Historic Liberal Party split letters sold for £600

The letters were written at a time when Government Minister Joseph Chamberlain was part of a breakaway faction. Picture: Comp
The letters were written at a time when Government Minister Joseph Chamberlain was part of a breakaway faction. Picture: Comp
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A “UNIQUE” collection of letters from one of the most turbulent periods in British politics, found by chance in an old filing cabinet, have sold at auction for £600.

The collection of 44 letters, covering a period from 1882 to 1886, were written by leading radical Liberal politicians during the turmoil over Irish Home Rule which led to a devastating split in the Liberal Party and the creation of the breakaway Liberal Unionist Party.

The rebel movement was formed in 1886 by a breakaway faction led by the Duke of Devonshire and Government Minister Joseph Chamberlain, the father of wartime Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The Liberal rebels formed a political alliance with the Conservatives in opposition to Irish Home Rule.

Discovery

The historic letters were found by chance by a 73 year-old Aberdeenshire pensioner after he bought an old filing cabinet for £10 at a previous auction sale. They went under the hammer today at the ANM Group’s auction centre in Elgin.

Gordon Pirie, the manager of the Elgin Auction Centre, said: “We had a great deal of interest from all over the UK and abroad for these letters and I think that was fairly reflected in the price paid.”

The 73 year-old pensioner who originally uncovered the letters, said after the sale: “I am absolutely delighted by the price they fetched but more importantly I think it is lovely that they have been bought by someone who has a direct connection to them.”

However, the identity of the successful purchaser was not made public.

An ANM spokesman said: “The letters were bought by a telephone bidder from the South west of England during the sale.”