The auction house is up for sale and Bainbridge notes there are a number of interested parties in the business.
Bainbridges, founded in 1979 on the proceeds of an MG sports car, has traded from Ickenham Road in Ruislip since the 1990s and previously held sales from a large barn nearby in Bury Street.
Bainbridge had his very first taste of auctioneering when – before training as a solicitor – he briefly worked as a porter for a Newark cattle market in 1967.
He landed his first full-time role as manager of West London Auctions in Ealing before he decided to set up on his own, typically conducting ‘on the premises’ house contents sales with the aid of a new ‘portable’ computer which enabled him to complete the admin on site.
“The rostrum was the dining room table”, he recalls.
For many years he worked with Bridget Gorman, who retired in 2015 after four decades at Bainbridges, and built a friendship with art critic Brian Sewell, who would sometimes catalogue items for the saleroom.
He found a chalk and gouache drawing attributed to Thomas Gainsborough just before Sewell died in 2015. It went on to sell for £60,000. “Just being a general saleroom doesn’t mean you don’t have expertise”, says Bainbridge.
For 20 years Bainbridge also enjoyed the glamour of being a freelance car auctioneer, first for Coys and later for RM Sotheby’s.
His main moment of fame came in November 2010 when he auctioned a Qianlong yang caireticulated double-walled vase discovered in a local home.
The vase was hammered down at £43m – at the time the highest price ever recorded at auction for anything other than a painting or piece of sculpture.
However, a payment dispute ensued and after three years auction house Bonhams helped to negotiate a deal with a new buyer, a Far Eastern collector, in the region of £23m-25m.
The final sale at Bainbridges will be in June and Bainbridge hopes the business will then be sold as a going concern. His retirement will involve a plan to plant vines at his Cotswolds home and restore motorbikes with his granddaughters.