James Rylands, retiring after 44 years in the auction business.

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He started at Sotheby Bearnes in Torquay in 1979 before moving to Sotheby’s in Sussex in 1981.

In 1986 he initiated the sales of garden statuary for which both he and Summers Place are perhaps best known for. In 2008 Rupert van der Werff and he took over the business from Sotheby’s and have been running sales outside Billingshurst ever since.

Selling an eclectic array of pieces, once described by leading dealer Peter Petrou as “from Rome to chrome”, highlights have included everything from 20 tonnes of the Berlin Wall to the iconic Pooh bridge from Ashdown forest as well as a 57ft long 150 million year old diplodocus dinosaur.

Sales of the unexpected

Rylands said: “It’s been a roller coaster of fun over the decades and Rupert and I have really enjoyed putting together auctions which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

"We have taken great delight in our clients opening their catalogues and wondering what weird and wonderful objects they will find…sales of the unexpected indeed! I know in the future, our friends and clients will continue to give Rupert the same support.”

Rylands is moving to Bermuda where his wife’s family live and is looking forward to some leisure time diving on shipwrecks, fishing and soaking up the sun with the odd glass of rum.

Rupert van der Werff will continue running the business with the established team at Summers Place.