(This article appeared in The Peterborough Examiner, September 5, 1998)

Historic line comes to the end of the line

  LLANDYBIE, Wales (AP) - The Stepney-Gulstons have come to the end of the line.
  Their ancestral home Derwydd Mansion, inherited through the centuries by Vaughans, Stepneys and Gulstons, is open to offers and its contents are on the block.
  "We had no children, so it really is the end, and it's very, very sad," said Joy Stepney-Gulston, the last chatelaine, whose husband, Ralph, died in March at age 79.
  Derwydd Mansion is a 42-room stone house hidden in a fold of rising ground down high-banked narrow lanes in southwestern Wales.
  Derwydd means oaks in Welsh. Gardeners know well the Derwydd daffodil, with it's double petals that look green when it first blooms.
  House records start with the rise of the Welsh gentry under the Tudors in the mid-16th century and the Tudor rose appears everywhere in the mansion's rich plaster decoration.
  But romantic legend links the house to King John, who is supposed to have slept there on his way home from southern Ireland in 1210, five years before rebellious barons forced him tosign the Magna Carta.

  The house, gardens, farm, farmland and cottages - 97 hectares all told - are on the market at a starting price of $1.4 million Cdn.
  Its contents - furniture, paintings and knickknacks worth more than $1 million - will be auctioned Sept. 15 by Sotheby's in a tent on the lawn.

  Included in that sale will be an abony and ivory inlaid cabinet that belonged to Marie Antoinette and was given by one of her ladies- in-waiting to Eliza Gulston-Stepney after the queen was guillotined in 1793.

  Also up for grabs is a stone carving of a recumbent whippet

inscribed, "Serpent, A favourite dog of Lady Stepney's, Derwydd. Died 1750."
  It won't be missed, however, by Joy Stepney-Gulston who, clasping her tabby cat named Busy Bang Bang, confided: "I never liked Serpent. I think he looks evil."

  The last to go, in a December auction of glass in London, will be a pair of 15th-centruy Venetian goblets, valued at up to $140,000.
  "How they got here is unknown but they may have been a souvenir of the grand tour," mused John Owen, the family lawyer, referring to that essential jaunt to continental Europetaken by young aristocrats in the 18th century to polish their education.

  Joy Stepney-Gulston, nearing the age of 73, has been "sorting out" since April, amassing bags stuffed with such items as towels, blankets, clothes and Wellington boots to be donated to the Salvation Army.

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