STONE FROM CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL SELLS FOR £210,000 IN SALE CONDUCTED BY THE CANTERBURY AUCTION GALLERIES

10/10/16

FRONT COVER Great South Window SXXVIII

Ancient stone from Canterbury Cathedral raised £210,000 in an historic ‘white glove’ sale conducted by The Canterbury Auction Galleries on Saturday September 24. The total was more than twice expectation with buyers both locally and across the world spending freely to secure unique works, some dating back to the 15th century.                                    

“It was a remarkable day with a carnival atmosphere,” said auctioneer Tony Pratt. There was a hog roast and around 200 bidders attended, including local author Ken Follett, sitting on straw bales in the stonemasons’ workshop just outside the city, competing with buyers bidding online from as far away as Los Angeles and Mumbai. 

“I was privileged to have been asked to conduct the sale, which was a highlight of my 30-year association with the Dean and Chapter. I understand the Archbishop had followed the auction and the Dean passed on his congratulations to me afterwards, which was greatly appreciated. 

“Every one of the 144 lots sold and I was presented with the traditional pair of white gloves afterwards, only the second time this has happened in my 40 years as an auctioneer. 

“The generosity of people was amazing. Several clients who are on our mailing lists to receive catalogues free of charge paid me the £10 cost when they arrived for the sale and another long standing buyer who was unable to attend later sent me a cheque for £100 to add to the restoration fund.” 

The total raised is believed to be a record for an auction of its nature. A similar sale of stone from York Minster raised £44,000 in 2014. 

Many of the stones dated back to 1428, when the 16-metre high Great South Window, one of the Cathedral’s largest, was built. Some were carved from the light creamy-yellow Jurassic limestone from north-western France, near the city of Caen. Others were in Portland and Doulting stone, some retaining the detailed carving and markings of previous generations of stonemasons who worked to conserve the window over the centuries.

They had to be removed after a fall of stone in 2009 identified serious problems in the structure that holds the world-renowned, early medieval stained glass depicting the Biblical ancestors of Christ. Now complete, the reconstruction using 40 tonnes of new stone was one of the largest conservation projects of its kind ever undertaken in Europe, costing £2.5 million.

The sale attracted worldwide attention. A private U.S. buyer from New Hampshire purchased 16 lots of window mullions, costing a total of £17,000, while a buyer in Mumbai secured four minor transom heads for a total of £13,000 and a Los Angeles bidder paid £1,250 for a single moulded section of Caen stone from a minor mullion. It dated from 1428 with evidence of 1860s repair. 

One particularly determined buyer was a London collector who purchased seven lots including the two most valuable pieces in the sale: fan-shaped principal springer stones dating from 1428, one with the mason’s mark of the Moline Cross on two faces, both showing repairs in Portland and Doulting in the 1840s and 1930s. They each sold for £7,400. 

The same buyer paid £3,100 for an arched Caen stone header with contemporary piercing; £5,100 for a pair of Caen minor mullion springers; £4,400 for a fluted Caen principal mullion arch stone and £6,100 for a Caen principal mullion arch transom head, all with various repairs. He said they were for his own personal enjoyment.

Setting the tone for a successful sale came with the first lot, which a local supporter of the cathedral secured with a hefty £5,000. The pair of principal mullion transom heads in Portland stone dated from 1792, each with Caen and Doulting repairs done in the 1860s and 1930s. 

Buyers with shallower pockets were not outdone, however, with numerous pairs of external moulded sections of minor mullions for use as bookends selling for around the £500 mark. One man purchased three sets for his grandchildren. 

One lady in the audience of around 200 sitting on straw bales described proceedings as “a good day out”. The auctioneer’s rostrum was placed in front of the workshop’s huge stone-cutting saw, and the Dean, the Very Rev Dr Robert Willis stood on a stone block to thank those attending for their support. 

The Canterbury Auction Galleries waived their usual charges so that all the money raised could be used to help ensure the cathedral’s future. 

The sale was held at the request of the Cathedral Trust, established in 1974 as an independent charity raising funds for the cathedral from individuals, trusts and foundations, statutory bodies and corporate partners. 

For further information, please contact the auctioneers on 01227 763337 or auctions@thecanterburyauctions.com.

 

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