Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

At least that’s what the marketing men will be hoping.

Re-branding is not an initiative requested by the antiques trade, but it does address a perception seemingly held within the company that a saleroom which last year turned over close to £20m fails to receive quite the recognition it deserves outside its traditional clientele.

Not an impression gleaned from the pages of the Antiques Trade Gazette, I hope.

The most substantial change – mirroring a general movement within the business to concentrate efforts upon those lots which promise the greatest financial returns – will be the creation of four ‘International’ sales uniting in a single catalogue the best the room has to offer. The first is in May.

Nevertheless the themed sales for which the rooms are well known – Arms and Armour, Garden Statuary, the Dining Room and the Oak sales – will remain an integral part of the Summers Place programme. Most will survive in their current and familiar guises with one or two new categories to be included – Arts and Crafts and Country House Attics sales to name but two.

The quarterly opportunity to feel the pulse of the British oak and country furniture marketplace – and its cousins in the works of art and ceramics arenas (see 'The seven Vyses' and 'Toll board charges ahead') – arose again on March 16-17. As per usual the wide cross section was informative.


What auctioneer Tony Rogers termed “a discernable buzz” greeted this 200-plus selection of British vernacular although it is perhaps a telling indication of current trade confidence that the first five of the top ten prices were tendered by private clients.

Leading this quintuplet at a low-estimate of £8000 bid by a buyer from Sussex was a William and Mary period oak gateleg table measuring 5ft 4in by 5ft 93/4in (1.63 x 1.77m) when open.

It had acquired an attractive colour and patination, though lacking the hues of a similar, smaller table which sailed to a massive £13,000 in an equivalent sale last year – the chief attraction of this model was its size. Few gateleg tables from the last quarter of the 17th century can comfortably seat eight with a little room for two more.

A more accessible estimate – one, which Tony Rogers said “marked it as a buyable object” – was placed upon a George II dresser with plate rack, measuring 6ft 81/4in high by 5ft 4in wide (2.04 x 1.63m), from North Wales.

The form was typical of the mid-18th century period as, indeed, were other examples on the catalogue, but the honest condition (exhibiting just the right amount of deterioration) made the £3000-5000 expectations appear slight.

An obvious trade target, it nevertheless sold privately at £7800.

Choice piece for the oak academic was perhaps a Charles I stool, 14in high by 121/2in square (36 x 32cm) wide, comprising an oak seat with a fruitwood base with nulled frieze, baluster and block turned legs joined by stretchers and bun feet.

The square form is well-known in the major texts and, despite a warped top and fragmented feet, this piece was considered a good example in terms of both colour and condition. Estimated at £800-1200, it was competed by a London dealer to £3500.

The sub £1000 arena remains the more cautious aspect of the market although adjustments made at the lower end of catalogue – “we are educating both ourselves and our vendors” said Tony Rogers – paid off with a highly respectable 80 per cent selling rate.

In this environment, the majority of 17th century coffers could be purchased on or below their £300-500 expectations but not so lot 197, a Charles II period piece, 3ft 113/4in wide by 2ft 61/4in (1.21m x 77cm) comprising a single panelled hinged lid above a block moulded triple panelled front on stile feet.
Colour, condition and form struck a firm chord which saw bidding rise to £2500.