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Mind you, as the illustration inset suggests, you would need a pretty massive library to house these illuminators, for they stand almost 10ft (3.03m) high. Bonhams put them on display in their New Bond Street reception, and they dominated even this spacious area.

Their monumental size becomes more understandable when their history is revealed and you learn that they are, in fact, ecclesiastical furnishings. These giant examples of Renaissance revivalism were designed for a particularly celebrated church interior - King's College Chapel, Cambridge - by George Gilbert Scott Junior, son of Sir Gilbert Scott the famous architect and pioneer of gothic revivalism.

The candlestands, or standards, which bear the crest of King's College to their shafts, were commissioned by the college in June 1870, made in the workshop of Barkentin and Krall and completed the following year. Scott Jnr. was a talented designer and founder of the ecclesiastical furnishing firm Watts and Co. His candlestands are set on circular bases with recumbent lion supports that are based on the chapel's 16th century bronze lectern which they were designed to complement. They remained in situ for almost a century until 1964 when, following a drastic remodelling of the east end of the chapel to accommodate Rubens' Adoration of the Magi, they were put into store.

The candlestands' inclusion in Bonhams' auction last month is not their first appearance at auction. In November 2005 they came up for sale in much more low-key circumstances at a local Cambridge rooms, Willingham Auctions, when they sold for a hammer price of £8500.

They were part of a small group of items put into the auction by the King's College adornment committee and the specific provenance to King's was not given. They were described as "removed from a leading Cambridge College" (although the King's crest would have revealed their origins to observant viewers). The November 2005 sale contained what were described as the surplus antique contents of two leading Cambridge colleges and Willingham Auction's Stephen Drake told ATG last week that they have a tradition of selling things for Cambridge colleges. On the specific provenance of the candlestands, he said: "We couldn't publish any more details because the vendor wanted them to remain private."

Bonhams' director Robert Bleasdale said that when they originally saw the candlesticks they thought they were designed by Pugin and made by the Midlands firm of Hardman, but further research showed them to be designed by the less prolific Gilbert Scott Jnr and at this stage they increased the original £30,000-40,000 estimate.

The monumental candlestands appeared in last month's sale with a lengthy catalogue
description that revealed their full history and carried a final estimate of £40,000-60,000. They were bought for a hammer price of £40,000 by an anonymous telephone bidder.

Anne Crane