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Only seven pieces failed to sell, the majority going within estimate, but prices underlined how firmly the market has come down to earth after the mercurial boom so evident until three or four years ago, Geometric designs are taking second place to floral motifs. Even an architectural design by the great Christopher Dresser - a vaguely gothic affair despite its Water Plant pattern name - was a second-ranker at a lower-estimate £1500.

Much more popular were a rare Passion Flower pattern seat and the c.1875 Medallion seat, right, which was monogrammed by the factory's principal designer, Joseph Kershaw, and featured birds and scrolling foliage round a central motif of a seated classical figure.

These sold at £7000 each, but in the late 1990s they could have been expected to make up to £15,000 and £20,000 respectively.

However, a Lily of the Valley pattern bench more than doubled the estimate when it sold at £6000.

Bids for the ten seats and benches in the Fern and Blackberry pattern much copied when the 1858 Coalbrookdale patented pattern ran out after the then maximum three years - sold from between £800 to a double-estimate £4200.

Bemused auctioneer Rupert van der Werff could point to no discernible logic to this discrepancy in prices between basically identical objects although, in general, original paint finishes are more attractive as they at least enable prospective buyers to see any condition issues.