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Public Picks Up Pieces From Marquess Who Blew Fortune on Drugs

June 13, 1996

BURY ST. EDMUNDS, England (AP) _ Clusters of people strolled across the sunlit lawns of Ickworth house carrying cups of tea. Dozens more lounged in the shade of huge white tents. If they liked what they saw at the vast estate, all they had to do was bid for it.

The 7th Marquess of Bristol, who blew part of his fortune on cocaine and heroin, was selling everything _ from the family furniture to the fax machine _ and moving out.

``It’s sad, really, to be given all this and then lose it,″ said Leslie Gooding.

Mrs. Gooding, 46, and her husband, Keith, came to the final day of the two-day sale on Wednesday. They said they wanted ``to see how the other other half lives.″ They found it pretty expensive.

``A lot is out of my price range,″ said Keith Gooding, 49. ``But you never know.″

The 7th Marquess, 41-year-old Frederick William John Augustus Hervey, lived in a 60-room wing of the 18th-century country house noted for cocaine parties in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

He squandered a $10 million fortune and spent 10 months in jail for drug possession. His family turned over the house to The National Trust 40 years ago in an arrangement that allowed him to remain at the estate.

Divorced and childless, the marquess says he’s beating the drug habit and moving to the Bahamas.

``I’m going to feel a tremendous burden off my shoulders when I shed this responsibility,″ he said recently.

Among the items on sale were seven albums of family photographs _ they went for $3,500 _ and the royal Letters Patent granting his ancestors the titles of Baron, Earl and, in 1826, Marquess.

Everything had to go: the Rolls Royce, the family portraits, the refrigerator, and the custom-built Wurlitzer CD juke box.

Sotheby’s, which ran the auction, said total sales were worth more than $3.5 million.

At 4,000 pounds _ $6,120 _ the juke box looked like a bargain. An anonymous buyer paid $322,000 for a 17th-century painting from the studio of the Flemish painter Van Dyck.

Andrew Lifely, a 40-year-old dairy farmer who bought two other paintings, looked pleased as he sipped a beer in the refreshment tent.

``I’m very lucky today,″ Lifely said. ``I’ve got the one I want ... the most graceful, elegant picture at a price I could afford.″

That was a 17th-century picture of Nell Gwyn, mistress of Charles II. Lifely paid $19,350 for it, and also picked up a small copy of a Raphael for $3,700.

For some, the attraction was the seller, not the objects. That might explain why an electronic shoe-shine machine sold for $240, more than five times as much as expected.

``It’s the fact that these things belong to a house that’s notable and a family that’s been at the forefront of the aristocracy for centuries,″ said Samantha Georgeson of Sotheby’s.

During the auction, people sipped cocktails in the walled garden or perched on the steps of the marquess’ conservatory.

``There’s something for everyone here,″ said Anne Brown, who had a picnic while waiting for the garden furniture to go on the block. ``We’re not posh people. We’re sort of middle class.″

She paused as she contemplated the attraction of buying from a blueblood.

``There’s no snobbishness here,″ said Mrs. Brown. ``And it’s also a lovely day out.″