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The late Tony Pratt.

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He was widely known in the industry which had been a lifelong career. He leaves a wife, two children and four grandchildren.

Tony moved to Kent as a young child, and although not common knowledge he was proud to be a ‘Geordie’ and remained true to his roots. He was schooled in Ashford, Kent (Grammar of course), and lived in the town for the remainder of his life, with many return visits to the north to visit family and to partake in what he believed to be the best fish and chips.

Tony had a passion for collecting things like stamps and coins from a very early age. His interest in antiques grew as a teenager when he did some work experience and started to visit various auction rooms while working in a local garden centre.

Big break

His big break came when he was offered a trainee’s job at Burrows and Day in Ashford, (although he always maintained he would have earned more money if he had stayed in horticulture) but Tony was ambitious – so ambitious he almost lost his job in the first week.

The sale was traditionally started by the vigorous ringing of the sale bell, which Tony grabbed and rang with much enthusiasm to be immediately admonished by a stern head porter of the old school, stating “that’s my job Sonny Boy”. This was the moment that lit the blue touch paper that culminated in his becoming director of the fine art division at General Accident (GA), where he eventually effected a buy out of their auction rooms at Canterbury. The rest, as they say, is history.

Not only did Tony develop his own business in accordance with his own very high standards, he cared very much about the industry and its ethics.

A merry dinner

He was proud of his membership of SOFAA. In fact, one of my fondest memories of Tony was when he and Ii attended a SOFAA dinner some years ago.

Some of you may remember after the usual good dinner we all enjoy at the ‘gathering of the clans’ or ‘clash of the tight uns’, as we affectionately call the event, Tony won a magnum of Champagne (he was annoyingly lucky at these things), so after a good night we departed for home with a cab to St Pancras and the last train home. I alighted at my station wishing Tony a safe journey and good night.

The next morning, Tony arrived at work somewhat late and looking exhausted. When questioned he finally admitted he had promptly fallen asleep on the train to be awakened by the guard as this was the end of the line – Folkestone!

Now picture this: it’s one o’clock in the morning, deserted, you are wearing a dinner suit and black tie, you have a magnum of Champagne locked under one arm and you are wandering the back streets of Folkestone looking for a cab – you can only be an auctioneer… he arrived home at 3am, some £95 lighter. I never let him forget it.

Tony contributed and raised thousands of pounds over the years for charities, supported the arts through countless initiatives and more recently, along with myself, joined the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars which we both enjoyed with gusto.

High standards

More than anything, Tony was proud of his profession and his beloved auction house. It is the firm intention of myself and my fellow directors with the support of our staff to carry on the business founded by my best friend and move forward maintaining the high standards demanded by our dear departed chairman.

The family and I would like to thank all the fellow members of our profession and our many valued clients for the overwhelming tributes received in these sad times.

David Parker, Managing director of The Canterbury Auction Galleries

Tony as The Knight

ATG adds: We were saddened to hear about Tony’s passing. He was knowledgeable, courteous and generous with his time whenever we were seeking a comment from him about an item or a sale at his auction house and he was welcoming when we visited.

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The plinth of the Chaucer statue in Canterbury city centre depicting the 'Canterbury Tales' with figures from the city – including Tony Pratt – as the characters.

In 2016 his firm donated £5000 to help fund the commissioning of a statue of Geoffrey Chaucer that was placed on Canterbury High Street (at the junction with Best Lane where pilgrims used to pass).

The statue stands on a plinth decorated with a mural depicting the characters featured in Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

The characters in the mural are depictions of personalities with a Canterbury connection, in a re-working of Thomas Stothard’s painting of the Journey to Canterbury which hangs in the Beaney Library in Canterbury.

Tony is featured as The Knight alongside actor Orlando Bloom (who was born in Canterbury), who is depicted as The Squire, and retailer Hugo Fenwick of Fenwick department stores, who is The Merchant.