Buying history at great estate sales
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