Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The solar eclipse promises to attract nearly everyone to Cornwall, except the antiques trade. “There have been a lot more people about,” said Truro dealer Alan Bennett, “but there have been no signs of an increase in takings.”

Indeed, most local dealers are sanguine about the effects of such an influx on business and some (including Mr Bennett) are expected to close their shops that morning in order to view the eclipse themselves.

With no shop to mind St. Ives dealer Mike Read is freer than most to observe the event at leisure, and as a scientific instruments specialist he is particularly excited by the prospect. Like any dealer he is especially keen to avoid eye damage, but using a filter capped sextant to “shoot the sun” – as mariners would do to measure longitude – would seem safe enough at the time of totality.

There is also concern that during that brief spell of darkness businesses will be vulnerable to attack by unruly revellers or professional criminals, especially in Penzance where leaflets have been circulated by anarchist groups to that effect.

“There are a lot of people flooding into the town and quite frankly they are not coming to do anything but make a nuisance,” said one gallery owner on Chapel Street, the town’s main thoroughfare of antiques shops.

“We have works of art on display in the saleroom window which will be removed in case anything gets out of hand,” said Graham Baseley at W.H. Lane. Rather unwisely, the auctioneer chose to hold a picture sale on Tuesday of last week: “People were late or gave up trying to get here. A couple of London dealers phoned to say that they would not be sending the carriers down.”

There are at least 50 auctions happening around the UK on Wednesday, August 11, but the furthest west is at Greenslade Taylor Hunt at Taunton, Somerset. There are no sales in Cornwall during the week of the eclipse; Penzance auctioneers David Lay and W.H. Lane are giving their staff the day off, as are Jeffrey’s of Lostwithiel.

However, it would take more than an Act of God or freak of Nature to prevent some dealers from doing business, and Penzance’s Chapel Street Antiques Market will be open as usual on Wednesday.