The Lure of the Country House Sale

The Lure of the Country House Sale

The Lure of the Country House Sale

Auctions have always been dramatic and fun places and never more so than when there is a story behind them. That was certainly the case when we held the sale of Sir William Whitfield's collection on Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 March 2020. View or download the page turning catalogue here.

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As advisors to private clients at delicate times, it threw up some interesting lessons. When Sir William's partner, Andrew Lockwood, was managing the estate he decided that the house in Bishop Auckland would need to be sold. This left the tricky decision of how to sell the remainder of the collection once he had decided what to keep - a situation our clients regularly face.

He took advice from a number of auctioneers and valuers, but whilst others advised on selecting only parts of the collection to be sold across numerous auctions, to us it seemed that the best solution for Andrew, as a client, was a Single Owner sale.

A Single Owner Sale

The case for this was firstly that Sir William was an aclaimed architect and a well loved figure and the collection had been put together with great care over decades by Sir William and Andrew. Therefore celebrating the collection whilst passing it on was an important element for Andrew.

Secondly a single owner sale platform allows the greatest flexibilty in being able to offer the broadest range of objects from the highly valuable to the decorative and even household items making it a very efficient process.

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This collection was no exception in including academic and important pieces alongside the decorative and quirky items that give a collection a unique character.

So when a bit of panelling from the garage sells for over £5,000 and some sea shells for almost £1,000 alongside an important Flemish tapestry selling internationally at £150,000 you know the sale is going well!

Inline Image - Lot 312: A Flemish historical tapestry, probably Brussels, after Karel van Mander II, second quarter 17th century, The Triumph of Mark Anthony over the Parhians, from the Mark Antony and Cleopatra cycle | Sold for £150,000
Lot 312: A Flemish historical tapestry, probably Brussels, after Karel van Mander II, second quarter 17th century, The Triumph of Mark Anthony over the Parhians, from the Mark Antony and Cleopatra cycle | Sold for £150,000

Provenance is key

Thirdly, recent years have seen a change in the buying habits of collectors and buyers. Provenance is more important than ever and more and more buyers look to this as validation of their purchasing. In short people 'buy events' rather more than individual items. Just look at the success of the George Michael sale managed by our parent company Gurr Johns.

The success of The Collection of Sir William Whitfield CBE certainly bears this out:

  • Over 1,000 bidders registered for a sale with only 433 lots
  • A sale that would normally take 5 hours to sell went on for 10 hours finally finishing at 8.30pm - with a glass of champagne for all those still there!
  • The provisional valuation of £600,000 submitted for probate was eclipsed by the final hammer total of £1.2million
  • 99% of lots sold

A single owner sale well presented, as we did here by asking designers Colefax & Fowler to help present the sale at our Donnington Priory salerooms, not only gives the best result for our client but it can also turn a difficult decision into a pleasurable experience.

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This is why Dreweatts has become a leader in handling single owner sales. We are unique in our focus on presenting even small collections in this way. Afterall if it works for our clients it works for us.

If you would like to know more or discuss anything with our House Sales and Private Collections department, please contact us on valuations@dreweatts.com.

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