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Gifts from king to Gertrude go under hammer.

Byline: Tony Henderson Heritage Editor

GIFTS presented by a king to one of the North East's most remarkable women are to be sold at auction.

Gertrude Bell was instrumental in establishing King Faisal as the first monarch of Iraq. Recently, Newcastle University's archive of almost 10,000 items, spanning photographs letters, diaries and other papers relating to explorer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell, dating from 1871 to 1926, was recognised by UNESCO as being of world importance. Gertrude, born at Washington New Hall in County Durham, was the first woman to achieve a first class degree in Modern History from Oxford University, travelled the world twice over, had a peak in the Swiss Alps called Gertrudspitze in honour of her mountaineering exploits, and was a pioneering archaeologist who journeyed across the Middle East many times.

She was one of the few Britons to have travelled extensively in the Ottoman Empire before the First World War and when hostilities broke out between Britain and Turkey she worked at a high level with British military intelligence in Mesopotamia.

When in 1921 Winston Churchill held a conference in Cairo to discuss the Middle East, Gertrude was the only woman present, when she was pictured with Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia.

Gertrude Bell and, right, one of the Persian carpets from Rounton Grange She helped to oversee the transition to the modern state of Iraq, and founded the national museum in Baghdad. She has been the subject of two recent films, Letters from Baghdad and Queen of the Desert.

Four carpets were presented to Gertrude by King Faisal, two of which are to be offered for sale on March 17 by auctioneers Tennants at Leyburn in North Yorkshire.

It is thought that they decorated the courtyard when Faisal was crowned and each is valued at PS500-PS800.

The carpets are among items in the sale from Gertrude's later family home of Rounton Grange, near Northallerton.

Her father was the North East industrialist Isaac Lowthian Bell, whose growing wealth saw him leave Washington and buy the East Rounton estate in 1866.

He commissioned leading Arts and Crafts movement architect Philip Webb, who he had used to make alterations to Washington New Hall, to build his new home at Rounton.

Arts and Crafts leader William Morris played a leading role in designs for the interior of Rounton. Isaac Bell's father had set up a factory and foundry in Jarrow, and Isaac went on to build up a vast iron and steel empire. The auction will include Rountons item such as an 1880 silk woven carpet (PS300-PS500); an Iranian Kurdistan rug PS120-PS180; an 1875 Persian rug (PS300-PS500); an 1870 Iranian rug (PS100-PS200) and a pair of 1870 Persian rugs at PS700-PS1,000.

Also for sale from Rounton is a pair of woven woollen door curtains designed by William Morris and other curtains made by his company. They are rated at PS1,000-PS2,000.

The house suffered significant damage after being requisitioned during the Second World War, when it was used as a home for evacuees and then a hostel for Italian PoWs. It was demolished in 1953 although items remained in family hands. Two stained glass windows in the local church celebrate Gertrude Bell.

They include a figure of a monk above a view of Oxford University, an Alpine scene depicting the Swiss Matterhorn, which Gertrude climbed in 1904, a female figure in Arabic dress placed above a view of Iraq, a camel train, and inscription, including Persian text.


Gertrude Bell and, right, one of the Persian carpets from Rounton Grange
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Mar 12, 2018
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