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It didn’t start that way. Seventeen c.1825-1840 Staffordshire pastille burners in the forms of cottages, churches etc. collected by a Ludlow oak dealer’s wife were entered with ‘inherited’ estimates – suggested by a London house – and all added to the casualty list. The 16 carpets that closed the sale were also a disappointment.

But in between, it was a different matter as British dealers and private bidders took up the slack left by absent US buyers.

With some 50 four-figure prices among the furniture the market for good, privately entered material was as buoyant as ever with the trade taking 70 per cent of the better pieces.

Leading the day, as expected, was a pair of 12in (30cm) Smiths terrestrial and celestial table globes. raised on wrythen squat baluster column and three-branch supports and three tapering hipped mahogany legs to an overall height of 23in (58cm).

One of them lacked its brass meridian ring and both were in distressed condition but the famous London makers, who billed the terrestrial globe as containing the whole of the latest discoveries and geographical improvements also the tracks of the most celebrated circumnavigators would no doubt have approved the way their work went over the top £8000 estimate to bring £13,000 from a Home Counties dealer.

The best of the clocks fitted exactly into the format of offering fresh private pieces to the trade – ‘rather old fashioned but it works,’ said auctioneer Richard Allen.

This was a small, c. 1830-40 5ft 6in (1.68cm) mahogany cased weight-driven regulator by Joyce of Whitchurch which had remained in the maker’s family until willed to a local doctor. Many of his patients who had seen the clock, with its 14in (36cm) silvered dial in the waiting rooms wanted the clock.

Featuring an arched pillar and glazed front door, the clock, with a five-pillar movement, dead-beat escapement and fully adjustable beat setting, went above estimate to a dealer who wanted it for himself, at £7400.

As Richard Allen said, lots at Halls carry estimates that reflect market values. Thus bidding was much as expected for pieces like a 7ft 6in (3.54m) c.1860 figured walnut secretaire bookcase which made £4200; a c.1800 oak and mahogany press cupboard, 6ft 4in high by 5ft 1in wide (1.93 x 1.55m) with fielded panel doors which took £3500, and a late 18th century mahogany open armchair with foliate carved top rail, vase shaped splats, out-curved arms and cabriole acanthus-carved legs which made £3400.

Oddly enough, on a day which Mr Allen described as “not good” for tables and chairs, two 20th century George III-style mahogany offerings did rather well. A 1960s/70s four-pillar D-end dining table extending to 12ft 9in (6.01m) with two extra leaves brought a mid-estimate £3000, and a set of eight (6 + 2) upholstered dining chairs doubled top expectations with another £3000.

By contrast, a pair of 5ft (1,52m) wide late 18th/early 19th century carved pine chimney-pieces provided one of the sale’s few upper-register disappointments when they failed against hopes of £5000-7000.

There were plenty of compensations, in particular an early 19th century three-legged elm Windsor chair from the aforementioned doctor’s estate and a c. 1680 joined oak table. The chair, “pure Shropshire” said Mr Allen, was wormed and the saddle seat was split but, even so, he put the £300-500 estimate down as “a mistake pure and simple.’

With two front and single back ring-turned legs, tall stick back and out-curved two-part arms, it was a vernacular gem and went to the trade at £2600.

The 3ft 3in (1m) wide side table, probably Dutch, had a bevelled top, shallow frieze drawer and ropetwist legs united by an X-stretcher.
Estimated at up to £800 it was the target of a specialist oak dealer who went to £2900 to secure it.
Halls, Shrewsbury,
September 21
Number of lots: 325
Lots sold: 251
Sale total: £182,000
Buyer’s premium: 12.5 per cent