Guild of Handicraft piano designed by Charles Robert Ashbee, £14,000 at Sworders.

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The upright Broadwood piano designed by Charles Robert Ashbee(1863-1942), a piece sent for exhibition in Hungary in 1902, had been estimated at £6000-8000 but doubled that margin to take £14,000.

Fashioned in Spanish mahogany inlaid with holly and applied with pierced strap hinges, this was one of at least five Broadwood pianos made with Ashbee casings by the Guild of Handicraft.

Examples are pictured in all of the major texts on Arts & Crafts furniture.

Exhibited in Hungary

This particular piano (numbered 95406, model 8) on offer in Essex had an impeccable provenance.

The Broadwood Archives lists the date of manufacture (it was finished on February 27, 1902), the price paid by one Mr C Watson Low (£118.2.6) and its part in the British Applied Arts Exhibition at the National Museum of Decorative Art in Budapest in September-November 1902. It was sent to Hungary along with another Arts & Crafts piano designed by Hugh Mackay Baillie Scott.

Watson Low later gave his Ashbee piano and its stool to his niece, Miss CM Low, who used it to teach piano until retirement in 2001. Her grandson offered it for sale. He contacted Sworders after he found a near-identical piano sold by the auction house in 2014 for £10,400.

Innovative furnishings


Liberty oak settle, £2600 at Sworders.

From the same era, c.1900, came another of the top-priced lots: an inlaid oak settle made for the famous London firm of Liberty and Co which was renowned for its innovative furnishings including many pieces in Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau taste.

Measuring 5ft high x 4ft wide (1.38 x 1.22m), its design, which featured a cupboard below the seat, fitted ironwork hinge mounts and a panelled back inlaid with clover leaf motifs, was attributed to Leonard Wyburd who headed up Liberty’s furnishing and decoration studio from 1883-1903. This sold for £2600.

Architect's collection

The Sworders auction, which spanned pieces from the Art & Crafts and Deco eras through Mid Century to Modern and Contemporary, also featured 78 lots consigned from the architect and designer Rabih Hage.


Aluminium three-seater bench by Aki Kuroda, £3200 at Sworders.

The most expensive of these, at £3200, was a 4ft 6in (1.54m) wide painted aluminium three-seater bench surmounted by a large stemmed red flower by the Japanese artist Aki Kuroda (b.1944).

Number 1 from an edition of 18 and signed, this had been acquired in 2007 direct from the artist and exhibited at the Rabih Hage Gallery in that same year.