Churchill's cigar and Brunel's cigar case go under the hammer at Bonhams

Bonhams' famous Gentleman's library sale concluded this week with a typically eccentric blend of valuable collectibles with silver, science, sculpture and the downright strange amongst the lots on offer.

Memorabilia and cigar collectors were two of the groups who had most to gain from the sale.

Firstly, one of Winston Churchill's cigars smoked during the sitting for his "Freedom" portrait by Frank O Salisbury at The Guildhall on Nov 24th 1944 went under the hammer.

Around 4" of the partially smoked cigar remains and was retained by the artist and handed down to his grandson, who finally offered it in the sale.

Before sitting down for his portrait Winston said to Salisbury "I can only give you ten minutes." Then he proceeded to light this cigar. He actually sat for 20 minutes. Bidders offered £1,320 for the piece.

This is likely to make a good investment as interest in Churchill memorabilia is constant, and other cigars of his have sold for more in recent times.

But where should you keep a cigar smoked by Winston Churchill? In Isambard Kingdom Brunel's cigar case, of course!* Luckily, that item was available in the sale.

Quite possibly one of the greatest engineers of the Victorian period, Isambard Brunel was born on 9 April 1806, a distinguished engineer in his own right.

Brunel cigar case
Brunel cigar case

His independent engineering career began in earnest when he submitted plans to a competition for a new bridge over the River Avon in Paul Fraser Collectibles home city of Bristol and was awarded the contract. Readers can take our word for it that it is very impressive.

For the next 20 years or so, Brunel was involved in a wide range of significant and innovative projects; The Great Western Railway, the completion of his Father's Thames Tunnel, the steamships Great Western and Great Britain, and the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.

A heavy smoker, Brunel was often depicted smoking a characteristic cheroot. His case is made of black leather over a card carcass, with two removable end caps revealing compartments for 24 cigars each.

The centre portion fitted with a small document wallet for stamps and business cards. Stamped on the front is I.K.B. Athenaeum Club Pall Mall, and the case comes with one cheroot still in place.

In the Victorian period, it was not uncommon for Members of the Athenaeum Club to have their own cigar cases, and to use the Club's address. Impressed bidders chased the case up to £26,400 ($42,000).


*There are actually better ways of preserving Churchillian cigars than in Brunel's cigar case.


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