Previous News - Private buyers and internet bidding brings top prices at the Canterbury Auction Galleries


Private buyers and bidders on the Internet made a good sale great at The Canterbury Auction Galleries. The former gave trade buyers a run for their money on many of the 1,200-plus lots on offer, while the latter produced some of the best user figures yet.

Indeed, it was an Internet bidder from Spain who proved the point. Hoping to repatriate a walnut cabinet to its homeland, he provided the opposition in the bidding battle that ensued, forcing an Eastern dealer to pay more than five times the top estimate, producing the top-priced lot of the two days.

More than 460 registered to bid online, 185 of them winning the lots they sought, spending £53,810 or 18% of the £302,000 sale total. Bidders came from Australia, Tasmania, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., Turkey, Norway, Monaco, the Czech Republic and Russia.

In addition, there were 130 registered telephone bidders from as far afield as China, Australia, Canada, and across Europe, while 219 commission bidders left 620 bids between them.

The cabinet, or Vargueno – a 17th/18th century creation of mixed Spanish and Oriental origin – came from a Herne Bay home. It had a fall-front with pierced metal lockplate enclosing a fitted interior of 10 draws and three cupboards, all profusely decorated with inlays of bone and various woods in bold geometric motifs and bandings. It sold for £6,500 and was one of a number of unusual pieces of furniture that were wanted.

A cottage in Charing, a small village in Ashford, Kent, produced another rare survivor: an 18th century oak and pine rectangular double gate legged "Wake" table, which sold to a Belgian dealer for a three-times estimate £3,500. The table takes its name because it was originally designed to support a coffin in the belief that a dead body had to be watched over to prevent its removal by evil spirits.

Also selling for a multiple of its pre-sale estimate was an 18th century elm corner armchair, the tub-shaped back with fretted splats and the four legs joined by an “X” stretcher. From a local home, it sold to a North Kent specialist dealer for £3,500, while an early 19th century naval secretary military chest made from teak sold to a private buyer bidding in the room for £1,250.

Once again, Chinese ceramics and works of art were competed for eagerly, the star lot ironically being a 20th century copy of the infamous double walled reticulated famille rose vase identical in design to the one sold earlier this year in a small provincial UK auction for a sensational £43 million. Rumour has it that the expensive version has yet to be paid for; the modern copy is unlikely to suffer the same fate. It sold immediately after the sale to an Oriental specialist buyer living in Wales for £5,000.

A buyer bidding on the Internet from Beijing paid an above estimate £1,500 for a Chinese porcelain blue and white bottle-shaped vase decorated with figures in a landscape and a London-based Chinese buyer, also on the Internet, paid £1,050, or three times the estimate, for a famille rose dish also decorated with figures of landscape but the reverse decorated with bats on a turquoise ground.

A mainland Chinese buyer bidding on the telephone acquired the best among a number of pieces of good carved jade. Most valuable was a pale celadon figure of a bird and a gourd which sold for £3,300, a multiple of its pre-sale estimate, while he paid £2,500 for a nephrite jade carving of a standing boy dating from the Ming dynasty, which was sold together with another depicting two boys. Close behind at £2,200 was a celadon nephrite water coupe dating from the Qing dynasty, followed by a white nephrite thumb ring had £1,650 and a pale celadon carving of a cicada resting on a fruit, which sold for £1,250, the latter against an estimate of £200-300.

A 19th century Chinese ivory fan with carved and pierced sticks depicting figures in landscapes carried the same estimate but sold for £1,900, much to the delight of its North Kent owner who had taken it to one of the saleroom's free Friday valuation days. It was purchased by a Hong Kong trade buyer on the Internet.

Private buyers came into their own when purchasing some of the quality jewellery in the sale. Purchasing surprise gifts for their wives, one local buyer paid £4,000 for a good fancy coloured diamond circular cluster ring, the central yellow diamond of approximately 1.70 carats surrounded by 18 old cut diamonds, while another paid £2,600 for a Victorian gold coloured metal mounted diamond ruby and tiger's eye brooch modelled as a bee.

Another local buyer paid £2,500 for a Victorian 18 carat gold snake pattern necklace with a heart-shaped pendant set with cabochon cut sapphires emeralds and rubies, while a modern solitaire diamond ring with a brilliant cut diamond of approximately 1.5 carats and small baguette cut diamonds at each shoulder, also taken in at a Friday valuation morning, sold to a lady who told the auctioneer she was buying her engagement ring. It cost £2,600.

A U.S. Internet bidder paid £860 for a good single strand of amber worry beads sent for sale from a Thanet home, and appropriately enough, a Western Australia buyer bidding on the telephone paid £1,150 for a gentlemen's 15 carat gold ring set with a cast figure of a kangaroo and a prospector's shovel and pick.

Two separate private buyers also purchased the majority of the lots in collections of Beatrix Potter and Hummel figures, the latter comprising the second offering from a mid-Kent collector. The two collections totalled £4,700 and £4,150 respectively.

The Turkish pottery at Iznik produced a green, rose, yellow and blue circular plate decorated with stylised flowers within green patterned the Borders which sold for £520, appropriately to a Turkish buyer on the telephone.

A small section of English and Continental glass included a good early 20th century Gallé cameo glass "Mushroom" lamp in amber green and blue and red, engraved with trees, mountain river scene. It came from a Whitstable home and was purchased by a Scottish bidder on the telephone for £1,200.

The picture section of the sale included to further works by Robert Alexander Hillingford (1825-1904) from the collection of the late Lionel Boulton, the majority of which was sold following the collector's death in a major London auction in 1998. Two works retained at the family of Folkestone-born Mr. Bolton were "A Trip of Royalists on Horseback" and "Oudenaarde - A Cavalry Skirmish”, each in oils on mahogany panels. They were purchased by the same local private collector bidding in the room for £1,200 and £1,050 respectively. Recognising that Hillingford was underrated in the market, Mr. Bolton started collecting in the late 1960s and became a familiar figure of many local auctions, acquiring as many works by the London artist as he could find.

The section also included two oils on board by Claude William Harrison (b. 1922) each of which had been purchased directly from the artist by their North of England owner and subsequently inherited by a Gravesend relative. "Guitar Coast" showing two figures playing their instruments on a rocky outcrop with a romantic landscape in the background, signed and dated 1969, sold for £880, and "Comedians As Lovers", showing two young figures dressed respectively as Harlequin and Columbine in a winter landscape, signed and dated 1973, sold for £1,000. Both were purchased by a Cumbrian gallery on the telephone.

Of note in the prints and drawings section was a group of pictures from the collection of Miss Clare Lawson Dick (1913-1987) who worked for the BBC for 42 years, becoming the first woman to be Controller of Radio 4 in 1975. She inherited many of the books and paintings belonging to her brother, Oliver Lawson Dick. Most notable was a small pencil sketch by John Everett Millais (1829-1896) of a young girl, thought to be the preliminary sketch for the 1851 Royal Academy painting "The Woodman’s Daughter". Although unsigned, it was annotated on the reverse "Page from Millais’ notebook. Given to me by Holman Hunt's daughter", signed by Oliver, and offered together with a letter confirming its authenticity. From the local home of a descendant of Miss Dick, it sold to a London gallery for £2,200 against an estimate of £600-800. From the same collection was an imposing bronze figure entitled "The Sling Boy" by the Glasgow-born sculptor Sir William Reid Dick (1879-1961) which sold on top estimate to a specialist dealer from Surrey for £3,000.

In works of art, a local celebrity was the purchaser of a 17th century Flemish "Verdue” tapestry woven in colours with a wooded landscape, fruit and bird pattern borders which came from a Folkestone home and sold for £2,000.

No sale at Canterbury would be complete without its curiosities, this one offering a 19th century “Bleeding Set” by Durroch, 3 St Thomas Street, Borough, London, which was discovered in a local house clearance. The set comprised a brass cased octagonal bladed fleme (from the verb to drive out or expel) with trigger mechanism; five glass bleeding cups and a small glass bottle with stopper all contained in a fitted mahogany case. The set was estimated that £200-300 but sold to a Northern specialist dealer for £800.

In complete contrast was an amusing late 19th century French musical automaton in which a fluffy white rabbit emerges from a lettuce. Complete with original key and box, the toy came from a local estate and was estimated at £500-700 but sold to a private collector for £3,500, more than justifying its choice as the illustration for the front cover of the catalogue. Sadly a lady collector who exclaimed "I must buy it!" and left what she thought was an appropriate commission bid was the disappointed underbidder.

The next Two Day sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries is on Tuesday and Wednesday October 25-26 and entries are invited. Please contact the saleroom on 01227 763337 or by email at

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