Pen-and-ink, watercolour and gouache on card drawing of a coach design signed by artist J Gilfoy, part of the archive sold for £25,000 at Mellors & Kirk.

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A remarkable and extensive archive from the Derby firm has now been snapped up at auction by a charity which will store it at Derbyshire Record Office to share with the nation.

The huge archive of Holmes & Co (and later Sanderson & Holmes) contains royal warrants, ledgers, advertisements, medals, photos and correspondents and spans the early 19th century to the age of the motor car with clients including Daimler.

It was consigned by direct descendants of the firm (which operated until the early 1970s).

Auctioneers from Mellors & Kirk had visited the family’s Derbyshire cottage a few years ago when other family items were sold. But at that point they were not ready to sell the archive, which was stored in a blanket chest in a spare bedroom. Then earlier this year they decided to part with it.


Various drawings for coach designs, part of the archive sold for £25,000 at Mellors & Kirk.

It was offered in Mellors & Kirk’s Books, Documents & Manuscripts sale in Nottingham on February 6 with an estimate of £15,000-20,000.

Members of the antiquarian book trade had viewed the archive but, after bidding in the room, The Carriage Foundation was successful and it was hammered down at £25,000 (plus 28.8% buyer’s premium including VAT).

The foundation is an educational charity, advising museums and individuals on the care, conservation and the history of carriages. Run by seven trustees and 15 volunteers, it was alerted to the archive by Nigel Kirk, director at Mellors & Kirk, allowing time to secure a loan from an anonymous individual to bid for the collection. At the record office it will be accessible on request.

Kirk said: “This archive is a wonderful thing and in great condition. The value of this lot was that it is one extensive archive that needed to be kept together.

“Derby has a great reputation and heritage for car making and it is important the archive is able to stay in the county.”

Amy Bracey of The Carriage Foundation said: “This is the best and most extensive archive I have ever come across. We wanted to ensure it stayed in the country and in Derbyshire.”

Among the highlights are pen-and-ink, watercolour and gouache on card drawings of coach designs signed by artist J Gilfoy, a bound ledger detailing work commissioned by and executed for Queen Victoria from 1849-61, and photos of a landau The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) used during his tour of India in 1875-6 and the Maharajah of Kutch’s barouche.