Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The area worst affected by falling demand recently - harder hit even than 19th century furniture - has been routine silverware. This being so, the £500-700 estimate put on a London 1846 four-piece tea service seemed rather ambitious.

Embossed and engraved with floral decoration, it was, however, a very pretty service, said auctioneer Sarah Debnam and, on the day, attracted a lot of interest before selling to a Spanish dealer at £820.

Topping the furniture was a well-carved Victorian walnut and button-upholstered foyer seat. Comprising a shaped circle divided into four seats with central carved walnut and upholstered back rests, this unusual four-seater stood on brass and ceramic casters. Estimated at up to £1500, it sold at £2500 to a local firm whose foyer it will presumably grace.

Also bringing what looked a good price these days - although £100 below the top estimate - was a Victorian figured walnut davenport with a rising top. A private buyer took the rather impractical, but decorative, piece at £1400.

Other solid sellers in a currently difficult market included three pieces of Regency mahogany. A bow-front sideboard with figured reeded top went over hopes at £1650; an ebony line-inlaid sofa table took a lower-estimate £1400 and a drop-leaf work table with rosewood crossbanding made £1200.

What looked a good buy for a private bidder was a Queen Anne walnut chest with a crossbanded moulded top above two short and three long drawers with original brass handles and escutcheons. At 3ft 3 1/2in (1m) wide it was perhaps a little big to be commercial and had undergone some restoration and alteration. This is to be expected of a 300-year-old piece of furniture, but is still a drawback for the selective trade and the private buyer got the chest at a lower-estimate £2000.

Among the works of art the top seller, as expected, was a 12in (30cm) tall bronze of the racehorse Ibrahim signed P.J.Mêne, which went to a Scottish collector at an above-estimate £2400.

A less common offering at a provincial auction was a lot tersely catalogued as a Middle Bronze Age, white-painted ware jug, c.1700BC, and two small plain white juglets. Apparently the sellers could authenticate the jug and the lot took a private bid of £500.

Dealers, however, were determined to secure two of the more unusual offerings.

One was a large Black Forest carving. Not of a bear, whose appeal seems to have plateaued, but of a very well carved boar. Estimated at up to £300, this attracted a lot of pre-sale interest and four telephone bidders took part in the battle which eventually ended in a bid of £1000.

Another unexpected trade target was a Japanese carved bamboo and silver-mounted walking stick with skull handle. Estimated at £80-120, this took £780 from a specialist London dealer.