Livery cupboard
A Henry VIII joined oak and walnut livery cupboard, c.1530, with restorations, estimated at £60,000-80,000.

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His collection was built up over his lifetime and includes pieces bought at previous auctions now regarded as ‘legendary’ such as the sales of the collections of Simon Sainsbury, Syd Levethan (Longridge) and John & Judith Adler.

Pelham grew up behind his father’s antiques shop in Wincanton, Somerset and later amassed his collection with the advice of his father and friend Victor Chinnery, co-founder of the Regional Furniture Society. The society was founded in 1984 to study the diversity of British regional furniture-making traditions, and the social and cultural context of furniture from the earliest times to the present day.

Pelham said his father “brought to life the social context in which the antiques in his shop would have been made and used” and he “kindled in me a childhood interest in antiques which has endured throughout my life… With such an upbringing it is not surprising that my own collection consists mainly of oak furniture, delftware and country items.”

The Olive Collection will be offered at Bonhams’ New Bond Street saleroom on January 31. Highlights of the 267-lot sale include a rare Elizabeth I oak ‘so-called Glastonbury’ armchair estimated at £20,000-30,000, a rare joined oak folding table c.1530-50 with an estimate of £30,000-50,000, a 1650 early London delftware drinking cup in the shape of a postillion’s boot, estimated at £16,000-25,000, and a Henry VIII joined oak and walnut livery cupboard, c.1530, with restorations, estimated at £60,000-80,000.

Pelham described the items in the sale as “the pieces which passed muster after detailed examination and hours of discussion about likely provenance”.

He added: “I was fortunate that the period when I was building up my collection coincided with several important sales of delftware, slipware and treen. I was therefore pleased to buy from what have become legendary sales.”

Part of Pelham’s collection had previously been on display at Marlborough Trust’s The Merchant's House in Marlborough, Wiltshire.  

He said: “I have decided to sell now because I have downsized my living accommodation and no longer wish to have responsibility for pieces stored or displayed elsewhere. I am selling the vast majority of my collection, for reasons of space apart from anything else. All the items formerly on display at The Merchant’s House will be sold as part of this clearing of the decks.”

Diverse career

Despite a family background in the antiques trade Pelham’s career has stretched from finance to medical equipment companies.

He added: “I once owned the biggest fleet of dustcarts in the country (to the embarrassment of my daughter) and all of London’s fire engines (to the delight of my sons!).

“During this time I acquired a large house and enjoyed filling it with antiques, with my taste informed by my antique-dealer father Gabriel Olive. It is now time to move on from both the house and the collection.”

Pelham is still involved in investing in medical businesses and said his latest venture is “combatting the effects of climate change with an eco-estate in Scotland”.

He also finds time to race an Edwardian yacht.