I have to assume that when Mary Chubb sent her husband Cecil off to an estate sale in September of 1915 in hopes of finding some nice dining room chairs, she probably expected him to come home with another treasure or two.
I won’t name names, but I do personally know of at least one husband who has on occasion gone to the hardware store for a refrigerator water filter and come home with a new power tool just because it was on sale and it would be nice to have in case said husband ever gets around to building that fireplace mantel he promised his wife nearly ten years ago. Or, you know, in case one of the neighbors who also have garages full of tools should ever need to borrow it.
If you happen to know a husband like this, then I’m sure you know as well as Mary Chubb and I do, that special way to shrug and smile and gently remind him that he said he was going to build the fireplace mantel nearly ten years ago. You might also remind him that the wood for the project has been sitting in the garage for at least half that time and taking up so much space he’s probably going to have to keep that new power tool at a neighbor’s house.
Of course, in Mary’s case, her husband’s impulse purchase didn’t fit in their home even without the dining room chairs he neglected to buy. The sale he attended was for the large estate of Sir Edmund Antrobus, a distinguished citizen of Salisbury, England whose heir had been killed a year prior in the Great War, and who happened to be the owner of Stonehenge.
Sir Edmund followed his son in death four months later, both of their lives ended less than two years after disgruntled Druids allegedly placed a curse on the structure’s owner because he’d banned their annual solstice celebration.
When Sir Edmund’s brother placed the estate up for auction then it might not be all that surprising no one was in a terrible rush to buy the ancient monument, which had fallen into an alarming amount of disrepair. Auctioneer Howard Frank had a hard time even getting an opening bid of £5,000. He finally managed to land at £6,000. That translates to about a million US dollars today, which is pretty much a steal for anyone in the ancient monument market.
Chubb wasn’t in the market for an ancient monument, but he’d grown up in Salisbury, in close proximity to Stonehenge and just couldn’t pass up on the great deal. Two years after the possibly ill-advised purchase, Chubb donated the site to the British government, which began renovations and gave him a nice title to thank him for his generosity.
It’s unclear whether Mary Chubb ever got the dining room chairs she wanted. It’s also not entirely clear whether or not the wife of that one husband I know will ever get her fireplace mantel. She does, however, take comfort in the knowledge that not once in the last nearly ten years has her husband impulse bought a cursed ancient monument. So there’s that.