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Topping the day was a white gold three-stone diamond ring which took £6000 but of more interest was a collection of approximately 120 signed letters from eminent Victorians to Sir Mark Whitwell, a Bristol shipping agent and philanthropist.

The letters, which had been consigned to sale by a family member, all related to social reform in late 19th century Bristol and included letters from Gladstone, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Lord Shaftesbury. Letters from Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were offered as two separate lots.

Local television, radio and Press coverage heightened interest in the album which the auctioneers billed as “an unparalleled document of Victorian social reform in Bristol”.

It was feared the successful buyer would break the collection up and sell each letter separately but to the relief of many the main album was bought by Sir Whitwell’s great-grandson, who has no intention of splitting the collection, for £1700.

Whitwell’s grandson also took the Edison letters for £775 and the Graham Bell letter went to a specialist dealer for £520. Mr Burridge was keen to avoid the common scenario of a few top pieces of furniture selling, and the rest sticking, by being extremely selective in what he chose to enter to sale.

The best of the quality pieces on offer was a George III mahogany chest. The locally sourced chest had a moulded edge, fitted brushing slide and four long graduated drawers all with rococo style brass swan neck handles. Bar a split to the top, the 2ft 10in (86cm) wide chest was in good original condition with the added bonus of a “good colour”. It was a trade buy at £5400.

The importance of original condition to the trade was highlighted when the scratched finish to a George III mahogany serpentine front commode failed to detract from its value.

The 3ft 11in (1.19m) wide commode had boxwood and ebony string inlay and three drawers all with octagonal wreath design brass handles had been expected to bring £1000-1500.
The “honest” nature of the piece saw it taken over estimate to £3300 by a dealer from the Midlands.

Original condition was again a cause for concern in the case of a George III serpentine front mahogany sideboard. The sideboard, which was inlaid with boxwood stringing, had an addition some 100 years after its original construction of a brass gallery fitted to the raised back.
A number of dealers felt it should be removed to regain its original form.
However, the successful buyer had no pressing interest in the purity of the outline and the gallery will remain when it is installed in the boardroom of the local company who took it at £4600.

Best of the ceramics was an early 19th century Staffordshire bulbous jug. The 6in (15cm) high jug had a large crack in it and the decoration was rather worn but it was this decoration which took is over estimate.

Two reserve panels depicting the pugilists Molineux and Cribb adorned either side of the jug.
Boxing related items are a strong collecting area and it was one such sporting collector who, after some 40 years of collecting, still hadn’t acquired such a jug until he took the Clevedon Rooms example it at £2100.

Previously housed on a mantelpiece in Newport was Electricity, a Doulton Lambeth stoneware mouse group menu holder by George Tinworth. This was a highly appealing piece and, bar some slight nibbling to the ear of one of the mice and a missing metal menu support, the 31/2in (9cm) high model was in “pretty good” condition.

Expected to bring between £500-750 it went to a Midlands buyer at £1800.
Something which Mr Burridge expected to do slightly better than it did was a 19th century Wedgwood majolica strawberry dish with matching cream jug and sucrière with cover. Each piece was decorated with moulded flowering strawberries on a tortoiseshell ground with an ochre handle and borders, and had an impressed registration mark and a year cipher for 1870 printed to the underside.
After the sale Mr Burridge was told by a dealer that this kind of majolica was “very much a New York market” and those who usually supply buyers were, quite understandably, not keen to buy until they knew how the situation in the States would develop.
The set got away at the lower-estimate £600.

Clevedon Salerooms, Bristol
September 20
Number of lots: 535
Number of lots sold: n/a
Sale total: £145,000
Buyer’s premium: 15 per cent