The name is gone from above the door and To Let signs stand in each of the two front windows. But with a new consortium having acquired the name and some of the assets, the Partridge name has not disappeared.

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"Partridge has been acquired by a consortium," a spokesman told ATG. "It includes W. Thomas Restoration, the firm's interest in Antiquax, the library archive and the trading name."

Further confirmation that a deal had been done came from Dreweatts chairman Stephan Ludwig, who revealed that his company had been beaten to the post in their bid to acquire Partridge.

"I can confirm that we did make what we considered a very full offer in the context of the company's recent history and were the underbidder,"he told ATG. "While we were disappointed not to secure the deal, we wish the new owners every success."

Mr Ludwig declined to expand on what his plans would have been had he been successful in his bid, but the Partridge name and client list would certainly have proved useful in boosting private treaty sales at Dreweatts.

Meanwhile, the phones at ATG have been buzzing with calls from people who claim to have knowledge of what has been going on behind the scenes as the administrators prepared the business for disposal.

While none was prepared to go on the record, more than one named Sir Richard Sykes as the man behind the new deal, with a price of £200,000 mooted.

ATG have not been able to confirm these details at the time of going to press.

Sir Richard, a celebrated biochemist, former chairman of GlaxoSmithKline plc and until last year Rector of Imperial College, London, is said to collect Chelsea porcelain.

What remains unclear is where former Partridge chairman Mark Law fits into the picture. He remained tight-lipped following the news that the company had been sold.