Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Rolston Hall, a 19th century property in Hornsea, East Yorkshire had contributed a number of pieces ‘surplus to requirements’ but perhaps the more substantial draw were the remaining contents of Aislaby Hall – a Grade II listed Georgian manor house situated in a 32 acre plot in Pickering, North Yorkshire.

Aislaby – recently sold after the death of a senior member of the family – was the source of the catalogue’s blue-chip entry: a pair of George III card tables, 3ft 2in (97cm)wide, in satinwood banded in kingwood and amaranth and embellished to the frieze with a single shell motif. In addition to their obvious merits as a pair of period tables, both were considered absolutely right and original in their construction.

Last on the market back in 1912, they reappeared for sale with an estimate of £15,000-20,000 but went to £23,000 after successful bidding from a dealer acting on commission for a client.

A number of pieces purchased for the house later this century had a little less integrity (and accordingly sold a little below par) but these did not include an early Victorian brass skeleton clock by William Johnson of The Strand with a single fusee movement, and an open rafter frame supported by a marble plinth. At 2ft 61/2in (77cm) high, size was its main asset and it sold at double its estimate to make £3800.

A George III ivory and tortoiseshell tea caddy inset to one of the ten sides with a silver shield and mother-of-pearl garlands, 41/2in (11.5cm) wide, was a very commercial object which also doubled up at £2000, but perhaps the genuine surprise in this section was provided by a pair of 19th century narwhal tusks, now incorporated as part of a single bed.

The bed was not part of this lot’s appeal (firewood, I gather) but two 6ft (1.84m) tusks in fine condition bought a remarkable level of interest, including a serious enquiry from Prague. They sold to a UK dealer at £3500 (estimate £800-1200).

Choice entry from Rolston was also unexpected: a Turkish carpet, 15ft 9in x 13ft 3in (4.80 x 4.04m), dated to c.1900 and decorated to a pale leaf green field with stylised foliage and classic motifs in pink, green, brown and gold.

Like many of the estimates in this catalogue, the £1000-1500 guideline provided an indication of the reserve but the auctioneers (who had taken advice from London) were impressed by £6500.

One of the positive consequences of moving the Bonhams architectural department from London to Stockport has been a better hit-rate for the 19th century material which make up most of the numbers (and often the unsold statistics) at these events.
In London (where sales began in 1993) Victoriana had suffered at the expense of better quality or earlier objects in the Georgian style but Manchester – a chiefly 19th century city – has more of the large Victorian properties still intact which can accommodate Victorian grandeur. An unsold rate of just 16 per cent from 306 lots was most encouraging for the March catalogue – in the context of these sales.

Good pieces from the Georgian era are increasingly difficult to source but Bonhams had found such an object to illustrate the front cover of their catalogue.

This was a fine George III carved pine and limewood fire surround c.1780, 4ft 9in x 5ft 7in (1.45 x 1.74m), embellished in the Grecian style with a frieze of running anthemion and acanthus, end blocks with Grecian urns and the jambs with bellflower pendants.

Underbid by a private buyer (much more in evidence this time around than they had been at the inaugural event in October), it sold to the trade at £9000 (estimate £3000-4000).

Largest and most expensive entry was a quantity of oak linenfold panelling, approximately 100ft (30.5m) in all, entered for sale by a builder who had salvaged it during the demolition of a London property.
There were approximately five sections of 16th century panels, seven sections of 17th century panels and a quantity of 19th century material, enough perhaps for three rooms. They sold to a dealer in architectural material for £12,000, which was double the lower estimate.

If this was the highest price of the day, then perhaps the most remarkable was provided by a set of five Victorian brass curtain poles, four measuring 8ft 91/2in (2.68m) wide and another 7ft 1in (2.16m) wide.

They were very nice examples of their type – each with hanging rings and repoussé finials in the form of gadrooned urns – but very much in their favour was their status as a suite for a complete room. Estimated at £1000-1500, they sold to a furniture dealer at £4000.

Bonhams, Manchester, March 25, April 21
Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent