish style, the property was built using the finest materials and skilled craftsmen, making its quick completion even more remarkable. This combination of skill and material was matched with the installation of modern building techniques, built with cavity walls, concrete floors and modern sanitary fittings. Technology also played a part in the commission and Lorimer fitted a goods elevator and an extensive internal telephone system. Ardkinglas would prove to be testament to all who were involved in the commission and build, from Sir Andrew’s vision, Lorimer’s designs and the craftsmen’s skill shown through the very nature and quality of the building, which remains virtually unchanged since 1907.
Ardkinglas would house the now large collection of silver until Sir John H B Noble’s death in 1938, when the house and collection were inherited by his two sons John Samuel Brunel Noble and Michael A C Noble, Baron Glenkinglas. At this point the collection would change shape and form, it was also through this change in ownership that the collection became known to a wider audience. Both John and Michael Noble would ultimately sell a large percentage of the collection, mainly through auction, and private treaty sales to national institutions, which created the provenance known and so highly regarded to silver collectors and academics alike. These dispersals would form single lots, named sections or indeed single owner auctions from 1935 through to 1981.
Perhaps the highlight of these sales was in December 1967 in the single owner sale, sold by Michael Noble, of ‘Highly Important Old English & Scottish Gold & Silver’ which included the Edinburgh 1736 gold bullet teapot by James Ker for the Leith Races. Selling for £40,000, reputably with Queen Elizabeth II as the under bidder, now in the collection of Manchester City Galleries. One of the most important items of Scottish silver ever to be sold at auction and, at the time, one of the highest prices ever paid for silver at auction.
These dispersals of the collection did not signify the end of the Noble’s collections of silver but did however signal a change in interests and collecting. John S B Noble would carry forth the family interest in silver and this combined with his passion for Scottish craft took the collections main focus into Scottish silver. In his positions as Chairman of the Edinburgh Tapestry Company and of the Scottish Craft Centre he combined the interest in the historical with the interests in promotion of the future of Scottish crafts. This combination was cemented in the 'Exhibition of Scottish silver from the collection of John Noble, Chairman of the Scottish Crafts Centre', 24th August to 12th September 1959, where some of the items included within this sale were exhibited.
Since John S B Noble’s connection with the collection it has remained virtually unchanged and a new generation of family members hope that the Noble Collection will give interest and fuel further passions in the Scottish crafts. While inventories of the main collectors’ additions do exist there are many gaps within the knowledge of the acquisitions and it has not been possible to determine under whose custodianship many of the items relate. It does seem clear that the collection offered bears the marks of Sir John, John and Michael Noble and highly likely spans the entire generations’ interests.
All prices inclusive of buyer's premium.