Multi-estimate prices were achieved for many of the 500 lots of chiefly traditional art and antiques from the Tudor manor in Puddletown, near Dorchester.
Much of the contents, offered with realistic estimates by local auction house Duke’s, had been bought from dealers in the 1930s-40s by Bristol surgeon and collector Robert Victor Cooke.
Guy Schwinge of Duke’s said: “I cannot over emphasise that this really was a good old-fashioned country house sale. We had more than 150 people filling the room with some sitting on the floor and in the aisles.
“The location, of course, had the wow factor but essentially this is a really positive story for the brown furniture market.”
The top lot of the October 9 sale was a George II Irish rococo mahogany side table hammered down at £58,000 against an estimate of £20,000-40,000.
Some choice oak and vernacular furniture items included a c.1525 Henry VIII oak coffer with ‘Romayne’ head panels sold at £40,000 and a Charles II oak joined stool c.1670 sold for £26,000 after a battle between collectors on the phone from the US and the UK.
It was one of a number of pieces to have appeared in important reference works (in this case Tobias Jellinek’s Early British Chairs and Seats, 1500-1700).
Two highlights from Duke’s Athelhampton House sale.
A late 17th century William & Mary japanned cabinet on a silvered stand, exhibited at The Treasure Houses of Britain exhibition in Washington DC in 1985, had been estimated at £15,000-25,000. It sold at £36,000 to a trade buyer, underbid by an art consultant and a collector.
A pair of George II side chairs c.1755 in the manner of William Vile or the so-called St Martins Lane Syndicate was pictured in The Works of Thomas Chippendale and his Contemporaries in the Rococo Style by Anthony Coleridge (1968).
Similar to the celebrated suite of furniture supplied to St Giles House for the Earl of Shaftesbury, according to old references they were made for Captain Townsend MP, for Raynham Hall, Norfolk. Estimated at £15,000-25,000, they were bought at £28,000 by a private collector represented by an art consultant, underbid by another collector.
Two four poster beds also performed well. A Charles I oak bed, mentioned in Victor Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: The British Tradition (1979), took £34,000 against an estimate of £10,000-15,000, while a rare Henry VIII early 16th century oak bed, comparable (according to Duke’s) to the ‘Stanley Bed’ which Chinnery dates to c1500-1530 and also illustrates in his 1979 tome, took £30,000, against a £5000-10,000.
Schwinge said that 99.5% of the lots got away with the four unsolds expected to find buyers. He added: “There was a wide range of buyers from serious private collectors to members of the trade.”
Among the pictures was a full-length Elizabethan portrait of a woman identified as Catherine, wife of Sir Anthony Poulett, ascribed to Robert Peake (c.1551-1619) knocked down at £32,000.
The auction also included a group of works by the Russian-born Cubist painter Marevna Vorobieff (1892-1984), who lived with her daughter’s family at Athelhampton from 1949-57
The last of four versions of her most famous painting The Friends of Montparnasse from 1961 sold at £10,000.
Robert Victor Cooke bought Athelhampton House in 1957 to accommodate his growing collection. The contents were consigned by his grandson Patrick Cooke following the recent sale of the property for around £7m.
A 25% buyer’s premium was charged.