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Adam Schoon, who heads up Tennants thrice-yearly catalogued sales attributed the record year to the streamlining in recent years of the company’s staff now based around a team of semi-autonomous consultants that have enabled Tennants (who also acquired the Heathcote Ball name last year) to create a variety of low-cost specialist departments.

The silver, jewellery and picture departments have all had good years but equally important has been the addition of more uncatalogued general sales (at least six more than in previous years) turning over around £100,000 each. “We have experienced the same [fall-off in prices] as everyone else but we have been able to pile our sales higher” said Mr Schoon.

Holding steady with sales of £2.5 million for the year were Halls of Shrewsbury helped by a busy and much-expanded calendar that included a number of smaller niche collectors sales. During the year, the company sold 18,000 lots for 4500 vendors, mostly from Shropshire, Powys and bordering counties.

“Although the market during 2003 was better than I expected, it has been fairly uneventful this year and there is still a cautious feel to it,” said fine art director Richard Allen. Halls have just opened a new Mid Wales consignment office in Welshpool.

Last week, extrapolating their annual turnover based upon their recent acquisition of Dreweatt Neate, the Fine Art Auction Group are claiming an annual turnover of £12.2m that would make them the fourth largest auction concern in the UK.

Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury posted figures for their best-ever year with an overall hammer turnover of £6.44m, up 22 per cent on last year’s figure. Meanwhile Gorringes of Lewes reported sales of £7.5m, despite managing director Nick Muston saying “a hefty decline in brown furniture prices and a tailing off in the demand for general silver” had hit sales.