Collectors remember the 19th century Indian Mutiny at Bonhams

The Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, which lasted 13 months while the Indians rebelled against British authority in their country, will always be remembered as one of the major events of the 19th century.

The sheer brutality of the actions during and after the mutiny, and the shockwaves it sent through the then-mighty British Empire, were immense. And, earlier this week (July 15), collectors had a chance to get involved in preserving its legacy.

The 19th century Indian Mutiny medal

Last Thursday, Bonhams auctioned a private family collection of items relating to the Indian Mutiny during its Summer Athenaeum sale. The auction took place in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, UK.

According to Bonhams, the collection of items came by descent from two men who witnessed these tragic days unfolding: Lt (later Lt General) Octavius Ludlow Smith of the 48th Bengal Regiment of Native Infantry, and his father-in-law Lt Colonel (later Major General) Sir Vincent Eyre.

Prior to these events Eyre had been involved in Afghanistan where, in 1842, he was captured along with his family by Afghan rebels. 

The pair spent nearly nine months in captivity, during which he kept a detailed diary and made portraits of officers and ladies he encountered, before being rescued in 1843. 

Among the items for sale was an Indian Mutiny medal with two bars named to Octavius Ludlow Smith, the Lieutenant of 48th Regiment of the Native Infantry. It sold together with another medal awarded to Smith and a Rupee given by Rajah Duleep Singh as payment to his troops.

The historic collection of Lt Octavius Ludlow Smith and Lt Colonel Sir Vincent Eyre

Also offered in the collection was a belt and belt pouch hallmarked for London 1891, by Edward Thurkle - the belt is in silver and gold thread with stylised mounts, and the pouch bears the arms of Scinde Horse - and also Eyre's fascinating and insightful diaries from his times in captivity.

In the end, a lucky collector picked up the collection for a bargain £2,520, inclusive of Buyer's Premium. This value is sure to appreciate in coming years as future generations of collectors and historians look back on India's First War of Independence.


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