top of page

Comments on the site Build and A Recent Letter Regarding Provenance


Comments on Site Build:

This site was designed primarily as a Photo Record of the items believed to predominantly have belonged to George Mortimer Kelson and Selina 'Violet' Fane - no doubt over time, kept for years by the Fane family, the items have got mixed up. There are almost exclusively two common handwritings that have been identified throughout to support this view - this is also the case with the 'VSF' Kit shown on this site that was sold at Mullocks, it also has items belonging to both characters.


In addition, the Cheffins buyer removed most of the items you see here prior to the attempted Mullocks sale - the tragically denuded images can be seen on this site. As these items were subsequently purchased from the buyer over time, or returned from other early buyers they have been stored in the 3 boxes in a convenient order. There is no way of knowing where they originally sat.


Originally this site contained individual provenance ratings from 1-5 for every item, as provenance is not an exact science, but after consultation with a number of respected members of the Classic Tying Community, it was decided to omit these. In practice - when ranking, items identified by Kelson or Fane's Handwriting  - were coming out as 5's and most others, based on photo matching from photos taken by the Cheffin's buyer close to the time of the purchase were coming out as 4's. There were almost no items lower   ( Some of these early photos have been shown so you can see the type of connections that can be made). The only exceptions were the Pitta Skin, the Whole Black Cockatoo, and a few tinsel that all came from the Fitzwygram connection. In the case of those items, the relevance of the artefacts was established through a perfect handwriting match with a packet of hooks (which can be seen on the site.) The other lower ranking was in the case of some purple dyed turkey which looks like a possible addition - although there is a good colour match, there was no other supporting evidence


Therefore these were ranked lower - as were very few items that had no handwriting and no photo record, even though some of them came in packets with Paris or French writing on ( often Hotel des Etats-Unis), presumably from Kelson's well-documented trips to the Jacquet Feather Market and dye works in Paris. In addition, many packets contained multiple layers of such provenance.


What of course cannot be proven, either way, is whether additional numbers of items have been inserted in these packets. It seems highly unlikely for several reasons. Firstly there is little motive to do so as the contents predominantly are not 'high value' items ( Most of which were disposed of ), and secondly there is a remarkable consistency among the contents that would be difficult to replicate with modern materials - in many cases even the quality on display is simply not available anymore.


Finally, several people with first-hand insight have verified that they saw these items at the time of the Cheffin's sale.


I don't want the site to become a battleground for provenance - that is not the intention, nor the significance of this site and so it was decided to remove the rankings. 


I would encourage all to explore, enjoy and indeed marvel at one of the finest and most significant collections of Vintage Fly Tying Materials in existence with an undisputed connection to both George Mortimer Kelson and Selina 'Violet' Fane - beyond that it's up to the viewer to decide.


Comments on the Future:


The future of these items will be secured in 2018 through the formation of a board of trustees who will periodically be re-elected to ensure that not only will the items be preserved better than ever before, but also be available where possible for public view. They will never be sold again for profit and will remain in the United Kindom.


It is to be hoped that items in the possession of others, some on display from  'private' collections on the internet -will ultimately find their way back to the trustees for the benefit of all.






A previous Letter from Stuart Hardy to the Community


"Recently it has come to my attention that certain vintage ‘collections’ belonging to people have had their authenticity questioned. As it is likely that what has become known as “The Kelson Collection” falls into this category, and as I am privileged to have the items associated with that, in my possession – it only seems right that I comment!
For me this is not as simple as establishing ‘proof’ of what belonged to who, unfortunately for all concerned it is not as simple as that. I would like to use the Kelson items as an example.
The majority of the items I have that relate to Kelson came to light at an auction at Cheffin’s auction house a few years ago. Cheffin’s themselves were unsure as to their provenance-other than that they came from the Fane family and at one time belonged to Selina Violet Fane nee Fitzwygram, a fishing partner of Kelson. There is much speculation that Violet, as Kelson preferred to call her, was more than a fishing partner, but no ‘proof’. However at that sale, some of the fly-tying related items were purchased for a remarkably small sum by different buyers in both the UK and Ireland. Immediately after purchase, the new owners discovered that in some cases, confirming suspicions pre-sale, items indeed appeared to belong to George Kelson as well as Selina Fane. This assumption was made based on the fact that various items a) appeared to match fly-tying boxes described by Kelson in the Salmon Fly, and b) amidst the paraphernalia were a considerable number of items identified by Kelson’s hand. (Kelson’s handwriting has been established based on evidence in letters, and interrelated connections with text in books, fly patterns and other signatures). 
The new owners therefore ‘assumed’ that all the items they had purchased belonged to either Selina Fane or Kelson, despite the fact that the ‘collection’ contains a number of unmarked packets, and containers/packets with handwriting and addresses of other people. At this stage there is no ‘proof’ that this was the case, despite the fact that in many instances there is circumstantial evidence that addresses connected with places Kelson was known to frequent, or associated directly or indirectly with people or manufacturers he knew. Ongoing research and open discussion continues to reveal consistent systemic relationships between the contents, and references contained therein.
Shortly after this purchase I was fortunate enough to see the items that remained in the UK, and took many photographs, as well as sourcing Cheffin’s archive, as I - like many others was fascinated by the find. At the time I agreed with the consensus of most of the informed people who saw the items -this was a collection preserved and handed down by the Fane family that contained the legacy materials of both Kelson and Fane.
Unfortunately under pressure from a demand for materials - and their obvious financial worth - the then owner started to break up and sell the items to willing buyers. Where finances allowed I endeavored to purchase as many of the items as I could. These items were sold as being part of the collection, and while many of the items have Kelson’s and what appears to be a second person’s ( Presumably Fane’s) handwriting on the packets and boxes – there is no hard ‘proof’ that the items contained therein indeed belonged to Kelson. The Fane family could have added items with the prospect of financial gain, the auction house might have been unscrupulous, and the new owner could have supplemented items…no one has any ‘proof’ in the legal sense. In fact a certain Gentleman went to great lengths to block a sale of the items at Mullocks in recent years on the grounds that there was no ‘legal proof’ that these items belonged to Kelson. It is however, highly likely that accepting bizarre behavior and motivation these items either belonged to Kelson, Fane or were associated with them.
So what are the facts that we know about the ‘collection’, what can we prove, and what can we assume? The custom boxes in my possession clearly fit the description in Kelson’s The Salmon Fly, that is to say there is a Large Leather covered tying box fitting the exact description, purchased from the UK owner, and a smaller oak box covered in green leather from the Irish owner also described.. and these were definitely in the possession of the Fane family. In addition few know that the Cheffin’s sale was not the only source of items, with packets coming to light from another Fane/Fitswygram source, with perfect handwriting match. There are also a considerable number of packets/boxes from the period -silks, and hooks, marked by Kelson’s script and with references consistent with Kelson’s known associates, manufacturers, Fly Patterns and other related insights. There are also packets containing materials known to be favored by Kelson, including in some cases multiples of the same identical packets and contents, some marked and some not – Tiger Bittern being an example. This clearly demonstrates that despite his attention to detail he did not mark all his packets. It is not possible to prove if all these packets or contents are authentic or not, to the trained eye, they are clearly from the period, and show great consistency, and quality of contents – plus in many cases they match an inventory written by Kelson or Fane that was in the box. Items could have been added at any time by any of the owners intentionally or my case all the items I purchased from the UK Cheffins buyer have accompanying photographs and statements to indicate their provenance at the time of purchase. Unfortunately to the eyes of some people this is still not ‘proof’ – the aforementioned Gentleman who orchestrated the Mullocks blocked sale, demanded evidence that was bordering on the forensic, and unfortunately to my knowledge we don’t have Kelson’s DNA on hand although it might be possible to extract some from some of the tools included.
So, what is the ‘correct way’ to describe this collection? There is no 100% ‘proof’ of provenance of all the items…although there is an extreme amount of evidence, including handwriting validated by two handwriting experts, and associated expert opinion, general knowledge and literary references inside and outside the collection itself.
What has become known as the Kelson collection is undoubtedly a unique collection of period items that in all likelihood belonged to either Kelson or Fane, with the weight of evidence supporting the fact that most of it was Kelson’s. It is impossible to prove it has not been added to over the last 100 years or so, but it remains a one-off collection of singular importance providing a window into the life of Kelson, Fane and fisherman of the day. There are many people who would like to claim otherwise for reasons both pseudo-logical and emotional, but the wealth of validated information is there for all to see,despite many of the doubters not being in possession of the full facts surrounding its history.
I hope this has been of interest"

Stuart Hardy
bottom of page