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Chinese treasure unearthed from pub garden soars at auction

Posted on 10/03/2021 in Press Coverage

Time for a spring clean after a long winter in lockdown? Let’s hope so because garages, attics – and even gardens – deliver fine auction finds, writes Charles Hanson.

Our Hanson Holloway's Ross March sale in Banbury, Oxfordshire, saw a find dug up in a pub garden soar to glory - and head for a new life overseas. Rescued from the mud, a 19th century Chinese bronze twin-handled censer was contested to £2,100 from a guide price of £300-£400 by an international bidder. It was a remarkable result for our client and a handsome financial return for a chance find.

There really is cash in the attic and in lots of other forgotten places in and around the home. Plus, plenty of keen bidders are willing to buy. Our March Attic Auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire was an outstanding success with 92% of 700 lots selling for nearly £100,000. Everything from jewellery, silver and ceramics to vintage costumes, pictures, books and motorcycles went under the hammer.

Highlights included lot 2861, a classic 1987 Ford Capri 2.8 injection which raced away at £9,500. Also from the garage came a collection of eight vintage motorcycles dating from the 1920s and 30s. The highest price achieved was £3,200 for lot 2873, a 1936 New Imperial 250cc model. Another item with engineer appeal was lot 2454, a garden steam locomotive with sit-on carriage. Built in 1990 by J.G.S. Clarke & Co, the 5in gauge Polly loco in gleaming bright blue livery sold for £3,400.


Brown furniture continues to perform well, signalling a long-awaited return to form for traditional quality antique furniture. Lot 2684, an 18th century yew and Windsor armchair, sold for £1,100 while lot 2718A, a relatively modern console table in the Regency style, found favour with interior decorators reaching a pleasantly surprising £1,100.

The enforced switch to online-only auctions, a move driven by the pandemic, has generated an upsurge in buyer numbers. Despite lockdown, I have never witnessed such strong demand for antiques and collectables in more than 15 years in the business.

The stay-at-home order has given people time to explore the heritage, history, quality and style of thousands of eclectic objects via online catalogues. We offer such a rich array of lots it is utterly fascinating. Practical, artistic, beautiful and collectable items come to our door. And few people are averse to a little retail therapy from the comfort of their armchair.

Consequently, more and more people are registering to bid with Hansonslive and this has led to strong prices being achieved for everything from wearable jewellery and functional and decorative silver to general boxes of ceramics, glass and porcelain ornaments.

Results have been staggering in both our general and Fine Art sales. In the former, a Royal Crown Derby Imari cake stand made £700; a Minton tea set reached £420 and a Royal Worcester dessert plate soared to £400. We even saw a collection of Royal Albert Country Rose trinket bowls make £380, which is remarkable.




Meanwhile, in our Winter Fine Art Auction lot 1, a silver George III wine coaster (above left) with repousse decoration smashed its £60-£80 guide price to make £380. Perhaps in demand for all those bottles of wine drank during lockdown, it was originally designed to be slid along a dining room table to guests.

Then there was lot 35, a set of three Liberty & Co Cymric enamel buttons (below) which made eight times their £80-£100 guide price, selling for a whopping £850. Liberty desirability and typical style came to the fore in the three buttons with low relief of leafy scrolls in blue enamels.

Liberty & Co, opened by owner Arthur Lasenby Liberty in 1875, became renowned for selling everything from exotic fine silks to Obects d’art from Japan and the East. It carved a reputation for cutting-edge design, especially for the artistic styles of Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau.



Later, the firm collaborated with English makers and commissioned a silver range known as Cymric. It employed prolific and talented designers like Archibald Knox and wares were created by silversmith William Hair Haseler. The firm later produced a pewter rage called Tudric, which soared to glory in the shape of lot 521, an enamel and pewter clock by Archibald Knox, 1905, which reached £2,350.

Another item to rise above estimate was lot 46, a Victorian emerald and diamond gold brooch, featuring scrolls of diamond and emerald-set decoration. Brooches were popular in the Victorian period and are back in vogue today. It made a commendable £800.

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If any gems come to light as the days grow longer, spring-cleaning reveals unwanted objects or a garden dig unearths an unexpected Oriental treasure, you know where we are! Make the most of fantastic prices being achieved at auction and turn unwanted objects into cash. Entries are invited for Hansons’ April 29 Fine Art Auction plus all general and specialist sales. To arrange a free valuation, email: [email protected].