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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Mansion shows off treasures
lever's music room
Some of the treasures on offer in the 5m sale
A mansion packed with fine art and treasures has opened its doors to the public.

Collectors from across the world are expected to examine the huge array of valuables held inside the Merseyside home of soap magnate William Lever.

The collection is estimated to be worth about 5m and comes under the hammer on 26 June.

Items range from a 40 wooden set rule to a George III mahogany commode expected to raise 300,000.

flaming june
A study for Flaming June is part of the sale
Lever, who became the first Viscount Leverhulme, filled several homes with paintings, furniture and objets d'art -after amassing a fortune from the manufacture of Sunlight Soap.

The collections were later merged in Thornton Manor, the family home in the village of Thornton Hough, Wirral.

Leverhulme died in 1925 and was succeeded by a son and a grandson, Philip Lever, who left three daughters when he died last July.

His death prompted the sale of Thornton Manor and all of its contents.

'Magnificent collection'

James Miller, deputy chairman of Sotheby's, said: "This is the largest house contents sale in this area in living memory.

"It is a magnificent collection with every room full of exquisite items in extremely good condition. The house does not have that sad, end-of-an-era feel to it that you get at some sales.

"We have had interest from all over the world and we expect to sell every item.

dining room
Some of the items up for auction
"Many people will come for a look around but will undoubtedly see something that catches their eye.

"The beauty of looking around this house is that you can actually buy the things you like, as many of the items are valued at a couple of hundred pounds."

Among the most valuable items is a pair of George III gilt satinwood tables which could fetch 120,000 and a set of 12 walnut chairs - complete with rare, boot-shaped, feet - are estimated at between 200,000 and 300,000.

The 25ft-long Anglo-Indian rosewood dining table, which was crafted for Emperor Napoleon III and where the first Lord Leverhulme took every evening meal in full evening dress, is valued at 80,000.

Sotheby's say the auction has attracted international attention as well as several British celebrities, who enjoyed a private viewing after landing at the purpose-built helipad.

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See also:

16 Nov 99 | The Company File
LVMH buys UK auction house
16 Jun 99 | The Company File
Amazon.com teams up with Sotheby's
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