Buy­ing his­tory at great es­tate sales

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Eve, which were es­ti­mated at £600,000-£800,000. There were also art­works up for auc­tion that Juf­fali had col­lected by Andy Warhol, Pi­casso, Joan Miro, and Marc Cha­gall.

“It was a proper swanky house sale held on the premises,” says Tim Cor­field, art con­sul­tant and ad­viser at Cor­field Morris. “Prices got a boost from the glam­our, and some things made far more than they should have.”

Con­tents sales of es­tates are usu­ally the re­sult of death, debt or di­vorce. They go back to at least 1747, when the con­tents of Can­nons in Mid­dle­sex were sold, the own­ers hav­ing failed to re­cover their for­tune af­ter the 1720s South Sea Bub­ble stock crash.

Since the 18th cen­tury, there has been a steady trickle of sales, which turned into some­thing of a flood af­ter the Sec­ond World War, as one great es­tate af­ter an­other fell vic­tim to time, weather and the tax­man.

Such sales were charged with ex­cite­ment, as peo­ple flocked to ac­quire some tro­phy or other as­so­ci­ated with a no­ble family line. In 1848, the sale of the con­tents of Stowe House in Buck­ing­hamshire raised £77,500. The record for an on-site con­tents sale is held by Vis­count Lev­er­hulme’s Thorn­ton Manor in the Wir­ral, which brought in £9.5mil­lion.

The con­tents sale at Bish­ops­gate House raised £7.1mil­lion, far higher than the es­ti­mate of just £4mil­lion.

“Mar­quee sales are jolly good fun, and you can sell ev­ery­thing. But they are be­com be­com­ing rather a thing of the past: they are just too ex­pen­sive and time­con­sumin con­sum­ing,” says Mark McAn­drew of Strutt & Parker’s es­tate and farm a agency.

On­line bid­ding may also have con­trib­uted to their de demise, but the main rea­son is the co cost: “There has to be sub­stan- tial value in the items,” says Luke Macdon­ald, who han­dles es­tate con­tent sales for Ch­effins Fine Art Auc­tion­eers.

Last month Ch­effins held a two-day sale in their Cam­bridge sale­room of the con­tents of three great houses. One col­lec­tion be­longed to Sir Ju­lian Wat­son, a rac­ing fan, and the con­tents of the Grade II listed Baythorne Park in Es­sex was sold for £145,000.

“There is al­ways in­ter­est in where things have come from,” says Macdon­ald. “It can add up to 20 per cent to the value of a piece.”

When do­ing field­work, Macdon­ald’s job in­volves a hard hat, old clothes, and an ea­gle eye. “You find gen­er­a­tions of things stored in dusty lofts and cup­boards, or lined up against the walls. It’s hard work and can take days to as­sess. If items are worth less than £200, Ch­effins won’t want them and they’ll go into a gen­eral pur­pose sale, or a skip.”

Gen­uine dis­cov­er­ies are all the more

This fish carv­ing fetched £6,500 at Monks Hall

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