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It was just one of the thousands of antiques that made up the Ken Paul collection, London’s biggest repository of props for hire. This Aladdin’s Cave, featuring anything from bronze sculpture to stuffed animals, was crammed into six floors in North London and was a
familiar port of call for anyone in the film world wanting to hire antique props for use in a film or TV programme. From the Bond films to the Carry On series, through to Harry Potter and Gladiator, a long list of well-known titles have used pieces from the Hampstead business to add authenticity to their sets.

It was Ken Paul’s daughter Christine’s decision to retire that brought the collection to Sotheby’s last month, where the 1686 lots netted £1.26m.

Ken Paul acquired the skeleton clock from a music hall escapologist, but, according to Christine Paul, the skeleton is rumoured to be the remains of the young Italian lover and secretary of the Countess of Rosslyn. She is said to have never recovered from his death and to have travelled everywhere with the remains in the coffin. Quite apart from its background associations, the clock’s cachet no doubt gained a boost from its many film and TV appearances – most memorably its appearance in the opening scenes of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, pictured right. It made the second highest price of the sale, selling for £30,000 to an Italian collector.