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Given pride of place on the catalogue cover was a fine Charles II silver spice or sugar casket.

Illustrated here, the 9in (23.5cm) 25oz casket with the maker’s mark D and London marks for 1678 had a body embossed with broad lobes raised on four cast bifurcated supports and a domed cover with ringed serpent handle and hinged hasp with volute thumbpiece.

Adams’ policy, so far at least, is to estimate pieces at what they believe the market will stand rather than the (to newcomers, at least) confusing practice of low ‘come-hither’ estimates.

Here, however, their £20,000-30,000 printed estimate was too much for a piece which had a later engraved crest and which some people felt had suffered a certain amount of restoration over the years. Nevertheless the family who had owned it for some 50 years since it was bought in Edinburgh, were no doubt happy to see it sell to a dealer bidding on behalf of a client at £17,500.

The sale’s main strength, however, was in the furniture and clocks.

The top selling piece of furniture was again a little too highly estimated at £10,000-12,500. This was a George III mahogany breakfast table with 4ft by 3ft 3in (1.23 x 1m) tilting top with thick satinwood and rosewood crossbanding on a carved cluster column pedestal with four carved splayed legs. The trade wouldn’t quite go into five figures but a dealer took it at £9000.

Other pieces cleared estimates with ease, but none more spectacularly so than the sleeper of the section.

It was catalogued as a mid-18th century triangular shaped mahogany table, the top with three drop flaps rising to form a circular 3ft 2in (97cm) table on a birdcage box fitting into the triangular base on three tapered legs. As it did not appear a particularly practical piece and was not in the best of condition, the £250-350 estimate did not seem unduly pessimistic. Two London dealers, however, apparently taken with its very unusual design, contested it to £7100.

Most of the private purchases were in the lower price ranges but it was a Portuguese private buyer who went to a top-estimate £5000 to take the carved giltwood bowfront console table illustrated right, bottom, with its green mottled marble top.

The furniture included its disappointments. The potential star, a fine 18th century bureau mazarin, profusely inlaid with pewter, marquetry and brass enrichment, failed against hopes of £12,000-18,000 and at the other end of the scale a couple of Victorian davenports showed how far their star has sunk. Both good looking pieces in walnut they might have fetched three or four thousand three or four years ago but in 2001 could not meet hopes as low as £800.

No such fall in the value of longcase clocks, of course. A George III example with pagoda top and fretted panel by Rivers & Son, London went comfortably over hopes at £5500 and a George III regulator with shallow arched hood and arched trunk door above an applied square panelled base went just below estimate at £7200.

Henry Adams, Chichester,
December 12,13
Number of lots: 700
Lots sold: n/a
Sale total: £340,000
Buyer’s premium: 15 per cent