Rare Works of Art and Collectors’ Items Steal the Show at The Canterbury Auction Galleries!


A tiny white jade tablet carved on each side with the heads of mythical beasts and panels of Chinese characters proved to be the unexpected star in the spring two-day sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, selling for £14,500, a multiple of its guide price.

The antique tablet or plaque measured just 55 by 23 millimetres (2.125 x .875 inches) and was drilled with a fine hole from top to bottom, perhaps indicating that it had once been worn as a pendant.

It was consigned to the sale from a London home and purchased by a Kent collector buyer, the price indicating yet again that there is no upper limit to the prices achievable in the competitive saleroom arena.


There was no doubt as to the purpose of a late Victorian gold and silver-mounted diamond heart-shaped pendant, the central stone surrounded by a border of 15 old cut diamonds with a total weight 6.1 grammes. Retailed by high-class Bond Street jewellers Tessier, and contained in one of their green leather fitted cases, it was purchased by a local buyer for his wife for £8,600.


The much anticipated highlight of the sale was the dispersal of 32 pocket watches and 23 carriage clocks sent for sale by the family of Kent horologist Ray Butcher (1939-2014) who had stipulated that his collection should be sold at The Canterbury Auction Galleries.

It realised a total of £31,950, the most valuable single lot, a good mid-18th century gold coloured metal repoussé (hammered) gilt metal and shagreen covered triple-cased verge pocket watch by John Cater of London, selling for an above estimate £1,950.


Mr Butcher was born in Hemel Hempstead and joined the Navy at 15, initially as a shipwright, which allowed him to travel the world whilst working his way up the ranks. When Chatham Dockyard closed, he had a small shop in Thanet before starting a successful building business, which he ran for more than 20 years. He was an active member of the Maidstone branch of the Antiquarian Horological Society.

Ray Butcher

There was a pleasant surprise too for the descendants of a German academic who fled the country prior to the Second World War and settled in Kent. Among his treasured possessions was a small collection of early 20th century German works on paper, which sold for a total of £5,700.

The family had no idea of the importance of the works or their value but detective work by the saleroom’s researcher, Justin Ball, revealed that some were pencil and charcoal drawings by August Macke (1887-1914). He was one of the leading members of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) an art movement, which helped found German Expressionism.

The most valuable of the six lots was a group of six pencil half-length portraits one of a woman, possibly Macke's wife Elisabeth Erdmann-Macke, another of a man reading and two studies of a dog, one of a bird and a still life of a pot of flowers, are signed in pencil and dated '07. They sold to the continental trade for £2,000.


Most wanted among paintings, however, was a group of four Royal Mail coaching scenes attributed to Samuel Henry Alken (1810-1894) the oils showing respectively the "Dover to London" and three of the "York to London", one in the snow. From a local private home, they went to a continental telephone bidder on estimate for £6,000.

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Three charities will share the £5,000 proceeds from the sale of a monumental eight-foot long abstract bronze sculpture, which as a result of the auctioneers’ intervention, was saved from being melted down. Being a charity sale, the auctioneers waived their charges to the seller so that the beneficiaries receive the full hammer price. The piece was purchased by a Sussex sculpture park.

Formerly in the foyer of a legal practice in the City of London, the redevelopers were planning to scrap the sculpture by the Catalan artist Xavier Corbero (born 1935) regarded by many as Spain’s greatest living sculptor.

Modelled as twin structures each formed by five square and rectangular components, textured to look like timber, the piece was number three from a limited edition of four, apparently commissioned in 1991 to compliment another sculpture by the same artist within the Broadgate Development in Central London entitled "The Broad Family".


Pick of the ceramics in the sale was a late 19th century continental majolica study of a buzzard standing on a rocky base clutching its prey. Unmarked but impressed "863", the 40.64cm (16ins) high model sold to the specialist Dublin trade for £3,400, despite some damage.


An equally good performer against its estimate was an 18th century circular slipware dish, the interior decorated in cream with a tulip design on a quartered ground, the exterior with green lead glaze. It was hotly contested by two local collectors, the victor sealing its fate with a bid of £3,000 against an estimate of £200-300, much to the delight of its local private owner.


The clocks section of the sale produced one particularly happy buyer: an Elmsted farmer, who secured an 18th century mahogany longcase by John Silke whose workshop was situated in the Kent village.

The clock had a 12-inch arched brass dial with wide chapter ring, subsidiary seconds dial and date aperture, the arch now with a rocking figure of Father Time and the words "Tempus Fugit", while the case’s hood had later brass ball and eagle finials. It sold for £1,250.

John Silke II is recorded as working in Elmsted in about 1760-1779 and subsequently at Stowing and Hythe.


The two-day auctions invariably turn up numerous fascinating and rare collectors’ items, the spring event proving to be no exception. A locally sourced private collection of walking sticks and canes raised a total of £4,030, boosted by the inclusion of a Maori stick set with the South Seas abalone shell and carved with two tiki figures and linear and swirl decoration. It caught the attention of U.S. Internet bidder who secured it with a bid of £2,200 against an estimate of £300-400.

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Another rarity was an unusual 18th century brass and bone circular double sided pocket calendar, one side showing months, signs of the zodiac and date, the other showing twin pointers to a compass rose and date dial. Measuring 58mm in diameter, it sold to a New York Internet bidder for £2,400, another multiple of the presale estimate.


Travelling a somewhat shorter distance to be with its new owner was a Victorian “Penny-Farthing”, more correctly called "The Humber", a black japanned ordinary bicycle metal by Thomas Humber & Co, Beeston Works, Nottingham, consigned for sale from a local estate. In excellent original condition, it was purchased by a private Cornish collector for £3,300.


A large pair of German Second World War 25 x 105 observational binoculars by Schneider with sighting scope and typically fine optical qualities, in Afrika Corps sand paint finish, complete with its metal adjustable tripod, created something of a bidding battle to sell to an Internet buyer for £2,500, while a  good 18th century brass barrelled flintlock blunderbuss by Barber of Newark, with spring loaded flip out triangular bayonet sold to a London buyer for £3,100.

Stamped with London proof marks and showing excellent original patination, the formidable weapon had a plain steel lockplate engraved with its maker’s name, a walnut stock and fore end with coarse chequering to the grip, a brass butt plate and trigger guard, and retained its original ramrod.


On a lighter note, a "Penny in the Slot" Polyphon and a collection of 18 metal disks – the Victorian forerunner of the modern jukebox – sold to a continental telephone bidder for an above estimate £2,600.

A mechanism with twin steel combs provided the music, while the walnut case had a spindle turned gallery with turned and reeded finials to the top, and an arched glass door with turned pillars to either side.

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Entries of good quality fine art, antiques and collectors’ items are now invited for the next two-day sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, which is on June 6-7. For further information, please contact the auctioneers, telephone 01227 763337 or general@tcag.com.


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