The lock sold at Dominic Winter’s auction of Printed Books, Maps & Autographs on May 28 for £320 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).
Offered in a gilt locket in a later wooden case, it includes a title label tipped onto a velvet ground beneath the locket. It was offered with a typescript of John Hampden’s England (1933) by John Drinkwater.
Dealer Peter Osborne of London firm Osborne Samuel acquired it on behalf of the society, of which he is a member, and presented it shortly after (in a socially distanced handover).
Hampden (1595-1643), an important if sometimes overlooked figure in the English Civil War, was among the five members of parliament whom Charles I attempted to arrest in 1642, helping to set the conflict in motion. Hampden was killed shortly after war broke out, either by a bullet wound to the shoulder or through the explosion of his own pistol. He remained a popular figure, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries as a symbol of patriotic rebellion. The John Hampden Society was formed in 1992.
It is the second lock of hair the society has acquired, the first of which is on loan to the Thame Museum in Oxfordshire. Both are believed to have been taken from a body exhumed by Lord Nugent in 1828 in an effort to determine the cause of death.
However, even at the time there were doubts over whether the correct body had been removed from the church (some believe it could have been taken from his father), and the true identity of the hair in circulation remains a subject of some speculation.
Roy Bailey, chairman of the society, told ATG that “we’re always pleased to get a hold of anything to do with Hampden”, though he said that many members believe the lock is likely to be from his father.
He added: “We’re hoping that this one will go to another museum to promote Hampden and the society.”