UCTIONEERING is Tim Wonnacott’s first love. He conducted his debut standing on an upturned bucket in a farmyard. It was a skill he learned from his father, Major Raymond Wonnacott, an auctioneer in South West England.
Now the irreplaceable star of Bargain Hunt, the hit BBC TV afternoon show – it will never be the same without him – is doing what all collectors must undertake some time or another: he’s thinning down and clearing out some of the things he’s prepared to live without.
After fronting the show for 13 years, some of the personal discoveries the former Sotheby’s grandee made at antiques fairs around the country he visited while recording the 1,300 episodes, will be hitting the auction block.
Instead of standing on the rostrum, though, Tim will be sitting in the audience. The sale will be conducted by Sworders Fine Art in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, on December 4-5. The first 250 lots are expected to raise around £100,000. More will follow in Sworders sales next year.
“Collecting is an infectious drug, one that stays with you all your life,” Tim says. “The thrill of finding an item priced at £50 that you knew could sell for £500 was fantastic”.
Viewers might even remember some of the notable lots. During filming Tim would frequently share his personal purchases, his excitement surrounding the discovery infectious.
He loves the buzz of the pursuit, wandering for miles and miles around large antique fairs such as Newark and Ardingly. On one of his filming expeditions he wore a pedometer, recording a total distance travelled of 7 miles.
A career devoted to researching antiques – he once spent days pouring through the archives at Lancaster furniture makers Gillows, matching invoices to a collection of pieces in a Sotheby’s house sale at Thoresby Hall in Nottinghamshire – he has naturally been spoilt for buying opportunities and has amassed a fascinating personal collection.
The sale is to make space and enable a house move, but selecting what to part with has not been easy.
“Firstly it has been really difficult deciding what to sell and what to keep”, Tim adds. “Space, of course, is a major consideration and objects with keen family or personal and emotive connections are all in the potential keep category. But, even then, the choices are far from easy.
“Secondly, like one’s children, one should never show favouritism, even for objects. But some pieces which Sworders will offer are so idiosyncratic, that saying goodbye is particularly painful.
“Auctions are marvellous things because you learn the true value of your items. It will be a thrill to see how it goes.”
Sworders chairman, Guy Schooling said: “The firm is honoured to have been nominated (by Tim) for the task.”