Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

When 29-year-old Irish aristocrat Lady Eleanor Butler first met 13-year-old orphaned Miss Sarah Ponsonby in Kilkenny, a relationship developed, the exact nature
of which has never been fully discovered. Were they lovers or just close, if unlikely, friends?

With the help of their maid, Mary Caryll, also known as Molly the Bruiser, the pair escaped from
a disapproving Ireland to the seclusion of Anglesey and the black and white timbered cottage Plas Newydd in Llangollen, which is now a museum owned by Denbighshire County Council.

They always dressed as men and their home became a magnet for late 18th and early 19th century writers and intellectuals such as William Wordsworth and Edmund Burke – indeed one of their closest friends was the Duke of Wellington.

More than 200 years later interest surrounding the pair is still high and should ensure the success of a pair of George III mahogany armchairs, pictured right, to be offered by Thomson Roddick and Medcalf at Oxenfoord Castle, Midlothian on May 9. Dating from 1770, the chairs once belonged to the controversial couple, and are being offered for sale on behalf of a late Dumfries collector.

Expected to bring £7000-10,000, the chairs are in great condition and of gothic design with pierced tracery top rails, carved foliate fin rails and cane backs.