The parcel-gilt 83oz punchbowl, dated to 1775, which took £28,000 plus premium at W&H Peacock.

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The auctioneers could not find any marks on the domed and beaded base of the 83oz punchbowl, which measures just over 12in (30cm) in diameter, but the basin bears a set of hallmarks that, unusually, are struck across the top of the vacant cartouche. These are for the year 1775 and the London maker William Holmes, a well-regarded rather than blue chip name.

Tantalisingly, the lack of any armorial to the cartouche means the piece offers no clue to its earlier history. Auctioneer Simon Rowell told ATG that the condition was "not bad" although the piece was "a bit mis-shapen". The design and decoration, however, with its prominent ram's heads and foreleg supports that screw into the base, were premier league stuff, "first line neoclassicism, a rare form of punch bowl influenced by Wyatt and Adam", according to one trade underbidder.

Mr Rowell said the attention the piece received at the viewing made him realise the original estimate was very likely to be outstripped, and confirmation came on the day with four or five phone lines booked and two or three serious trade bidders still in the running at £20,000.

By Anne Crane