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The Salisbury Salerooms are among the first provincial auctioneers to wholly abandon sales of low-value chattels to focus upon specialist sales of fine art and antiques.

Fortnightly general sales have been a fixture at the Castle Street salerooms for generations and many local clients will mourn their passing. However, a difficult decision was made that reflects both the changing marketplace and the need for more space at 51-61 Castle Street.

“As much as anything, this reflects lifestyle in the 21st century,” said chairman Paul Viney. “There has been a fundamental and well-documented change in taste of those in their 20s and 30s compared with their parents’ generation – in short, they’re not interested in brown furniture or what they regard as clutter. This, coupled with the inexorable rise of the internet, means, for us at least, the general sales have become less and less viable.”

Director John Axford added that with the advent of eBay, regular consignors are often less inclined to feed the box lots at general sales. “They will consign the good things for our specialist sales but will then take the rest home to list on eBay,” he said.

However, Mr Axford also told ATG that ceasing general sales was as much to do with issues of space in a building currently bursting at the seams as it was a financial decision. A second saleroom and additional storage space now becomes available for expanding specialist departments. Woolley & Wallis see particular growth potential in sales of paintings, Oriental works of art and decorative arts.

The auctioneers are keen to stress that they are still able to deal with entire estates and will be happy to offer alternative outlets for lots not suitable for their specialist sales. Doubtless, salerooms in the surrounding area will be hoping to receive the referrals.

Woolley & Wallis follow Lyon & Turnbull of Edinburgh, who shelved general sales earlier this year in favour of two-tier catalogue sales. Dreweatt Neate no longer conduct general sales at their flagship rooms in Donnington Priory but still offer a full auction service by moving low value chattels to their salerooms in Bristol and Marlborough.

By Roland Arkell