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There were, inevitably, some high-priced failures but the overall mood was buoyant and reassuring – specialist John Leatt admitting that there were worries about the reaction to this first sale at Donnington Priory since the terrorist attacks on America.

And more than compensating for failures was the trade’s reactions to two underrated items among the 205 lots of furniture and works of art discussed here which closed a comprehensive sale.

Top price of the section came on the Regency table from a local private source and illustrated here – a pine and beech work painted with a simulated marble top.

John Leatt remains of the opinion that the top and base did not start out together. It was the sheer, and now potent, decorative value of the table – nicely promoted in a catalogue with colour photographs of anything of value – which saw a London dealer go to £9200 to secure it against an estimate of £800-1200.

There were similar concerns about the wholly original qualities of the late 17th century carved oak chest, also illustrated.

However, before the sale expert opinion was that although the geometric sides had been carved by a lesser craftsman than the front, it was all of a piece and original. Small size – 2ft 4in high and 3ft 81/2in wide (71cm x 1.13m) – original condition and a local private provenance back to the 1920s all helped it to bring £7000 from an oak specialist against a £600-800 estimate.

Untouched condition and small size were also the selling points of a George IV sofa table in mahogany crossbanded in satinwood and strung with ebony and box. The 5ft (1.52m) table needed some work but this is an incentive to dealers and a local one trebled the estimate with a bid of £6500.

Although the trade were back in the ascendant they predictably gave way when a George IV bird’s-eye maple and ebony sofa table went over its £3000 top estimate. Very pretty, nicely sized at 5ft 13/4in (1.57m) long and in the style of Bullock, it had, however, been restored.

“Very clean and perhaps over-restored,” was Mr Leatt’s opinion and that of the trade but not the private bidders who don’t mind showroom condition at auction prices and the table sold to one of them at a treble-estimate £6500.
Other top selling furniture sold more within high expectations.

The current popularity of George III mahogany knife boxes saw the auctioneers put what was considered a bullish £2500-3500 estimate on a chequer-banded pair, of familiar inverted serpentine form with shield-shaped metal escutcheons. The market is stronger than they thought and this pair, each 151/2in by 91/2in (39 x 24cm), were particularly attractive examples. They went to a local dealer at £4200. Also prettier than many such pieces and also going well over estimate was a late-19th century fiddleback mahogany and marquetry bonheur du jour. It had a breakfront top featuring a pierced brass gallery, chequer band cornice with glazed door and a base with cylinder and sloped top enclosing a fitted interior, all on square tapering feet. The fact that it was veneered and inlaid to the back as well as the front and sides was evidence of its quality and it sold at £5000.

The value people now put on good wood and craftsmanship from the 1920s was again evident when a long set of 14 mahogany dining chairs took £5600 while the best of the clocks was another 20th century piece.

This was a 7ft 3in (2.21m) Edwardian intricately inlaid mahogany longcase with a 12in (30cm) brass arched dial with blind fret foliate decoration. With Whittington/Westminster chimes it was, said Mr Leatt, one of those clocks that “did everything” and was a furnishing clock rather than a piece for the specialist horologist. As such it doubled hopes, going to the Midlands trade at £7000.

By contrast, three timepieces entered by the Bristol engineering firm of Horstmann Controls, who began life as a firm of Bath clockmakers established in 1854, were too specialist for the bidders on this occasion. All plain to the point of starkness, a stained wood longcase, rosewood regulator and a superb ebonized case with a Horstmann patent self-winding regulator, failed against estimates of, £1000-1500, £8000-10,000 and £15,000-£18,000 to prove one of the few disappointments of a very successful sale.

Dreweatt Neate, Newbury, October 10
Number of lots of works of art, furniture
and clocks: 205
Lots sold: 82 per cent
Sale total: £220,000
Buyer’s premium:
15 per cent