Sale of the Century
death, Johnson was faced with death duties approaching £1,000,000, and set about realising assets to pay this, and to pay for the urgent rehabilitation of the estate. Unkinder commentators reckoned that he was cashing in his chips.
Whichever the case, Christie's were called in, took a look and reckoned they might just make a million on this stuff.
The crucial moment was when Johnson discovered a Regency despatch box in the strong room. It contained detailed correspondence and accounts regarding the furnishing of the house. Included were bills from George Bullock, who had supplied virtually every stick in there. Bullock had long been fancied by experts as a possible equal to Chippendale, but they weren't quite sure. When they saw such a hoard of attributable work, the experts came off the fence. Bullock was "in", just in time for Mr. Johnson's sale. Neat.
The enthusiasm of the furniture experts infected the rest of the punters, and an orgy of frantic bidding pushed totals beyond all expectations.
So, three and a half posts from a four-poster bed went for £2,600, and three chipped toothbrush dishes went for £935.
So that's how two and a half million pounds came to Tew. And Johnson had already realised £227,000 on the sale of the Library, and £90,000 for a collection of drawings.