The violin played by Colne bandmaster Wallace Hartley on the fateful night the RMS Titanic sank has been sold for a record £900,000.
Auctioned by Henry Aldridge and Son, the leading experts in the sale of RMS Titanic memorabilia, the German instrument is believed to have been bought by a private collector. Its guide price was set at £200,000 to £300,000.
The poignant piece of history, which was sold alongside a leather case initialled W.H.H (Wallace Henry Hartley), bears a silver hallmark and was a gift to Mr Hartley from his fiancee Maria Robinson.
Since being discovered in 2006, it has been the source of much controversy – with some people doubting whether it could be a genuine article.
However, authentication was finally received after nearly seven years of investigation into the history and forensics of the instrument. Several experts were used and it was said that the wood did still contain salt deposits from the sea water.
Auctioneer and company principal of Henry Aldridge and Son, Alan Aldridge, said: “Bandleader Hartley was an incredibly brave man whose actions helped to calm passengers during Titanic’s last hours.
“The authentication process behind the collection has been a long and exhaustive one, with some of the world’s leading experts in their respective fields helping to assemble a conclusive package of independent reports to accompany the archive.”
And talking about the Wiltshire auction, Mr Aldridge added: “It went fantastically well. It was a fantastic experience, it really was, and the culmination of nearly seven years work.”
Mr Hartley was brought up in Colne and Nelson, singing in the choir and learning to play the violin at just 12-years-old. He was a leading light of the Colne Orchestral Society and his first job was with the Craven and Union Bank.
Before being auctioned, his violin, which is believed to have been strapped to his body when he drowned, was exhibited in the United States, the Titanic Belfast, and in Dewsbury, where he had been a resident.
Corporate secretary of the Titanic International Society Craig Sopin said: “To say I was sceptical at first would be an understatement.
“But after I conducted an exhaustively detailed investigation into the history and forensics of the instrument, I became convinced beyond doubt that this violin belonged to Wallace Hartley and that it was indeed with him on RMS Titanic.”