Museum Security Network

Ramsbury Manor loot


Ramsbury Manor loot –
the hunt goes on 25 May 2010 Despite recent developments in the case against the notorious Johnson family, including the recovery of stolen antiques in Worcestershire, innumerable valuable works of art remain at large.

Contrary to reports in the national press, many of the 300-plus items stolen from Ramsbury Manor in February 2006 – including a superb collection of English clocks and silver – are still missing. Particulars of many of these items can be viewed by clicking through to this Ramsbury Manor link

There have been two significant breakthroughs in the recovery of treasures stolen from Ramsbury Manor, Wiltshire, the 17th century home of property tycoon and discerning collector Harry Hyams.

Some of the items, representing approximately one tenth of the value of the total theft, were found secreted in an underground bunker on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon some months after the raid. More recently, as part of a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act of 2003, 34-year-old Danny O’Loughlin, the ring leader of the Johnson gang, convicted for multiple raids on stately homes in the South of England in January 2008, had arranged for stolen items valued at £643,000 to be returned while he was behind bars.

In a bid to persuade the judge to be lenient on him, he assisted in the recovery of a total of 93 pieces, some from Ramsbury, which were recovered from the Cleeve Prior Travellers’ Site, where all five members of the gang lived.

During the hearing at Reading Crown Court last month, Judge Christopher Critchlow expressed his belief that the Johnson family still had knowledge of the whereabouts of more booty, although he conceded that other Ramsbury treasures, such as an early Tompion bracket clock c.1675 (for which the court was given a value of £240,000) and a silver-mounted ebony barometer by Daniel Delander (£650,000), were now lost to the black market. A total of 16 clocks and barometers are still missing, while none of the elements of a large and superb collection of English silver have surfaced. An oil by the Dutch artist Hendrick Avercamp and a quantity of English and Continental 18th century porcelain are also among the easily identifiable items that remain at large.

The raid took place in February 2006 when members of the Johnson family negotiated sophisticated security systems to break in through a ground-floor window.

For the purposes of the court, independent experts put the value of the items taken from Ramsbury at £23m, making it the most valuable domestic burglary ever committed in the UK. The gang said they made only £15,200 each from the raid after accepting just £76,000 for much of the cache from a ‘fence’. Some pieces represent relatively recent acquisitions, but others had been acquired as long ago as the 1960s when Mr Hyams, a self-made millionaire by his 20s, first began to buy outstanding antiques.

Roland Arkell

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