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As at Christie’s South Kensington, the other London room that focuses on such specialist sales in this field, this was their first sale since last December and, as with their SW7 competitors, it saw an improvement in take-up on the last couple of mixed-owner outings. The 70 per cent sold by lot may not have been as high as the 82 per cent recorded at CSK’s February sale, but does the increase suggest more movement in the market?

Collectors and dealers were both in evidence and arguably more enthusiastic than late last year; with the major fairs season not far away the need to stock up must be high on the lists of many.

Once again it was the furniture that gave a more solid performance than the works of art, although the metalwares fared better. A large selection of rushlights – which included some re-offerings from the auctioneers’ September Nyetimber Manor sale – generally changed hands with little difficulty, as did the candlesticks, while a single-owner collection of pewter gave the sale an initial boost.

The 39 lots that opened this sale, all British pewter measures, had been collected by the only Dutch member of the English Pewter Society and were consigned to Sotheby’s by his nephew. All sold bar six, with two other lots going as after sales.

Prices were mostly in line with estimates with an 18th century Scottish Mutchkin measure (approximately 16fl oz) of tappit hen-type providing the highest individual price of £1500, although some of the multiple lots offering small groups of measures came in over their attractively pitched estimates.

As so often, it was dressers and dresser bases that led the furniture section, claiming four of the sale’s five highest prices. These were led by the type of piece that buyers like most: a privately consigned dresser of distinctive regional type in untouched condition. Measuring 7ft 2in (2.19m) wide with an arrangement of two tall narrow cupboards flanking shaped shelves to the upper section and dated to the third quarter of the 18th century, features such as the mahogany banding, side pilasters and ogee feet all pointed to a North West attribution. It sold to a British trader for £7500, comfortably over estimate.

While many people buy a piece of oak furniture as a decorative but functional purchase, there are other more purist collectors who set far greater store by originality than usefulness. Illustrative of this other side of the oak market was a 3ft 5in (1.05m) wide English iron-bound elm standard, dated to the early 16th century. Standard is the term used to described a chest constructed in the main for transporting goods, usually bound in iron and covered with cloth or leather.

Sotheby’s example had managed to retain the original leather to the lid and its original ironwork features, which took it to a double-estimate £5800 paid by a private purchaser.

Significantly, the subsequent larger example, which had lost some of its base and stood on replacement feet, sold just inside the lower end of its £2000-3000 estimate at £2200.

Although many early works of art don’t have the same fashionable appeal today as oak, one unusual piece here bucked the trend. This was a 5in (13cm) long English brass pen case, whose engraved decoration included the dated inscription I was made in Sheffield and many can witness I was not made by a man 1656. It is one of a recognised group of around 20 examples distinguished by similar inscriptions, which has led to the suggestion that these are the work of a craftswoman.

The auctioneers sold a similar example in 1992 for £2600 in their Billingshurst rooms, where their oak and country sales were then based. A couple of dealers were keen to purchase this latest offering, but it was snapped up at £4800 by a lady bidding for the Jamestown Yorktown Educational Trust in Williamsburg, USA.