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However, when such gems are secured they almost always bring good prices and Mr Lloyd was cheered – although dealers will not concur – by noting increasingly greater action among private buyers bidding on the top quality entries.

Mallams’ star turn – a George II bracket clock consigned from an Oxford estate – finally ended up going to the trade but only after strong private competition pushed up the winning bid to a hefty £12,000. Catalogued as walnut but in fact mahogany, with an arched brass dial, and signed Thomas Eastland, London, the 22in (55cm), timepiece in its case with blind fretwork, was estimated at £2000-3000. However, Mallams soon knew this entry would fly after they were inundated by a deluge of telephone bidders.

Illustrated here, the clock, with a verge escapement, striking on six bells and a signed and engraved backplate, had a dial with a date aperture and strike/silent lever and brass spandrels with a silvered chapter ring.

An 18th century wingback armchair was also on the sale’s most wanted list. The early George II armchair had an exposed pine frame with mahogany front cabriole legs on claw and ball feet with splayed back legs. Buyers could see exactly what was on offer and, although it needed to be re-upholstered, it generated huge pre-sale interest.

Auctioneer Mr Lloyd thought it was “more saleable naked than covered badly” and it sold on the telephone to a private buyer at £8500 (estimate £3000-4000).

One of the most unusual furniture entries was a 19th century rectangular seat with four well-carved griffin supports, 4ft 4in (1.3m). Mr Lloyd had never had a similar example and although they were not sure whether it was English or Continental, trade bidders were not deterred. The London trade took the entry to £3900 against a £300-500 suggested guideline.

Practical as well as unusual pieces of furniture continue to sell well, as was shown by the interest aroused by a Victorian mahogany pedestal writing desk and a George III sewing table. Measuring 4ft 11in by 2ft 8in, (1.5m x 81cm), the desk was bought by the Cotswold trade at £2000 and the mahogany sewing table, in original condition and with a good colour, was snapped up by the trade at £1000.

The table was one of several top quality entries from a deceased estate near Abingdon that also included a pair of bronze horses by Jules Moigniez, 12in (30cm) by 12in. The popular subject matter and the fact they were a pair more than made up for their poor patina, and the group was contested by collectors selling at £4800 against a conservative £600-800 estimate.

Mallams, Oxford, January 31
Number of lots offered: 288
Number of lots sold: 182
Sale total: £100,000
Buyer’s premium: 15 per cent