Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The top three sellers were all purchased by dealers.

The earliest - and academically most interesting - Gillows piece was a c.1790-95, 2ft by 18in (60 x 46cm) mahogany cellaret-on-stand under a domed lid crossbanded in tulipwood and strung with boxwood. It was stamped Gillows Lancaster and had the original brass carrying handles and a Bramah lock.

The original drawing for the cellaret, along with the names of the various craftsmen the prices for each item (for instance 1 pair of lifting handles - 2s 2d) are in the Gillows archives.

Using the 1788 Gillows sketch, the work of a former owner who had reduced the stand's height could be undone and the piece raised to its original overall height of 2ft 7in (78cm). Estimated at £3000-4000 for the sale on March 16-17, it sold to the trade at £4800.

Partners' Desk

The other lots included a c.1878 carved mahogany serpentine partners' desk, stamped to the middle drawer with Gillows numbering system 55949.

Measuring 5ft 7in wide by 3ft 5in deep (1.70 x 1.05m) and featuring William Kent-style lion-mask and acanthus-carved capitals and original brass handles, it required a little work but sold on the lower estimate at £20,000.

Another pedestal desk, from the same year but in oak in the Aesthetic taste and a more manageable 4ft 5in by 2ft 2in (1.36m x 67cm), was a trade buy at £3800 (estimate £1000-1500).

Also going way over estimate were a mahogany double-pedestal chest of 12 drawers and a mahogany jardinière stand, both from the second quarter of the 19th century. The chest by the listed Gillows cabinetmaker William Barrow Jnr had original Bramah locks and key and doubled its mid estimate at £3000. The 2ft 6in (76cm) tall jardinière stand, with a tray on a fluted support, was catalogued as 'manner of Gillows' and estimated at £300-500 but sold at £2400.

Meubles D'appui

Lacking famous names, but with the all-important 'look', a number of traditional English and French-style pieces bolstered the furniture section.

Most went at around fairly modest estimates, but a pair of Louis XVI tulipwood, purpleheart and ormolu-mounted meubles d'appui stood out. Carrying hopes of £2500-3500, the 3ft 6in (1.08m) tall cabinets, with later pink breccia marble tops above cupboard doors with blue gilt oval Sèvres-style porcelain mounts, had suffered a little wear and tear but eventually sold at £12,000.

Overall, the Tennants sale made a hammer total of £2.63m and a selling rate of 84%, with more than a third of the impressive total provided by the Qianlong Imperial bottle vase which took £950,000.