Personal items from the Indian Mutiny auction in the UK

Bonhams will sell a private family collection of items relating to the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58 during their Summer Athenaeum sale.

The auction will be held at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, UK, on Thursday July 15.

The Indian Mutiny of 1857-58 stands out among the many major historical events of the 19th century, and lasted thirteen months while the Indians rebelled against British authority in their country. 

The sheer brutality of the actions during and after the mutiny, and the shockwaves it sent through the then-mighty British Empire were immense. 

This interesting collection of items has come 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. 

They 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. Included in the collection offered for auction is a copy of the work he later published about his experiences.

From the collection of Lt Octavius Ludlow Smith and Lt Colonel Sir Vincent Eyre

Smith too kept a journal, which gives an equally fascinating insight into the period 'from the outbreak of the mutiny at Lucknow, May 30th 1857 to the recapture of Lucknow 1858.' 

His thoughtful and insightful comments give an in-depth view of these terrible and bloody events. 

The original diary is now housed in the British Library, but this collection includes his own inscribed copies of some of his contemporaries' first hand published accounts of the mutiny, all first editions dating from 1858.

Also included for sale are a rupee given by Rajah Duleep Singh as payment to his troops, a pouch bearing arms of Scinde Horse, photographs of Eyre and his wife and a collection of watercolours by Eyre made in the 1870s while he was travelling through France, Switzerland and Italy.

The items are grouped into six lots and together are expected to fetch £2,900 - 3,800.

"Bonhams are honoured to be selling this fascinating collection, which offers a deeply personal insight into a violent and cruel period of history," said Steve Stockton of Bonhams' Bury St Edmunds office.


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