What’s It Worth? From Then To Now: A Twisty, Fascinating Path

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If you have fine art of any kind or any size for sale, we would love to purchase it or put it up on one of our upcoming auctions. While most of our day is spent selling luxury watches and diamonds in our jewelry store, Old Northeast Jewelers, we equally enjoy our fine- and decorative-arts business.

And one of the most oft-asked questions is, “What was the most memorable item you ever bought?”

We rarely talk about this as there are several – but the most memorable would have to be the amazing story of Lady Lee of Fareham and her sister Faith, and the contents of the 500-year-old Chequers estate that somehow ended up in a crowded condominium in Hernando County.

As a young woman, Ruth Moore was raised in New York and summered at her father’s Maine estate, Far From the Wolf. There, Ruth met dignitaries, writers and power brokers. Her father, J. Godfrey Moore, was a railroad baron and industrialist who made millions and knew everyone.

Mr. Moore passed away at 51, and his daughters inherited his fortune. What was a young woman with a huge fortune to do? In the early 1900s, it was not unusual for a wealthy young woman to find herself a husband, a title and a castle. And Ruth Lee did just that. Ruth married a young Englishman who had visited her in her youth at Far From The Wolf – Arthur Lee – and bought Chequers, the former home of royalty of the Oliver Cromwell family. Ruth and Faith pooled their money to pull this off, and Ruth became known as Lady Lee of Fareham.

She also became the owner of the historical silver, clocks, and decorative arts that were housed at Chequers. In addition, she sat for portraits by famed society painter Philip Alexius de László (as did Faith; see picture).

A few years later, Ruth got into a bit of tax trouble and gave up Chequers to the British government, where it is used to this day as the summer home for the prime minister.

As is the British custom, upon departing, Lady Lee was allowed to take a large amount of personal property. She chose iconic artwork, antique tapestries, grandfather clocks, many paintings and a hoard of silver items – some with Cromwell’s coat of arms.

Childless and leaving no heirs, she passed away in 1966 as Viscountess Lee of Fareham. Her nephew inherited everything and donated the collection to Hernando Hospice. This painting is valued at $20,000-$30,000.

Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com.

St. Petersburg 1131 4th St. N, St. Petersburg FL 33701.

Ph: 727.896.0622


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