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Bonhams have already stopped holding sales in the Devon market town (the last was in late April) and, after more than 20 years, will vacate the auction rooms in Dowell Street at the end of this year.

Richard Bearne, the chairman of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood (two Exeter firms who merged earlier this year) told ATG of the firm’s commitment to a traditional philosophy: “As the third generation of a family of West Country auctioneers I am convinced that there remains a strong demand for locally-held auctions of items ranging from a modest to a high value.

“Extending our representation eastwards, we intend to continue offering the best possible service to our professional and private clients and to build on the expertise established over 64 years of auctioneering.”

The firm already have representatives in Wadebridge (Richard Hamm) and Bridport (Sally Bartlett).

Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood’s plan is to use their premises in Okehampton Street, Exeter, as the flagship venue for quarterly fine art sales and their maritime sales, while developing the Honiton operation as a centre for collector’s items and books.

The general sales of antiques and collectables will be held fortnightly in alternative salerooms alongside monthly sales of silver and jewellery.

Hampton & Littlewood’s erstwhile saleroom – the Alphin Brook Road site once occupied by Phillips – will be closed early next year.