‘The most significant estate auction we’ve done’: Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s goods go under the hammer

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A 1982 Jaguar saloon and a famous scone recipe engraved on a ceramic spoon are among the items up for sale from the estate of Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen.

More than 800 items that belonged to the former Queensland premier and his wife will go under the hammer on Tuesday.

Lee Hamer from auction house Lloyds said the sale was a rare opportunity.

“It was a chance meeting and the Bjelke-Petersen family had been thinking about what they’re going to do with the estate,” he said.

“Certainly for Queensland, this is probably the most significant estate auction that we’ve done.”

Mid shot of a white 1982 Jaguar Saloon with a Joh Bjelke-Petersen flyer in the window
Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s 1982 Jaguar Saloon is part of the estate auction.(Supplied: Lloyds)

Mr Hamer said what was an emotional process for the family had revealed some treasures of Australian history.

“We picked up a silver plate the other day with engraving on it … we looked closely at it and it was ‘To Joh and Flo from Elizabeth R and Philip’ being the Queen and Prince Philip,” he said.

“It wasn’t ‘Her Royal Majesty’ or anything like that, it was Elizabeth R, and I thought that that was quite nice.

Items that feature in the auction include historical and nautical items, silverware, homewares, glassware, clothing, crockery, art, maps, music, and books.

“Some of the items will go for tens of thousands of dollars, but there’s still items online now that are $1, $2 and $5 … there’s something for everyone,” Mr Hamer said.

He said an original William Dargie oil on linen portrait of Sir Joh was likely to attract intense bidding, but also items associated with Lady Florence’s baking were of interest.

Wide interest in historic items

Mr Hamer said there had been wide interest in the estate which contained about 800 items.

“A lot of interest from people that are unusually not from Queensland,” he said.

“We thought that 80 or 90 per cent of the bidders would be from Queensland and there certainly has been a lot but the vast majority have come from interstate.

Journalist and curator of Australian Kitsch Twitter account, Andrew Scholl, said the collection also featured items from the family history.

“The Bjelke-Petersen family had a storied history, it’s not just Joh and Flo,” he said.

“Joh’s aunt Marie was a famous novelist and painter, there’s one of her paintings and one of her books signed.

Chance for public to own Queensland past

Mr Bjelke-Petersen was premier from 1968 to 1987 and died in 2005, while Mrs Bjelke-Petersen was a Queensland Senator from 1981 to 1993 and died in 2017.

Black and white picture of Joh and Flo.
Sir Joh and Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen on their wedding day in 1952. The couple are significant figures in Queensland’s history.(Supplied: State Library of Queensland)

A spokesman for the family said it was a chance for Queenslanders to own a piece of history.

“We have come to the end of the era of Joh and Flo’s partnership in which they achieved so much for both Queensland and Australia during their political careers,” he said.

“Therefore as a family we have decided to allow the sale of Dad and Mum’s collection which has been in their home at Bethany for many years.

The auction is open online for bidding until August 11, which is Lady Florence’s birthday and also the Queensland Country Women’s Association’s official Scone Day.

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