Museum pieces from the Yorkshire house lost in time... including the biggest-ever assortment of cheeseboards

Time had stood still '“ as had the old Leeds Station clock that kept it '“ in Chris Martins' old manor house in the Dales.

The £800,000 property known as Helperby Manor, in a village five miles west of Easingwold, was not small but neither, under his ownership, was it spacious.

“You walked in through the front door and there were post boxes tucked behind it. He had about 40 grandfather clocks in there,” said Steve Stockton, the auctioneer now tasked with cataloguing them all.

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Mr Martins, who died earlier this year at 71, was a retired public relations man whose collection of ephemera was his life’s work.

Aurora Elizabeth Durham at Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn with a Potts of Leeds station clock from Helperby Manor.  Picture: Tony Johnson.
Aurora Elizabeth Durham at Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn with a Potts of Leeds station clock from Helperby Manor. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“Every wall was covered in pictures, and every usable bit of space was filled with bits and pieces,” Mr Stockton said.

“It was absolutely crazy – just like a museum.”

Unlike a museum, however, Mr Martins’ collection was not curated.

A glass case of stuffed animals sat uncomfortably with a higgledy-piggledy row of Victorian toilets. In one room, a printing press sat for no obvious reason.

Auctioneer Steve Stockton with a late 18 century American National cash register from Helperby Manor

Off the kitchen was one of the largest assortment of cheese dishes ever seen in one place.

“There was a whole load of shop tills and weird kitchen gadgets – butter churns and devices for slicing and dicing – alongside advertisements and some quite good standard antiques and silver jewellery,” said Mr Stockton, whose firm, Tennants at Leyburn, will auction 400 of the items on January 5.

“He’d also had a house in France, and he’d collected quite a lot of good 19th and 20th century English and French landscapes and antiquarian maps.

“It’s not of massive value but it’s a really interesting collection.”

Among the art is a sketch, dated 1941, by the Yorkshire artist Joseph Appleyard of Leyburn cattle auction. Not a single one of the attendees is shown without a hat – a cap for the workers and something more formal for the buyers.

The old clock from Leeds Station bears the insignia of the local horology firm William Potts, whose timepieces were also installed on the city’s Corn Exchange and Town Hall.

Mr Martins, who lived in the manor house with his wife, was originally a hotelier and had become a tourism director in York and Bournemouth.

Described by colleagues as a marketing genius, he specialised in dreaming up ideas that would generate publicity – at one point conducting 40 interviews with radio stations on why it was a good idea to always take a dog to meetings.

He was also an amateur archeologist, gaining a postgraduate degree and volunteering his time to the Prince’s Trust.

“We had a long chat about what he was going to do with his items,” Mr Stockton said. “We agreed we would we could take the whole lot and deal with them.

“He was interested in absolutely everything – one of those very intelligent people who liked to have lots of projects going on and who threw himself into whatever caught his eye.

“He had a stamp and coin collection, and his archeological finds were also quite extensive – there was a cabinet full of medieval and Roman pieces.”

Few knew of Mr Martins’ astonishing collection, one of his friends said.

“The house was stashed full of stuff. When you went in, you were absolutely wowed, but he didn’t often speak of it – he was afraid of the security implications,” said Peter Rand, who also worked with Mr Martins.

“He was a real one-off, a workaholic but also a very private person. No-one knew why he had so many cheese dishes. But he was an absolute creative genius, and the fact that he was director of tourism in York at a very young age tells you something about the esteem he was held in.

“He was also passionate about passing his knowledge to young people, through the Prince’s Trust.”