He may look a rather severe figure but Alexander Nowell, Dean of St Paul’s for 42 years throughout Elizabeth I’s reign, had a lighter side to his nature, as the man credited with inventing bottled beer.
A cryptic letter that comes with the portrait has led to the discovery of links to Rupert Murdoch and a very public family scandal whose resolution involved the portrait being granted as a gift.
The story has unfolded as Dean Nowell’s descendants consigned this portrait of the long-lived scholar and cleric, born around 1517, who died in 1602, for sale to Ewbank’s Auctions of Surrey, who will offer it as a highlight of their three-day 30th Anniversary sale from March 18-20.
The story goes that Nowell left a bottle of beer, decanted from a barrel, on the river bank during a fishing trip, forgetting about it. He rediscovered it by chance a few days later and found it was still “perfectly drinkable”. When he opened the still-full bottle, “he found no bottle, but a gun, such was the sound at the opening thereof; and this is believed the original of bottled ale in England”.
Live online bidding is available via Ewbank’s website at: ewbankauctions.co.uk.