The History of Dreweatts

The History of Dreweatts

The History of Dreweatts

Thomas Davis opens for business

October 1759: Thomas Davis, a cabinet maker and land agent from Abingdon places an advertisement in the Reading Mercury shortly before the end of the reign of George II: 

to acquaint the Publick, that he has open'd a Shop in the Market-place at Newbury... where he will carry on both Branches of Business in the neatest and newest Fashions; and all those who are so kind as to favour him with their Custom, may depend on meeting with the best Usage, civil Treatment... 

Davis also has premises at 37 Northbrook Street and initially the business is concerned with auctions of furniture, household effects and farming stock with sales often held onsite at farmhouses

From 1770: Davis' business includes a certain amount of agricultural work, in 1770 he advertises two farms to let on the Sydmonton Estate; from 1780: he holds numerous sales of farmstock and household furniture in the district  

1787: A three day house sale is held at Holt Lodge, Kintbury for Thomas Beckford 

1794: William Davis, his son, takes over the firm and introduces regular sales of timber as well as the first sale of freehold property with the sale of 36 acres of coppice and 7 acres of meadow land at Aldworth in 1799 

1796: Two sales of Dragoon horses which had survived the Napoleonic Wars on behalf of the 15th and 16th Queen's Regiment. Thomas Davis takes the sale which is held in the Jack of Newbury Inn, 'Upwards of thirty stout useful draught horses, lately belonging to the 15th Regiment of Light Dragoon. N.B. These horses are well worth the attention of Gentlemen, Farmers, Coach-Masters and Others, being in good condition and fit for immediate work', ran an advertisement for the sale.  

1797: William Davis is elected Mayor of Newbury. 

1798: A hundred loads of 'excellent rotten dung' is advertised for sale at the George and Pelican Inn, Speenhamland; it is to be cleared away at the convenience of the purchaser.  

1810: Speen Farm with 100 acres is sold. 

1816: A special sale of brewing utensils takes place at Welford Park, '...consisting of a brewing copper to boil 200 gallons...mash tub...cast iron furnace...ten tons of lead from the buildings of the brew house now taken down, to be removed...'. Brewing equipment of various kinds were included in virtually all private house and farm sales at the time. 

1817: '...all the woollen and cotton machinery, late the property of John Coxeter, dec'd', namely, scribbling machines, spindle jacks and spindle jennies were offered at Greenham Mills. In 1811, Coxeter had accepted the wager which resulted in the famous Newbury Coat - a thousand guinea stake awarded if wool from a sheep's back could be transformed into a well-finished coat between sunrise and sunset on a summer's day. John Coxeter Jnr. wove the fabric, a hunting jersey of dark green Wellington colour, and the jacket was finished with two hours to spare. 

1827: A sale takes place at Elcot, Kintbury, for the Executors of Anthony Bacon; the Reading Mercury notes that, '...many strangers arrived at the principal inns in Newbury and the town was very full. The sale comprised a magnificent collection of rare and costly articles, the like of which has not been seen since the Fonthill Sale'. William Davis later writes to the newspaper to deny he had compared Elcot with the 37-day Fonthill Sale of 1823. 

December 1827: 10 day auction at Langley Hall, Beedon. Each day starts at 12noon and finishes at 4pm, with a leisurely 110 to 120 lots sold in each session. One of the more unusual lots was 'cold drawn Castor oil' which sold for 5s a bottle. Three brace of spaniels were offered but only one brace sold, for £1. The whole sale realised £2,245 4s 4d. 

1832: William Davis advertises board and lodging for a poor clergyman in the Newbury District, so long as he does not object to dining at two o'clock with a decayed tradesman and part of his family. 

1836: Alexander Davis, the son of William Davis, succeeds his father. Of outstanding ability and with exceptional drive, he oversees a dramatic increase in the sale of farming stock, timber and furniture from the mid-19th century. His first foray as an auctioneer takes place in Donnington when he conducts a sale for the late Peter Mattam. 

Inline Image - Alexander Davis, grandson of Thomas Davis, the founder of the business
Alexander Davis, grandson of Thomas Davis, the founder of the business

1858: Davis takes Thomas Palmer of East Garston, an expert in surveying and mapping, into partnership. In an advertisement he assures his clients that the business will still be conducted in '...that steady unassuming manner in which it always has been'. The business now trades as Messrs Alexander Davis and Palmer.

1869: Newbury Corporation approves proposals for a new thoroughfare connecting Cheap and Bartholomew-streets, together with a cattle market. 

1870: Thomas Palmer dies in a riding accident. Davis continues as sole proprietor until 1881 when he takes Harry G. Few into partnership. 

1873: The Cattle Market in Newbury is formally opened by the Earl of Carnarvon 

Introducing Thomas Dreweatt

1884: Alexander Davis retires from the business, so ending the family association of 125 years standing. The Newbury Herald reports that the news '...will be received with much regret by his innumerable friends and patrons, in whose esteem he has so long and justly held a worth place'

Harry Few amalgamates the business with that of Thomas Dreweatt, the son of a tenant farmer on the Sutton Estate, who in 1878 had opened an office at 78 Northbrook Street and holds regular sales in the Cattle Market. 

Inline Image - Thomas Dreweatt
Thomas Dreweatt

1884: A. W. Neate opens an office in the Market Place, Newbury. His business was founded in 1876 in Hungerford. 

1888: Harry Few retires; in 1898 Arthur T Watson who had joined the firm in 1890 is taken into partnership by Thomas Dreweatt. 

Inline Image - Arthur T Watson selling pigs in Newbury Cattle Market, 1920s
Arthur T Watson selling pigs in Newbury Cattle Market, 1920s

1897: A draft sale of 60 pedigree Berkshire pigs from the Highclere herd. Some of the the firm's biggest sales at the close of the 19th century were held at Highclere Park for the Earl of Carnarvon. Transport is laid on to meet trains at Highclere station when important sales of surplus live and deadstock take place.  

1898: At a sale held for the Butler family at Kirby House, Inkpen, twelve Chippendale chairs sell for £18 and the George III family coach for £5. At this time 18th century effects frequently appear at auction as Victorian furniture becomes increasingly popular.

1903: Alexander Davis passes away. He is described by the Newbury Weekly News as 'a man whose word was his bond, who said what he meant in plain blunt, respectful English...'.

The Barton Family

1910: Harold Barton joins the firm, he is made a partner in 1919 and the business is known as Messrs Dreweatt, Watson and Barton. Thomas Dreweatt retires in the early 1920s and from 1924-1947 Stephen Hagger is in partnership, with his role taken thereafter by Frederick Cole. 

1920s: Several significant sales of furniture take place between the two World Wars, notably, 1920: Bussock Wood House; 1921: Enbourne Lodge and 1923: Priors Court, Chieveley.  

November 1928: Thomas Dreweatt passes away, in an obituary he is described as '...bright and brisk, and a model auctioneer. He was an excellent judge of stock, and was primarily responsible for starting the Christmas Fat Stock Show at Newbury, which the firm has helped to maintain for many years'. It is also noted that he was interested in local affairs, but, could not be persuaded to undertake office.  

1945: Arthur T Watson passes away; a familiar figure in Newbury Cattle Market, where he sold calves and pigs and took the rostrum for furniture sales, he is described as '...most methodical and a model of punctuality.' 

1949: Harold Barton passes away; the Newbury Weekly News describes how he had '...brought into the firm a high professional ability and wide knowledge of the business.' His last sale, the Thatcham estate for Sir William Mount, Bart., takes place on a sultry June day in 1948. 500 people are crowded into the dining room of the Chequers Hotel and Harold Barton gets through the auction in 1½  hours, it is noted that, 'In such an atmosphere his task would have been an ordeal for a young man...No wonder he was known as the youngest looking man for his age in Newbury'. 

The firm is carried on by Harold's three sons, Colin, Michael and Desmond, working in partnership with Frederick Cole. Under the direction of Colin Barton, the business prospers in the post-War era at a time when many other similar businesses cease trading. 

Inline Image - F H Cole takes an auction of corn and stock farms, held on 17 December 1963; Michael Barton sits to his left
F H Cole takes an auction of corn and stock farms, held on 17 December 1963; Michael Barton sits to his left

1953: The contents of Quarrywood, Burghclere, are sold for the Executors of Walter Bentley. Bentley's collection of flower books was well known and three volumes of Redouté’s Les Roses are sold for £520.

1956: At an auction in Liphook held for the Executors of Philip Lyle, Persian carpets sell for £400 each.

October 1959: An advertisement in Newbury Weekly News states that the firm has received instruction from the Right Hon. The Lord Teviot D.S.O., M.C. to sell by auction Antique Furniture, China, Glass, Oil Paintings and Garden Effects from Adbury House, Newbury. The sale will take place on the premises and the notice advises that 'Light refreshments available on Sale Day' with catalogues available at 6d each. 

March 1960: A highly successful two day house sale takes place at Highlands, Newbury; it totals £12,771 and highlights include a Sheraton work table, £210; a Chippendale wine cooler, £90 and a Hepplewhite serpentine chest, £170.  

October 1961: The firm holds an auction for the Executors of Lady May Crichton in Newbury. The top lot is a Queen Anne bureau bookcase which sells for £480; a Chippendale small chest of drawers realises £42 and a Georgian tripod table, £30. 

October 1964: Newbury Weekly News looks back 80 years to an article published by the paper in 1884 which had noted that on Saturday 2 October Alexander Davis took his last auction for the business in Thatcham. 

February 1967:  Newbury Weekly News announces that the Cattle Market, Newbury, is set to close within two years. In June 1969 Desmond Barton takes the last auction at the Cattle Market and he sells a calf to Philip Povey of Kingsclere for £10 2s 6d. Alexander Davis had taken the first auction in the Market at this location in December 1873. 

January 1970: Dreweatt, Barton and Watson offer the fixtures and fittings of the Cattle Market in conjunction with A. W. Neate and Sons, who had been selling in the market since the end of the last century. The auction makes £716 2s 6d and Desmond Barton comments, 'The market place was essentially a meeting place for everyone associated with farming to have a friendly chat'. 

Inline Image - Desmond Barton takes the auction of Newbury Cattle Market fixtures and fittings, January 1970; to his left, Hugh Berry of A. W. Neate is also in attendance
Desmond Barton takes the auction of Newbury Cattle Market fixtures and fittings, January 1970; to his left, Hugh Berry of A. W. Neate is also in attendance

May 1973: Bill Baldwin, Head Sales Porter from 1946-66, passes away. In a previous role he was one of the last mounted policemen to work in Newbury.  

November 1974: Dreweatts' telephone number, Newbury 1, connected in 1899, is wired to new equipment. It is the last number in Newbury and the south of England to go automatic from a manually operated telephone exchange.

February 1978: Trofts, Byworth, nr. Petworth, Sussex - The Contents of the House, totals £151,869; highlights include an early 18thc. walnut small chest of drawers, £7,200; a Rockingham dessert service, £320 and A J Munnings, The Whip, £8,400. 

January 1979: Colin Barton retires, having worked at the firm for 48 years. In a Newbury Weekly News article he says, 'I am one of those lucky men whose job has also been a hobby’.

The move to Donnington Priory

January 1979: It is reported that the firm will spend around £100K in converting Donnington Priory into headquarters for its fine art sales department. Roger Lailey, who joined the business in 1960, says, 'This firm managed the Gathorne-Hardy estate for many years and so we know the house well’. In April 1979 planning permission is approved. 

October 1979: A two day auction - Contents, Eastrop Fields, Basingstoke, totals close to £140,000. Country Life reports that, ‘The late Major V A Simmons was obviously an admirer of Sargent, and a discriminating one'. 

Inline Image - The Mercury reports in July 1980, 'Donnington Priory, one of the most famous old buildings in the Newbury area, has been saved from an almost certain death. And significantly the rescuer...is the town's longest-established firm'.
The Mercury reports in July 1980, 'Donnington Priory, one of the most famous old buildings in the Newbury area, has been saved from an almost certain death. And significantly the rescuer...is the town's longest-established firm'.

September 1980: Newbury Weekly News reports on the opening of Donnington Priory: the ground floor of the building has been totally re-designed with the creation of three large salerooms. The Priory is to be used by the Fine Arts and Agricultural division of the firm, under the management of Richard Barton. The Property and Commercial departments will remain at 22 Market Place. 

September 1982: Newbury Weekly News reports that the '...sensitive adaptation of Donnington Priory has won the Newbury district gold award in this year's Courage environmental county competition'. The judges are impressed that the firm has 'retained the essential country-house character of their premises'. 

November 1982: An auction of Fine Garden Plants (200,000 plants and trees) takes place at Exbury Estate and Cadland, for Edmund de Rothschhild. After the auction Edmund writes to Richard Barton, 'This letter is to thank you...most sincerely for all the trouble and care that you took with regard to this sale of plants'.  

1983: A unique exhibition of country house furniture is on view at Donnington Priory as part of the Newbury Spring Festival. The items are assembled from country houses in the Newbury area with the oldest item an early 17th century mahogany chair from Littlecote House. Richard Barton comments, 'This is a unique opportunity for people to see some exceedingly fine things which are not on view to the public  at any other time'. 

1983: A rare and fine German cabinet dating from the 1760s sells for £94,000; it is believed to be a new record price for an item of furniture sold in an auction outside London.  

Inline Image - Coverage of the auction of the south German walnut bureau cabinet, circa 1760, in October 1983
Coverage of the auction of the south German walnut bureau cabinet, circa 1760, in October 1983

1984: A 1678 view of Falmouth Harbour by Hendrick Dankers, possibly commissioned by Charles II, is acquired by the National Maritime Museum for the price of £19,000. The Daily Telegraph reports that the painting is the highlight of an auction which totals about £116,500. 

May 1984: For the sixth Newbury Spring Festival, Donnington Priory host an exhibition: The Development of Landscape through Drawings and Watercolours, an important loan exhibition from local country houses. The Duchess of Kent, Patron of the Festival, is presented with a posy of flowers and is photographed at the Priory. 

June 1984: The sale of the Craven Hill Estate, comprising 1,336 acres, a principal residence, a period house, a dower house and 10 cottages, for £3.32m. The Estate had been in the Craven family since 1620. A marquee is set up in the grounds of Donnington Priory for the auction and 400 people attend on the day.

September 1984: The firm attends the Newbury Show and in the year of its 225th anniversary valuation books used by Alexander Davis, Harry Few and Thomas Dreweatt are on display, as well as auctioneers' boards and gavels.  

September 1985: A 1720s landscape oil painting of a fox hunt by John Wootton sells for £106,000, it is now the most expensive item sold by the firm. The auction realises a total of £202,000 and the sum is described as 'fantastic' by the auctioneer, Clive Stewart-Lockhart.  

December 1985: Michael Barton passes away; he had entered the partnership in 1936 and remained with the firm until his retirement in 1975. He served in World War II with the 4th Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment, and on two occasions commanded his battalion in action. 

May 1986: An Important Auction of English Furniture, the property of Sir Francis Burdett's Will Trust: the auction promotion states that 'Existing records show that Thomas Chippendale and Thomas Cobb supplied furniture to Foremark Hall between 1765 and 1775 for Sir Robert Burdett and a number of pieces of the period in their manner are included in the sale'. The auction realises over £½m, with the top lot a set of six George III carved giltwood girandoles which sells for £90,000. The firm had a long history of providing valuations for the Burdett family and as the Daily Telegraph noted, Donnington Priory, '... enabled them to show the 135 lots in a setting worthy of them.' 

Inline Image - An advertisement for the auction Sir Francis Burdett's Will Trust held in May 1986
An advertisement for the auction Sir Francis Burdett's Will Trust held in May 1986

June 1986: Jack Pike passes away, he was Head Porter at the firm and lived at Donnington Priory in a service flat. Richard Barton says that Jack '...was one of Newbury's great characters...he was known and well loved by countless antique dealers and collectors from all over the country'. 

October 1986: Frederick Cole passes away; during his years at the firm he sold many local farms and also contributed to the growth of the Newbury Agricultural Society. 

April 1987: Dreweatts and Neate merge to create Dreweatt Neate. The combined business comprises 17 partners and a total of 150 staff, based in 11 offices throughout Southern England. 

1991: Auction of The Contents of Donnington Grove, the home of the Hon. Daisy Fellowes.   

1997: Colin Barton passes away; for 28 years he had acted as secretary to the Newbury branch of the National Farmers Union and was instrumental in the revival of the Newbury Show; he also made a significant contribution to the on-going success of the firm. 

A new century

October 2003: Dreweatt Neate joins The Fine Art Auction Group

2004: A micromosaic table signed by Michelangelo Barberi sells for £250,000 and a Kashmir sapphire and diamond necklace for £240,000

April 2004: The Dreweatt Neate name is adopted by all the regional auctioneers in The Fine Art Auction Group

September 2005: The Contents of the Manor House, Milton Lilbourne: The Estate of the late Belinda Gentle 

November 2005: Dreweatt Neate arranges a major private sale of 56 watercolours - The Ducie Collection of First Fleet Paintings - to the National Library of Australia for an undisclosed price

February 2006: Portraits by Jean-Baptiste Greuze sell for £900,000; bidding starts at £80,000 and there are 22 registered 'phone bidders

2008: All auction houses in the group are now known as Dreweatts

2009: Auction of The Collection of the late John Fane - the epitome of the 'English country gentleman'

2011: Dreweatts sponsors a race at the Newbury Racecourse April meeting  

2012: Noble Investments buys The Fine Art Auction Group 

2013: Stanley Gibbons buys Noble Investments, including The Fine Art Auction Group

November 2013: An 18th century Sino-Tibetan thangka depicting the Milarepa cult sells for £450,000 

April 2015: The Pete Waterman Collection of Unique Scatch Built Locomotives sells for £627,229 and The Collection of the late Ian Askew for £356,116.

Inline Image - Interior from The Collection of the late Ian Askew, April 2015
Interior from The Collection of the late Ian Askew, April 2015

December 2015: A gold mounted Steinkabinett circular bonbonniere set with a micromosaic plaque, circa 1790, sells for £186,000.

May 2016: The Richard Burnett Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments from the world famous Finchcocks Museum, sells for £669,410.

March 2017: A Moai Kavakava style figure, Easter Island, from the Collection of Jan Krugier, sells for £117,800.

May 2017: Abbotswood, Gloucestershire; Selected Contents - realises a total of £1.1m, over three times the pre-sale low estimate; 265 lots are offered with just 4 unsold. 

Inline Image - The Abbotswood Estate, Gloucestershire
The Abbotswood Estate, Gloucestershire

Recent news and notable auctions

October 2017: Gurr Johns International purchases Dreweatts from Stanley Gibbons.

January 2018: An Eye for Luxury | East meets West: A Private Collection of Applied and Decorative Arts - a three day auction of 745 lots realises £1.2m: over double the pre-sale low estimate.

July 2018: The Hours of Isabella d'Este, an opulently illuminated manuscript on parchment, c. 1490, sells for £421,600. 

Inline Image - The Hours of Isabella d'Este, Use of Rome, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment, Italy (Florence), c. 1490
The Hours of Isabella d'Este, Use of Rome, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment, Italy (Florence), c. 1490

Summer 2018: Dancing with Colour, a selling exhibition of oils and works on paper by Berenice Sydney (1944-1983) is held in London in conjunction with Saatchi Gallery; the show is the first major retrospective of the artist's work since her death.

November 2018: A part-service of Palace ware or 'Rockefeller' pattern from a Private Collection comprising 62 pieces sells for £143,750. 

March 2019: An impressive Edwardian aquamarine and diamond brooch, from the Collection of Viscountess Astor, CH (1879-1964), the first female MP to take her seat in the House of Commons in 1919, sells for £67,500. 

May 2019: Oakley House | The Collection of Eustace Gibbs, 3rd Baron Wraxall, KCVO CMG realises £721,962; the auction features a number of items from the spectacular Victorian Gothic revival house, Tyntesfield, in North Somerset.

Inline Image - Oakley House, the Collection of Eustace Gibbs, May 2019
Oakley House, the Collection of Eustace Gibbs, May 2019

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