Rare letters written by British Antarctic explorers in 1901 discovered in Cornish home

ITV News' Kathy Wardle got to see the letters before they go under the hammer.

A rare collection of letters from the British Antarctic expedition of 1901 are being put up for auction in Cornwall.

The letters were written by members of Scott and Shackleton's crew during the Discovery expedition, considered a landmark in British exploration.

The collection was discovered 120 years after they were penned in an Edwardian family house in Lamorna, West Cornwall.

Auctioneer Mimi Connell-Lay with the letter collection Credit: ITV News

Mimi Connell-Lay of Lays Auctioneers says the collection is a unique find:

"It's so rare to find any kind of polar artefacts now that hadn't been seen before. To think these have been lying, undiscovered probably for more than 50 years in a house in Cornwall and no one's looked at them, no one's seen them, nobody knew about them. So it's remarkable to find them so many years after the event.''

They were left by descendants of the Waymouth family, to whom the letters were written.

Mr and Mrs. Frederick Waymouth and their family lived in Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand, in their grand home Karewa. They were prominent members of Christchurch society.

When the Discovery docked in Lyttelton, the port for Christchurch, on 29 November 1901, the Waymouth family entertained members of the expedition and also provisioned them with supplies.

The Waymouth family Credit: Lays Auctioneers

On 21 December, after a three-week stay in New Zealand, the Discovery set sail and headed south for Antarctica.

One of the letters was penned by crew member Thomas Vere Hodgson, a biologist who went on to be curator of Plymouth’s museum and art gallery.

He describes the harsh conditions they faced trying to reach the South Pole: "We have been able to work all through the winter contrary to expectation. The only thing to do is to keep out of the wind. A wind adds 20 to 40 degrees on to the perception of cold."

Although the crew didn't reach the South Pole, the discoveries made during the three-year voyage were considered a major step forward in British Antarctic exploration history.

The collection is expected to fetch around £10,000 at auction on Thursday 7 March.