The Canterbury Auction Galleries set to buzz again with the sound of bidding


In line with the government’s current controlled easing of Coronavirus restrictions that began this week, the Directors of The Canterbury Auction Galleries are pleased to announce that their two-day sales of fine art, antiques and collectors’ items will recommence on Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7.

However, in line with continued government safety recommendations, there will be no public access to the saleroom. The auctions will be conducted behind doors with online bidding. The auctioneers will be on the rostrum conducting the sales on both days starting at 11am, executing absentee bids and taking other bids from registered bidders on the telephone and over the internet in real-time.

The catalogue published prior to the postponed April auction remains unchanged and can also be seen online at (, the saleroom’s own free to use in-house bidding platform. Developed by the saleroom’s auction technology company Scarlett Technology, this bespoke electronic bid platform is free to use.

The catalogue can also be seen online at and bids can also be made in real-time at Commission bids can also be left at, both of which charge a commission on successful bids.

Successful bidders will be required to pay by bank transfer or by credit or debit card only and there will be no personal contact during collections. The saleroom works with several shipping companies and recommends Mail Boxes ( and Jentel Packing ( to collect, pack and deliver door-to-door, although saleroom staff will pack and post small items for the cost of postage on request.

Free saleroom valuations continue online and require only photographs and brief descriptions, which can be submitted to the auctioneers at or by email at Valuations for probate purposes at clients’ homes continue unchanged but must be conducted under strict conditions by valuers working in isolation. Regular free saleroom valuations by the saleroom’s specialists will re-commence on Friday, May 29, and the service has been extended to Fridays and Mondays between 10am and 3pm. These will be by appointment only and must be booked by telephone at least the day before.

 “There is already considerable interest in the upcoming sale, with requests for condition reports coming thick and fast,” said Tony Pratt, chairman of The Canterbury Auction Galleries, “and to make up for the lack of public viewing, we are preparing these on a more in-depth basis on request.

 “We’ve also received several private offers for some of the lots, notably for a fine pair of ormolu-mounted Blue John vases by Matthew Boulton. “They have attracted much attention following the postponement of the April sale and it will be interesting to see how they fare in the live auction against their £15,00-25,0000 estimate.

 “We’re itching to get back on the rostrum and we know our longstanding clients, both collectors and the trade, are keen for a return to as near normal as we can make it. In fact, online sales are becoming the new normal. We have seen a steady rise in internet bidding over the last 12-18 months, particularly with new, younger buyers.

 “ makes participating in our sales simple and has the added attraction of being entirely free to use without the usual additional charges.”

Engineer and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) towers above others in the Industrial Revolution of the mid-18th century. Among his many achievements, he built the Soho Manufactory in Birmingham in 1768, which he claimed was, 'the largest hardware manufactory in the world'.

 Vases with gilt bronze metal mounts, called ormolu, which made them look like they were literally dripping in gold, were his signature pieces of high-quality fashionable items and he boasted the crowned heads of Europe among his customers.

 Rarest and most desirable of all his ormolu-mounted vases were those crafted from highly polished Derbyshire fluorspar, or Blue John, George III and Queen Charlotte numbering among his patrons and clients.

And if the combination of ormolu and now scarce Blue John is not enough, the vases reveal Boulton’s inventive nature in giving them a dual purpose. By reversing their covers, each vase can function as either a candle holder or as a cassolette – a vessel to hold perfume or incense.

Dating from the late 18th to early 19th century, the vases, which stand either 7.5ins high with cassolette covers, or 8.5ins high with the candle sconces uppermost, have leaf-capped ormolu loop handles above ram's heads and are hung with acanthus swags. They have been consigned to the sale by a local private individual who was left them by a relative.

Blue John, also known as Derbyshire Spar, is a semi-precious mineral found only in the UK at the Blue John and Treak Cliff caverns in Castleton. It is recognisable by its distinctive shades of purple, white, cream, yellow and brown, all of which are evident in the present examples, which can be viewed from either side.

Nicholas Goodison’s book ‘Matthew Boulton: Ormolu’, published by Christie's, 8 King Street, St. James's, London, 2002, shows identical examples and a matching image from Pattern Book No.1.

For further information, please contact the auctioneers, telephone 01227 763337.

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