For a cast-iron sign that spring has brought a resurgence in the garden look to the results of the recent biannual sale of garden design at Summers Place Auctions where Coalbrookdale seats were back in the limelight.
Rather remarkably, one might think, a major force behind the
success was the number of Chinese buyers.
"We have seen some Chinese bidding at the last three or four
sales but it was particularly noticeable here," said auctioneer
James Rylands, hazarding a guess that the new predilection among
wealthy Chinese for Western-style architecture may have been a
"We were particularly thrilled with the results of the
Coalbrookdale material," he said, having seen all 12 lots - a
fountain, a pair of tables and ten lots of seats - sell for a
hammer total of £84,000 at the auction on May 20.
"There has been a growing trend to the return of the late '90s
when these pieces did so well, but the May sale outdid all previous
records," he added.
Coalbrookdale cast-iron garden seats vary widely in price with
the rarity and the desirability of the pattern counting for much.
It appears the emergent Chinese buyers want the best.
The top-priced seats, a pair of 6ft 3in (1.90m) long, fully
stamped Coalbrookdale & Co benches in the rare
Horse Chestnut design patented in 1868, went to America at £22,000
against a £10,000-15,000 estimate.
Among the seats going to China were a similarly sized single
seat in the same pattern at a double mid-estimate £8000 and a pair
of 6ft 3in (1.90m) long, fully stamped benches in the equally rare
Passion Flower pattern registered in 1862, which went
just over the top estimate at £15,500.
With cast iron being the material in most demand, a rare pair of
c.1870 Val d'Osne term figures, or herms, of a boy and girl, each
standing 5ft 3in (1.60m) high were estimated at £6000-10,000 but
sold at £18,000. Once again, Chinese money dominated.
Coadestone Townley Vase
Another name very much back in favour is that of Coadestone. At
Summers Place an example of Eleanor Code's ceramic artificial stone
outsold pieces in the marble for which it was a substitute.
This was a rare example of the Coadestone Townley Vase, a 3ft
(92cm) tall piece modelled on a 2nd century AD Roman marble vase
discovered in Italy in 1773 and now in the British Museum. The
Coadestone piece was dated 1840 and, against an £8000-12,000
estimate, was another Chinese buy at £14,500.
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