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“Whereas ten or 15 years ago the trade would buy maybe 20 lots each at our auctions, nowadays it is more like half a dozen at best,” he said.

And this is not just because of an increase in private buying, telephone bidding and the Internet.

“I would say there are many more dealers, and from all over the UK, turning up to our sales than in the past.”

More competition, greater distances to travel, is there any good news?

Well, when bidders do get to Cirencester the journey tends to be worthwhile.

Since the auctioneers decided to funnel their better consignments into fine sales – a consequence of and a contribution to the selective atmosphere of the antiques market – the Gloucestershire firm have attracted a higher quota of quality material from private vendors, and therefore interest from a wider audience of potential buyers, both in America and the UK.

At this sale the top lots were locally sourced and among the finest examples in the fields of Japanese Meiji ceramics and Scottish edged weapons.

Little information was forthcoming about the pair of Satsuma vases which followed, but the auctioneer was moved to say that they were the “finest quality Satsuma” he had ever seen.

The four panels on each of the square form vases had been intricately and expressively painted with scenes of figures laundering clothes in rivers and pursuing scholarly tasks in garden and interior settings.

Each measuring 9in high by 3in wide (23 x 8cm), the vases evinced slight rubbing but were otherwise untouched. The auctioneers could not decipher the gilt seal marks, but the vases were of sufficient quality for their author to be known to the specialist trade.

Perhaps surprisingly, there was no American interest in the vases, given the interest shown by US collectors in Satsuma and prospect of the Asian Art Fair in New York in March, but the pieces still attracted strong bidding and sold to a West Country dealer at £9600.

The furniture included three items of period oak furniture from a local country house. One item was this good Gothic style oak reading chair of the early 19th century, the yoke back with adjustable reading slope and two pen drawers, the arched splat decorated with leaf and berry spandrels. In fine condition apart from a few little breakages, the chair went to the trade at £2500.