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The deal, signed last week, spells the end of sales at the Castle Hall, although the office in St Andrews Street will continue to operate for enquiries and valuations.

All sales will now be moved to Sworders’ purpose-built sale-rooms in Stansted Mountfitchet, where they moved from Bishop’s Stortford, and it is thought any redundancies will be voluntary, affecting only part-time staff.

Andrew Pickford said he decided to sell in the New Year and received several offers after advertising in the Antiques Trade Gazette, but was happy with the outcome.

“We have known Sworders for years, so it has been a very smooth transition and we know the company will be in good hands,” he said.

Mr Pickford, 53, started as a chartered surveyor with Elworthy and Grounds (now Grounds and Co) in Wisbech in 1965, before moving to Humberts in 1970, Norris and Duvall in 1974 and setting up on his own in 1992.

He intends to move to Herefordshire with his wife, but has yet to decide whether to hang up his gavel for good.