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So it was for Sussex and Hampshire-based auctioneer Bellmans, which celebrated its advent in 1989 with a swell party in the firm’s Wisborough Green HQ on Friday, May 10. Guests included clients, MPs and staff, all raising a glass with Bellmans owner, Patrick White, also majority owner of art transport firm Gander & White.

White founded Bellmans 30 years ago in a modest premises in Pulborough, down the road from its current 25,000 sq ft building in Wisborough Green.


The Bellmans 30th birthday party.

Tang collection

That ready-made 30th birthday theme was provided by combining the celebration with a sale preview of the Sir David Tang collection.

Objects amassed by the late Hong Kong-born polyglot, entrepreneur and super-host, whose socialising hit its height in the 1980s and ‘90s, filled the saleroom next to Bellmans’ main auditorium ahead of the sale on Monday, May 13.

Guests were transported back to those heady years by Warhol-esque depictions of Princess Diana, Damien Hirst silk screen prints and a David Linley marquetry humidor.

It was a heady week for Bellmans too: the night before the party, the auction house held a sale for the Care for Veterans charity, with Bellmans and online bidding platform thesaleroom.com waiving commission charges to donate the takings to veteran rehabilitation.

“Huge thanks to thesaleroom.com for being so generous,” said Philip Belcher, Bellmans’ senior executive director, as he recounted how it took “two hours to sell 60 lots, bearing in mind they were nice, donated things from holidays to football shirts”.

The party was due to wrap at 9pm but several guests, including (ahem) ATG, lingered long after.

Perhaps Bellmans should have adopted Sir David Tang’s no-nonsense method for ejecting guests: determined to be in bed by 10.30pm, he was known to empty his living room with a clap of his hands, urging guests with a stern, “come on, time to go”.

On the rise

Belcher, who joined Bellmans in May 2016, was promoted to senior executive director last year after managing director Jonathan Pratt left to join Dreweatts. Bellmans opened a second saleroom in Winchester in 2016. It has a consignment office in central London.