The late Bruce Fearn.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Under his direction and over a period of 50 years he built on the history and good reputation of a firm established in 1840.

It became one of the UK’s leading provincial fine art auction houses. The imposing dark green pedimented doorway on Mansfield Road saw the comings and goings of many fine and unusual things and people including ‘a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig with fine cabriole legs.’ There was never a dull moment.

Bruce began his career at Neales after completing his A levels at Cambridge House School in Nottingham, where by all accounts he had spent much time playing rubgy, cricket and snooker.

He had always shown an interest in the fine arts and his father (a friend of Ray Neale) set up a ‘pupillage’ with the firm. In him he found an enthusiastic and ambitious pupil and within a few years, in his mid 20s he was running the saleroom.

The 1950s was a period of great change and modernisation in the city. Bruce recalled his early valuations being taken down by hand and recorded in leather bound and gold tooled A5 books and items arriving for sale on carts, sometimes hand drawn.

A bonfire was permanently lit in the yard behind the original saleroom on Milton Street on to which unwanted Victorian furniture would be thrown. How things were to change.

Devoted to the saleroom and to all things ‘Neales’, life totally revolved around cataloguing, clients and staff. Neales worked like an extended family and many auctioneers and administrative staff members now working in other firms at different stages of life have contributed to the history and success of the firm.

Business bought

In 2004 The Fine Art Auction Group approached Bruce to negotiate the purchase of Neales to add to its portfolio of regional auction houses. Bruce continued as a director of the business and it ran along the same lines but he decided in 2009, at the age of 70, to retire and Neales ceased trading soon after.

A sad day for all, it was difficult for him to leave behind such a wonderful and rich lifetime of fulfilling work and friendships but he threw himself into the lovely house that he and his wife Susan shared but never had the time to really enjoy. The garden and topiary thrived as his attentions switched from cataloguing to gardening.

Bruce Fearn died peacefully on February 28, 2024, at the age of 85.

From Susan and Amelia