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The main house, which will be offered with the bulk of the 35 acres of land and ancillary buildings, has been used as a regional saleroom since 1984 but since the opening of the Olympia saleroom in September 2001, operations have been drastically reduced.

“There is a lot of goodwill towards us in Billinghurst,” Tom Christopherson, Sotheby’s senior director and legal representative, told tAntiques Trade Gazette “but the land and buildings we own are over and above what we need.”

He was unsure exactly how much Sotheby’s would be asking for the property or what kind of buyers they would be targeting: “At the moment we are asking for expressions of interest and for interested parties to come forward with proposals and we will negotiate from there subject to planning.”

European chief executive Robin Woodhead confirmed that while there were planning restrictions on the site, Sotheby’s were in negotiations with the local authorities and had made no firm decisions as to how a deal would be struck over the sale and arrangements for continuing business on the premises afterwards.

The property is currently registered with Horsham District Council as ‘storage and auction room’ and, according to the planning department, “any change of use will have to be applied for through the proper channels”.