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Such specialist offerings are a significant part of a revamp at the firm’s large, four-acre site to the north of Norwich, which involves a fundamental change to a sales calendar established in the 1950s when Keys started.

Kevin Lines, Keys’ director and general manager, says: “We have our East Anglian sale coming up at the end of this month, and once that has happened we will start work.”

The refurbishment involves creating a bespoke saleroom for the firm’s antiques and interiors auctions, which will take place fortnightly from January 2018. Those sales will now be on alternate weeks, separate from the “popular and growing” general sales, which will be “expanded and enhanced to also take place fortnightly”.

Meanwhile, the fine art auctions will be held in a “larger, refurbished saleroom” and a “sizeable bespoke saleroom” created for the firm’s books and ephemera department. Books and fine art are areas that the auction house is particularly keen to promote.

“We are also building a reception within our main saleroom block,” says Lines, whose father John was one of the founding partners of Keys in the 1950s (he retired in 2007).

“It will enhance our customer service – at the moment we have a reception building but it is a Portakabin-style structure in the middle of the yard – so this will give us a much better point of entry.”

It will include a new valuation room, a consultation room and a photographic studio.


Kevin Lines of Keys.

Lines, who joined Keys in 1994 after “growing up with pictures” thanks to his father’s involvement, adds: “The past two years have been the busiest we have ever had at Keys, and we are making this significant investment now to ensure that we have the capacity to continue meeting growing demand for our services.”

He says that the RSMA diploma consignment was secured “against competition from all of the major London houses”. The works come from the National Maritime Museum and they are thought to have been in storage. The Nelson items hail from the collection of Morningthorpe Manor: the source of a single-owner sale held in September last year.

Keys Auctioneers

Established: 1953

Next Sale: 27 October 2017