"The best piece of furniture sold in Shropshire in a decade," enthused Shrewsbury auctioneer Jeremy Lamond of Halls.
A look at the £120,000 George I red and gilt japanned bureau
cabinet illustrated here, and one may think Mr Lamond was being
unduly modest in limiting his claim to just his own county and a
On the other hand, it did allow him to mention that the ranking
piece of furniture, a Pugin table which made £180,000 in 1997, was
also sold in these Welshpool rooms.
Like the Pugin table (made for Leighton Hall, about eight miles
away), the bureau cabinet was a locally consigned piece, from just
across the border in Powys. The vendor's grandfather had bought it
from a Bruton Street, Mayfair, dealer in 1930 for £50. A fair sum
then, of course - say £3000 in today's money.
Nobody, however, expected it to go at that kind of price. The
catalogue had a 'refer to department' estimate, but Mr Lamond said
that the £120,000 bid (£141,000 with premium) was "around what I'd
been hoping for".
He pointed out: "There's a similar piece attributed to John
Belchier in the state bedroom at Erddig Hall, [the National Trust
property near Wrexham] but very few red lacquered pieces from
around 1720 come up at auction."
Standing 7ft 1in high by 3ft 3in wide (2.16m x 98cm) the
double-domed bureau cabinet with arched mirrored drawers above the
fitted fall, had all the trimmings, including secret drawers, one
would expect in a piece designed to make a spectacular statement.
When the doors and fall were opened, the chinoiserie-themed gilt
inlay was revealed as being as lavish and imposing to the interior
as to the exterior.
"There had been some restoration over the centuries as one would
expect from a 300-year-old piece of furniture, but that was all,"
said Mr Lamond. "The handles had been replaced, again as you'd
expect, but everything else was original including, we believe, the
The buyer of the region's finest piece of English furniture for
some time was a London furniture dealer.
Nowadays, it's a rare sale in which English furniture steals the
headlines when up against Chinese offerings - particularly when
they include 40 lots of jade and ceramics from the renowned Brodie
Lodge Collection built up at Flore House, Northamptonshire in the
late 1940s and '50s.
These pieces added £174,000 to the day's total leading Mr Lamond
to say: "It shows that quality pieces can sell just as well in
Shropshire as they can in London.
"We had 115 people registered to bid live on the internet and
half of those were from China," said Mr Lamond. Bidding was through
As so often among Chinese lots, the majority of the pieces went
at around estimate, often three-figure sums, interspersed with much
higher bids with, as Mr Lamond said, "wealthy collectors wanting to
take antiques back to China".