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Pair of armchairs catalogued as Victorian – £9000 at Greenslade Taylor Hunt.

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With little evidence of pre-sale interest in the chairs, the Taunton saleroom manager Peter Rixon was surprised to see action from a number of people take bidding to the £3000 mark at the February 1 sale.

And he was even more surprised when two English dealers continued to duel well above that figure. “The chairs had come from a sleepy country estate but we had no background history,” said Rixon. “They had been repainted by someone with a quite heavy hand as well as re-upholstered, which may have masked clues. There was a suggestion of a Chippendale design in some of the detail.”

The dealers clearly suspected an 18th century date. The winner took the chairs at £9000 – a with-premium and VAT bill of £11,100 before what could be considerable restoration costs.