Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 13:37 UK

10,000 for 'rubbish' chess set

The chess set
The chess set, from the late 18th Century or early 19th Century, was modelled to represent the French versus the Moors, Christie's said

A chess set thrown out as rubbish by one of north Wales' biggest landowners has sold for £10,625 at auction - about twice its expected value.

The French carved ivory figures which once belonged to Lord Mostyn were auctioned by Christie's in London.

They were rescued from a bonfire by butler James Baxter at Mostyn Hall in Flintshire in the 1800s, and were sent to auction by his great grandchildren.

Great grandson Christopher Baxter Jones said the family was "very pleased".

He decided to sell the heirloom with his brother Nicholas and sister Ann.

He said: "We have no idea who it went to but we're very pleased it's been recognised for what it is, which is a fine piece of carving."

Mr Baxter Jones watched the auction live on the internet from his Surrey home.

He said his great grandfather deserved "full credit" for rescuing the set, adding: "He didn't really rescue it for us. We have just been the custodians until it goes to another owner.

"We have thought to ourselves over the years, 'Why on earth did the guy want to put it in a cardboard box anyway?'"

According to Christie's, James Baxter served the third baron Lord Mostyn in the 1880s-1890s.

James Baxter and the household staff
James Baxter (third from right), pictured with other staff at Mostyn Hall, worked as a butler for the third Baron Mostyn

During his time at Mostyn Hall, Lord Mostyn gave his butler a cardboard box and asked him to dispose of the contents.

On closer examination he discovered amongst the debris that the box contained a chess set and being particularly taken with the game, asked his employer if he might keep it.

Lord Mostyn agreed and so began the succession of this distinctive game set to its current owner James Baxter's great grandson, Christopher Baxter Jones, who is selling the heirloom with his brother Nicholas and sister Ann.

Made in Dieppe in the late 18th to early 19th Century, the auction house said the "intricately carved" chess set was modelled to represent the French versus the Moors, showing "incredible attention to detail".

Chess sets from the era are "rarely" found complete, Christie's said.

The kings are depicted carrying sceptres, the bishops in wide brimmed hats, the knights as cavalry men, and the rooks as turrets.

Sets carved to depict the battles between the French and their colonial possessions became a popular theme among the Dieppe carvers during the late 18th Century and 19th Century as the ivory carving industry thrived.

A spokesman for Christie's said: "Chess sets from this period are rarely complete, and most surviving examples date from circa 1820, making it no wonder that this striking chess set caught the curious eye of James Baxter some 60 years later.

"A curious eye which allows us to indulge in today what might have been lost forever."

Through Mostyn Estates Ltd, the Mostyn family own large areas of Llandudno, Conwy, and their connection with the resort and its development dates back 500 years.



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