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Antiques PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Wheel Barrow Presented to Gladstone in 1892 for Sale at Bonhams

A silver mounted wheel barrow and shovel presented to four-times Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone in 1892 to mark the start of work on the Wirral railway from Hawarden Bridge to Birkenhead, is coming up for auction at the annual Gentleman’s Library Sale at Bonhams, New Bond Street, on 19 January 2011. It is estimated at between £20,000 and £25,000.

The inscription reads on the barrow reads, “Presented by the Chairman and Directors of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Ry., Co, to The Right Hon W. E. Gladstone. On the occasion of his cutting of the first sod of the Wirral Railway from Hawarden Bridge to Birkenhead 21st Ocotober 1892”.

Although chiefly remembered as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister, Gladstone also had a particular association with the railways. In 1844, as president of the Board of Trade, he introduced a Railway Regulation Act in an attempt to make rail travel safer and more comfortable. This was in response to the growing numbers of working men and women who were using trains to get to work – mainly in dangerous and unpleasant third class carriages. The Act was largely ineffective as rail operators complied with the letter of the law by running one service per day with decent third class facilities, usually at an anti social time and stopping at every station – making the journey unattractively slow. These trains became known as ‘Parliamentary Trains’ – a term still used today to refer to services which run simply to comply with legal requirements governing the use of track and stations thus avoiding the expense and complexity of applying to Parliament to close them.

The Gentleman’s Library Sale is now in its 11th year. Unique to Bonhams, the sale features all kinds of objects that may have been found in a Victorian or Edwardian Gentleman’s Library from fossils to cigarette boxes, leather armchairs to globes, chess sets to family portraits.

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