It’s a charming twist that could have come from the pen of P.G. Wodehouse. Upon the death of his indomitable, aged socialite aunt Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe (right), 80-year old TV personality and ertswhile host of ‘University Challenge’ Bamber Gascoigne ‘accidentally’ inherited the stately pile of West Horsley Place in Surrey. Once described by its aristocratic owners as a ‘cottage’, this oft-ignored country house dates back to the 11th century and is unusually contructed in red brick with a ‘rustic’ version of the Classical architectural features that became popular from the 16th century onwards. Previous owners include King Henry VIII, Viscount Montagu, the family of Sir Walter Raleigh and, most recently, the Crewe family, from which its last owner was descended. It’s even reputed that Raleigh’s severed head was kept there for a while by his distraught wife, before being interred in St Mary’s Church opposite. Local legend has it that there was (is?) a secret tunnel that led from West Horsley Place to the  church, to enable the encumbent Catholic family to worship secretly in …

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Monumental Blenko
BIG COLOR!

Blenko Big Color Glass

I’m a great fan of Blenko glass due to its stunning, vibrant colours and array of quirky forms. The pieces that attract me the most are the large floor decanters, with their voluptuous, sculptural curves and extravagently large stoppers. I’ve only been lucky enough to own one piece – the 22in (56cm) high Turquoise decanter shown here, which I spotted on holiday once and hauled back home – all the way from St Louis, Missouri! Alas, I sold it some years ago – all part of the perils of being a dealer and a collector I guess. I regret it as we don’t see much Blenko here as it was rarely exported from the US into the UK, and I’ve always wanted to learn more. So I was delighted when my friend Toma Clark Haines, the Antiques Diva, introduced me to Damon Crain, a researcher, dealer and collector of Blenko and other American art glass based in New York. Blenko was founded in 1921 in Milton, Virginia by British expat glassmaker William Blenko as The …

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