Medway barge racing enthusiasts set a course for The Canterbury Auction Galleries, their mission: to save an historic collection of silver trophies from being sold abroad or melted down. The cost of their endeavours: bids totalling £9,140

The 15 imposing prize cups had been won by the barges Scotia, Cambria,Sara and Veronica, owned by F.T.Everard and Sons Ltd., who during the inter war years maintained one of the largest fleets on the East Coast and Thames Estuary. They dated from 1905 to 1963, the centenary year of the Thames Sailing Barge Match, at a time when the River Medway was once thick with barges, delivering bricks and cement to London and returning laden with the capital’s waste that was used to fire the brick kilns. 

Captains soon began challenging each other to see who had the fastest barges and official racing started on the Thames in 1863. The first official race on the Medway was in 1880. A handful of enthusiasts keep the tradition alive today, and it was several of their number who bid competitively to secure these iconic reminders of its golden years. One buyer purchased seven and another four, while the remainder were split between individuals. 

The most valuable proved to be an Edward VIII two-handled cup awarded to Sara for coming first in the Champion Bowsprit Class in the Medway race in 1937. Standing an impressive 18.5ins high and weighing 66ozs, it sold for £820. Sadly, Sara was broken up at Greenhithe, never to race or sail again. 

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Preparing for the festive season, buyers fell on a single-owner cellar of vintage and other Champagnes, Vintage Port, Scotch Whisky and Cognac offered in the sale and prices were competitive compared to those on the High Street. The collection was sold on the instructions of the executors of the late Alan Du Boulay, trading as Manwood Vintners, of Sandwich, and raised a total of £18,250.

The two-day sale also offered a collection of good quality clocks from the stock of specialist dealers Campbell & Archard Ltd., of Shipbourne, incorporating Derek Roberts Antiques, which were sold prior to the closure of their premises. The collection of 25 lots totalled £57,240. The business continues to trade online and by appointment. 

The most valuable single lot was a good late 18th century black japanned tavern clock by the important Norfolk maker James Calver, of Diss, which is recorded in "The Tavern Clock" by Martin Gatto. Decorated in gilt with chinoiserie, exotic birds, pavilions and two figures, it sold to a telephone bidder in Cumbria for £7,600. 

Calver was apprenticed to William Crisp, of Wrentham, Suffolk, in 1772 and married Rebecca Taylor, of Framlingham, Suffolk, eight years later. He died in 1809. 


From the same vendors and the most valuable longcase clock among several from various owners in the sale was an early Victorian regulator, the 13ins diameter heavy silvered brass dial inscribed "Morrison of London". It sold to a private Tyne & Wear bidder for £5,800. 

The clock’s eight-day, single train movement powered a central hour and seconds dial with dead beat escapement, its heavy brass plates, stamped "J.L 969 (for John Leyland) contained in a figured mahogany case with arched top, triangular astragal mouldings, a glazed trunk door flanked by plain cant corners and crossbanded base. 

John Leyland was a son of Thomas Leyland, each of whom made high quality movements for a number of well-known makers, notably Condliff of Liverpool. Their movements were always of finest quality and it is interesting to note that although the clock spent most of its life in a jeweller’s shop in London, its style suggested a northern manufacturer. 


The sale also included a number of good watches, most wanted among which was a ladies 18ct gold cased Rolex "Datejust" wristwatch, set all over with diamonds on an 18ct gold Oyster bracelet, also set with diamonds. From a local private home, it sold to an internet buyer bidding from Poland, for an above estimate £11,000. 


In a strong jewellery section, a mid-20th century platinum-mounted diamond-set ring sold to another private buyer for £9,000. The central emerald cut stone weighed approximately 2.5ct, and was surrounded by a border of 16 collet set brilliant cut diamonds, each approximately .05ct, shouldered to either side by a baguette cut diamond, approximately .33ct, (gross weight 7.2grammes). 


Not to be outdone by the ladies, a local buyer treated himself to a good 12 bore sidelock ejector shotgun by important London gunsmith James Purdey & Sons, arguably the best side by side shotgun maker in the world. The bright steel action was decorated with rose and scroll engraving and the maker’s name, walnut stock and fore end and horn butt plate. Offered with the manufacturer’s leather and oak motor case and some accessories, it sold for £10,000. 


In the medals section of the sale, the appearance of two leather bound photograph albums containing numerous black and white photographs detailing the career from 1892 to 1922 of Lieut. (later Major) William Hurst-Nicolson, together with one particular rare medal and bar raised the significance of the group for collectors from interesting to exceptional. 

Hurst-Nicolson was attached to 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers, and 37th Dogras (Indian Army). His group of five comprised the Victoria India Medal, with two bars for "Punjab Frontier, 1897-98" and "Tirah 1897-98"; an Edward VII Africa General Service Medal with the rare "Nandi, 1905-06" bar for Hurst-Nicholson’ s service there; the George V 1914-15 Star; 1914-1918 War Medal and Victory Medals (with oak leaves), 

The collection also included his bronze death plaque, mounted in a walnut frame; a copy of his commission dated 18th May 1892 and details of his Mention in Dispatches dated 24th August 1916. The group sold for to a local collector for £4,900. 


Elsewhere, the local private vendor who inherited a monumental oil painting of the entrance to the Grand Canal by Alfred Pollentine (1836-1890) sadly found they did not have sufficient wall space to accommodate its 31.75 by 50-inch size. 

However, its scale perhaps served only to encourage bidders on sale day, one of them, a local Chinese buyer paying £6,400, the top lot in paintings, to secure it against strong competition. Pollentine was a British artist with a prodigious output, specialising in scenes of Venice. 

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Most valuable in the ceramics section of the sale was a pair of Meissen porcelain busts modelled as fine ladies, dressed respectively in Elizabethan and late 18th century costume. Hotly contested by a number of bidders, they fell to a Belgian telephone bidder for £3,000, three times the guide price, while top priced lot among antique furniture was a bureau that originated from Germany but sold to a private Chinese buyer, yet another indication of the international reach of sales at The Canterbury Auction Galleries. 


The late 18th or early 19th century walnut, burr walnut, burrwood and dark banded bureau, was inlaid throughout with chequered bandings, while the shaped slope enclosing a stepped interior was fitted with pigeon holes and nine small drawers, above a breakfront base fitted two long deep drawers, each with three conforming rectangular panels on square tapered legs. It sold for above estimate £1,650. 

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Being a pre-Christmas auction, it was no surprise that vintage toys played a significant part. Pride of place in the saleroom was a fine late 20th century doll’s house, complete with flagpole and electric lighting, built by the artist Gordon Davies (1926-2007), who also designed and created most of the furniture and some of the wallpaper. 

After Davies died, his family gave the classical-style house to the local private vendor, Davies’s great friend, because he had always appreciated it for it's architectural beauty. Once on display in the Burlington Arcade in London in one of Davies’s exhibitions with his fellow Kent artist John Ward, the doll’s house had previously stood in pride of place in the vendor’s sitting room until the auction. 

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It sold to an East Sussex buyer for £1,800, while "Kadi", a scarce German tinplate clockwork toy by Lehmann of Chinese figures carrying a tea chest, circa 1920, sold on estimate for £280, despite being in play-worn condition. Part of the Clarrie Cripps collection of dolls, teddy bears and toys dispersed in the sale, the collection totalled £4,590. 


However, arguably the best return on investment in the sale was down to the local private vendor who spent £10 at a local car boot sale on an 18th century English boxwood or pearwood oboe. By the London maker Thomas Collier, it sold to a French buyer for £1,350, its £300-500 estimate reflecting its damage and repairs. 


Entries of good quality fine art, antiques and collectors’ items are now invited for the first sale of the New Year at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, which is on February 7-8, 2017. For further information, please contact the auctioneers, telephone 01227 763337 or


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