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Failure to find an agreement on a private sale after an extended grace period offers the prospect of a mouthwatering sale next year of the largest group of fully-documented Chippendale furniture remaining in private hands.

“It is with great disappointment that we confirm that a private treaty sale will not take place,” said Dermot Chichester and Charles Cator, chairmen of Christie’s UK. “Considerable effort has been made by all parties to try to secure an agreement this month to be able to move forward towards a private sale. Sadly, however, this has not proved possible.”

Auctioneers Christie’s and estate agents FDP Savills had contacted the NTS earlier this year to explore the possibility of a private treaty sale after they were invited by owner Johnny Bute to advise on the disposal of his 2000-acre Ayrshire estate and its chattels.

FDP Savills had been instructed to bring the Dumfries estate to the market in September, but the Marquis of Bute gave the Trust an additional two months to mount a serious bid. It had been hoped a consortium of Scotland’s cultural and heritage organisations could be developed in a collective effort to prevent the piecemeal sale of one of Scotland’s most celebrated intact collections of 18th century furniture.

The William Adam-designed property includes a spectacular array of furnishings provided by leading London and Edinburgh cabinetmakers within a ten-year period between 1756 and 1766. Thomas Chippendale supplied many pieces of furniture in the rococo style.

Having undertaken a full internal acquisition appraisal and, on the basis of valuations and advice from Sotheby’s and the Scottish law firm Brodies, the Trust made what chief executive Dr Robin Pellew called “a fair and reasonable offer”. However, while the undisclosed bid remains on the table, it has not been accepted.

“I had every hope that today we would be making a different announcement,” Johnny Bute said on November 15. “However, as the discussions have concluded, my intentions and resolve remains the same. Therefore, I will instruct Christie’s and FPD Savills to proceed with bringing Dumfries House and its estate to the market in the spring.”

Christie’s anticipate that a public auction of the contents of the house will take place in the summer or early autumn next year. Further information will be released in early 2005.