Sale of Harold Wilson’s personal items tops £200,000

An auction of hundreds of gifts and souvenirs from royals, presidents, popes and celebrities collected by former prime minister Harold Wilson has topped £200,000.

Collectors from all over the world came to bid on items including Wilson’s pipes, his famous Gannex raincoat and even his novelty HP Sauce bottle.

Bidders fought tooth and nail for the items, with hundreds of lots tripling or quadrupling their estimates, Derbyshire-based auction house Hansons said.

Wilson’s beloved pipe – a Comoy’s Leonardo – sold for £320 (Hansons/PA)

The collection of 700 items, from the estate of Lady Wilson who died last year aged 102, was initially expected to raise around £65,000.

A watercolour by the Prince of Wales sold for £10,500 at the sale in Bishton Hall in Little Haywood, Staffordshire – believed to be a world record-breaking price.

An order of service and an invitation to Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral reached £4,500 from an original estimate of £200.

A vase given to Wilson by Pope Paul VI reached £4,700 from an estimate of £1,500 while a collection of photos gifted to Wilson by US president Lyndon B Johnson sold for £3,400.

Even Christmas cards from the royals were snapped up, with one from the Queen and Prince Philip tripling estimates to reach £170.

A water colour by the Prince of Wales gifted to Lady Wilson by Charles sold for £10,500 (Hansons/PA)

Jim Spencer, Hansons’ associate director, said: “It was a privilege to catalogue this collection. Seven van loads of material were waiting for me. It was like a 50,000-piece jigsaw.

“It was an unprecedented sale. Everything was kept over the years, every gift or signed book or presentation album of photographs.

“I don’t think a prime minister’s entire life has come up for auction like this before. But here it was, gifts from presidents, photographs, letters, Christmas cards, everything.”

He added: “I kept finding things. I had to check every scrap of paper. Wilson dominated my dreams. To see it all come to fruition in this phenomenally successful sale has been the highlight of my career.”

Mr Wilson, who was born in Huddersfield, served as prime minister from 1964 to 1970 and from 1974 to 1976. He died in 1995 aged 79.

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