Laburnum wood chest, £18,000 at Chorley's.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

A small group of just over a dozen pieces of antique furniture from a local country house was the highlight of Chorley’s (23.5/15/12.5/10% buyer’s premium) July 25-26 Summer Fine Art sale in Prinknash, Gloucestershire.

The furnishings, a mix of English, Continental and Oriental pieces, had been consigned from a local property by a longstanding client of consultant Simon Chorley who has been dealing with the owners for several generations.

The house had an inventory going back to 1842 but the pieces on offer could not be identified, although Chorley thought it very possible they could have been in the house that long.

Plain Georgian brown this was not. What did unify all the pieces was that they were highly decorative, often featuring unusual or exotic materials, and were in unrestored country house condition protected from the light.

In some cases that meant condition issues but the auction house offset this by some very temptingly low estimates.

“There to be sold, that is what we wanted to encourage. We wanted them to be attractive to buyers,” said Chorley.

And prospective buyers certainly responded. Bidding came from a mix of private and trade, much via the phones but also online and in the room, taking many of the lots to multiples of those low estimates.


An elaborately and profusely carved Anglo-Indian small cabinet, £18,000 at Chorley's.

Distinctive design

Topping the bill at £18,000 each were a chest of drawers made of the distinctively striated laburnum wood and an Anglo-Indian carved ebony cabinet.

The cabinet measured 18 x 15¾in (46 x 40cm) and was dated to the early 19th century. It was finely and tightly carved with an overall design of flowerheads, acanthus and other foliage and fitted with elaborate engraved and pierced brass mounts and doors opening to reveal six drawers.

The cabinet had splits to the top, back and sides and doors, a repair to the back and was set on later feet and was very dusty but on the plus side it was also in remarkable untouched condition said Chorley, having been used as a sewing box for many years.

The estimate of £1000-1500 was left far behind.

The 3ft 2in (98cm) wide laburnum wood chest with a veneered and crossbanded top set over four long graduated drawers was dated to c.1800 and catalogued as Dutch.

It had been in a fairly damp environment for years and as a consequence had split, lifting and missing veneer. It was missing some mouldings, had later feet and what appeared to be extra nailed shaped planks added to the base. Nonetheless, the £800-1200 guide again proved far wide of the mark.


Laburnum wood drop leaf occasional table, £7000 at Chorley's.

A second piece of laburnum wood featured in the sale: a smaller occasional table measuring 2ft 8in (82cm) in width catalogued as Scottish, George III period and fitted with a small drop leaf to the rear and a frieze drawer and with attractively matched veneers. The type of piece used in a bedchamber for playing cards or taking light meals, it too had split and lifting veneers.

It had a guide of £600-800 but ended up selling for £7000.

Restoration project


This japanned Georgian chest with visible damage to the lacquer decoration nonetheless managed to take £11,000 at Chorley's.

Another of the high-flyers was a 4ft 2in (1.29m) wide George III japanned chest with a hinged top and drawer below set on bracket feet with brass carrying handle to the sides.

It was decorated to the front and sides with Chinoiserie landscapes in black, gold and red. Again the lacquer surface had suffered considerably with losses and raised areas throughout.

On the plus side it had not faded, having been kept in relatively dark conditions and the interior of the drawer and the hinged top had, said Chorley, retained an opalescent finish to the gilt lacquer.

A piece that will need careful restoration, it still managed a price of £11,000 against a £1000-1500 guide.