Wiltshire auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son, latest auction of Titanic and Liner Memorabilia included a lot billed as ‘the Nantucket Titanic Deckchair, one of only a handful of fully provenanced and documented examples in existence’.
It sold for a hammer price of £85,000, giving the Devizes saleroom, who have built a name for themselves in selling Titanic relics, another headline-grabber. A number of phone bidders from all over the world battled against each other on April 18, and when a British collector succeeded at a premium-inclusive £100000 the deckchair became the fourth most expensive piece of Titanic memorabilia ever sold.
According to the auction house, it was owned originally by Julien Lemarteleur, a French cable ship captain working in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the time of the disaster. He told his friend, Capt N Robin Lee, to whom he later gave the chair, that it had come from the deck of Titanic.
Capt Lemarteleur had been in command of the cable ship Contre Amiral Caubet, one of at least two cable repair vessels of the French company Compagnie Francaise Des Cables Telegraphiques (CFCT), operating in Halifax.
Company documents showed that as late as April 3, 1912, merely 11 days before the Titanic struck the iceberg, Capt Lemarteleur was on board the CS Mackay-Bennett completing some of the Amiral Caubet’s cable repair work for a break on the cable from Brest, France, to St Pierre, Newfoundland.
This Titanic deckchair was probably given to Lemarteleur by a crew member of the Mackay-Bennett, involved in the recovery of bodies from the sinking, along with a piece of cork from a Titanic lifejacket.
The crew of the Minia, another of the body recovery ships, similarly gave a Titanic deckchair they rescued to Rev Henry Cunningham in appreciation for his work on board their vessel. The in-depth provenance documentation confirmed the chain of custody of the deckchair from Capt Lemarteleur in 1912 to the present day.
Due to its fragile condition this chair was professionally but sympathetically conserved several years ago.
Henry Aldridge & Son set the auction record for Titanic memorabilia when they sold the violin played by Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley as the ship slid beneath the waves on the morning of April 15, 1912, for £900,000 in October 2013.
Hartley is credited with the decision to lead his eight-strong band into the hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee in an attempt to calm passengers as they boarded lifeboats. All eight men perished in the disaster, and Hartley’s remains were recovered on April 25, 1912, by the crew of the MacKay-Bennett. The violin was sold alongside a leather luggage case initialled W. H. H. (Wallace Henry Hartley), in which Wallace placed the instrument before going into the freezing north Atlantic.
Henry Aldridge set the previous Titanic item auction record in May 2011 when a very large, hand-drawn plan of the ship, used in the official inquiry after it sank, sold for £220,000.
The saleroom’s involvement with Titanic sales began in 1996 when they decided to sell a set of lunch menus brought in to them rather than passing it on to others who were specialising at the time. Those menus made £10,500, comfortably above the £8000 or so which was the world auction record for Titanic items at the time, and regular sales followed, building up a large following.