Previous News - Antique clocks bring bidding battles to The Canterbury Auction Galleries


Dealers and collectors fight it out for rarities with links to county.

Two rare antique clocks each with strong connections to Kent saw horology dealers and collectors to converging on The Canterbury Auction Galleries for the recent Two Day Sale, all hoping to win the day and take home the prizes.

The outcome was good news for the private collectors – they beat off strong competition from the Trade in both bidding battles. But it was bad news for local buyers – only one, an unusual 18th century timepiece made by a clockmaker from Charing, near Ashford, will be remaining in the county.

Despite strong bidding from local private collectors, an early 19th century mahogany cased tavern clock which once hung in the Bear & Key Hotel, in High Street, Whitstable, was won by a London collector who parted with £2,800 to take it home.

In 1919 when Fred Appleton and his wife, Kate, became licensees of the historic pub, the clock was already hanging behind the bar. As well as keeping regulars punctual, it also became a member of the family.

Fred died in 1949, and the hotel was sold, but the clock was taken as a memento and later inherited by Mollie Cullingham, Fred’s younger daughter. It hung in the hallway of their Windsor home for almost 60 years until Molly died in 2010 and her son, Roger, decided it should return home to be sold at the Canterbury Auction Galleries. It was estimated to sell for £1,200-1,500.

The brass-dialled Charing clock, meanwhile, was altogether earlier, its design marking the transition between lantern clock, which would have been open to the elements and, with its unusual plain oak hooded case, the longcase clock in which the movement was enclosed. It was made by William Flint, a rare maker, who is recorded as having worked in the North Downs village from 1733-1793. A tussle between two local collectors saw bidding spiral from the £1,000-1,500 estimate to sell to the victor, who lives in the Ashford area, for £3,400.

The sale was solid and well supported, raising a total of around £300,000, with 52 lots selling for more than £1,000. Commission bids came from 175 individuals, many bidding on multiple lots, from as far afield as China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the U.S. and Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and France. In addition, there were 90 European telephone bidders and 360 registered Internet bidders, some from China but mainly from the UK, who spent a total of £37,000 on 128 lots.

Adding to the excitement of a buoyant sale and a large attendance, BBC Bargain Hunt’s Tim Wonnacott and two of his experts were present with cameras to film five programmes for future broadcast. More than half the items sold produced profits for the contestants and one team won the golden gavel when each of their three objects sold for more than they had cost.

The sale got off to a strong start when a trio of lots of 18th century Tournai porcelain botanical plates sold for a total of £5,200. Each lot comprised six or seven of the plates, each decorated in coloured enamels with a single flower specimen to the centre, surrounded by spiral and basket weave moulded rims.

All three sold to the same London specialist dealer on the telephone, much to the delight of the Ashford vendor who had inherited them from a family member who had owned a chateau in Northern France. In fact, he was so pleased, he returned home and hunted out two larger chargers from the same service made by the Belgium factory, which will be offered in the next Two Day sale on May 22-23.

The same lucky vendor also sold an early 18th century Dutch silver square salver with engraved armorial to centre on four claw and ball feet. It weighed 24 ounces and sold for £4,500, a multiple of its pre-sale estimate.

There was another pleasant surprise for the owner of three circular bronze jardinière stands – a pair and one single – in the manner of author, philosopher and art collector Thomas Hope, one of which had stood in the garden of a property in Romney Marsh. The pair sold for an estimate-busting £23,000, the top price of either day’s sale. It was bought by a South London interior decorator in the room, underbid by specialist dealers, while the single stand sold to the same buyer for £3,600.

Equally happy was the local vendor who consigned a miniature painting on ivory after Jaques-Louis David (1748-1825). It depicted "The Intervention of the Sabine Women”, when Hersilia intervenes between her father Jaticus, leader of the Sabines, and her husband Romulus, the Roman leader. She is seen begging the warriors not to take wives from their husbands or mothers from their children. The painting measured just 5.75ins by 9.75ins and sold to a local collector in the room against strong competition from London specialist dealers. The victory cost him a cool £5,500.

Jewellery continues to enjoy high prices for precious metals and gems. Most valuable proved to be a modern platinum-mounted three-stone diamond ring set with three brilliant cut diamonds, the central stone approximately 1.2cts flanked by two stones each .75cts. It sold for an above estimate £8,700 and was purchased by a local buyer for his wife as a golden wedding gift.

Close behind at £8,600 was a modern platinum-mounted emerald and diamond ring, the central rectangular cushion-cut natural stone approximately 1.25ct set on either side with a half moon cut diamond each approximately .75ct. Sold complete with emerald report issued in 2009 by the Gem & Pearl Laboratory, it was purchased by a local buyer in the room who also paid £3,000 for a pair of Edwardian diamond-set pendant earrings. Each earring was formed by a diamond-set ribbon supporting an old cut diamond approximately 0.2ct above a lower tear drop stone of approximately .33ct, all set with 26 old cut diamonds.

Another private buyer left a commission bid of £2,000 to secure an Edwardian sapphire and diamond dress ring as a present for his wife, the oval face set with a central old-cut diamond of approximately 0.46ct surrounded by a halo of 13 baguette-cut sapphires within eight old-cut diamonds, each approximately .15ct, while a sapphire and diamond ring sold to the trade for the same money. The ring sported a central brilliant cut diamond of approximately .93ct, set within a halo of 16 baguette-cut sapphires, the shoulders set with four small rose cut diamonds.

Pick of the furniture on offer came from a Deal home whose deceased owner had purchased it in the 1990s from Folkestone dealers Freeman & Lloyd Antiques, who had premises at Sandgate High Street.

Choicest was a good pair of George III Sheraton design mahogany armchairs, each with narrow rectangular panelled crest rails, X-pattern splats, reeded out-swept arms with carved circular paterae, cane panelled seats complete with seat squabs upholstered in shallow buttoned green repp and standing on slender turned and reeded front legs. The pair sold to a private London collector on the telephone for £4,600 against an estimate of £2,400-3,500, as did a good, small George II "Cuban" mahogany chest with brushing slide and four long graduated drawers with original brass handles. The chest was purchased by a local dealer, while a private Essex collector paid £3,000 for a good, small George II "Cuban" mahogany bureau of four long graduated drawers, the fall-front enclosing pigeon-holes and six small drawers.

A good, small George III mahogany chest with moulded edge to the top and four long graduated drawers, each with original brass swan neck handles on bracket feet, sold to a private buyer in the room for £1,400.

In collectors’ items, it was not known which local public house had been home to a colourful Edwardian enamelled tin advertising sign for “Thompson’s Walmer Brewery”, but there was no lack of bidders for it. Estimated at a lowly £120-160, the sign depicted a lighthouse– “The Friendly Light” – atop the White Cliffs of Dover overlooking the Channel. It sold to a Surrey collector on the telephone for £820.

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