Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Restrained Day at the Auctions

A newly discovered pleasure is the auction room. It is a happy hunting ground for Victorian furniture and fittings for Balintore Castle. Prices are well below those on eBay; you can see the quality for yourself and delivery is mostly as simply as popping it in the back of one's pick-up.

I visited Taylor's Auction Rooms in Montrose last Saturday. Some items that looked good on their website did not hold up in the flesh, and conversely some items that one passed over on the Web. jumped out in the showroom, due to their sheer quality. 

One example of the latter was this oak Arts and Crafts dresser, with carved lions and  brass scroll work. This would have been ideal for Balintore, but it went for £400 (too much); the feet needed fixing and the size would have made transport a challenge.

Arts and Crafts oak dresser - sold for £400

Arts and Crafts oak dresser - carved lion

Arts and Crafts oak dresser - brass scroll work

Another suitable item was this HUGE oak bookcase - very few pieces are large enough for the library of the castle which has long since been stripped of its original bookcases. The bookcase went for £250 which is a good price, but transport would have been a costly hassle on top. If the price had been lower then I would have jumped in. You always need to be prepared to walk away, and conversely you also need to know which items you would jump on, despite any problems, if the price is right. I think I recognise the bookcase as coming from the Scottish Parliament as I spotted similar attributed ones on eBay.

huge bookcase - sold for £250

The good thing about these auction rooms is that there is no need to leave empty handed. I picked up a couple of electric saws for a tenner, exactly the type my builder had been requesting. I had been looking for wall bracket oil lamps for some time, and I bagged the pair below for £35, after a minor bidding war. The picture shows the lamps after I polished-up the fonts (the oil holding bit). The two brass fonts had different patinas - perhaps they had been stored differently? - so I brought them back to the same finish, being careful not to overdo it. However, as I plan to paint the cast iron brackets gold (there are signs of gilding) then the fonts have to be reasonably close to gold to match. Old brass polishes to a "buttery gold" colour which is attractive in itself, more modern brass polishes "white" which is not a good look - and then time is required to develop a patina to soften this. I have heard this is due to the different copper content.

pair of bracket oil lamps - bought for £35

There was a shoulder-mount stag's head in great condition at the auction which would have been ideal. You can tell the condition of a stag's head by the ears, as these are the first bits to go. These should be round and intact with no nibbles. The castle had six stag's heads in the Great Hall at one stage. However, the stag's head at the auction went for £180. I walked away.

You both win and lose at an auction and never know the "haul" in advance. Saturday's haul was very modest indeed and yet even if there is nothing in your haul, you have seen and learned more than when you entered.


  1. hello david
    hope your well and still busy in your wonderful abode! .read your story about the auction and sometimes your meant not to get anything as there wil be something better around the corner! We are still talking about our visit and have some great photos of your ghosts ! you should put a list of what you want for the castle (you must have a long list!) and I am sure your followers if out and about will look out for stuff for you and I am always going around sales so if I saw something on your list I can call you and let you know well its 2 am and I am still making wedding bouquets but wanted to just pop over and say hi and if you need your kitchen cleaned give us a shout!we have our feather dusters at the ready! lol take care Catherine and violet xx

  2. I think that I would have bought that book case and dragged it home on my back ! One day I bought a huge pair of mounted antlers and tried to take them home in the metro ( Paris ) but after almost skewering three people I had to walk for an hour holding it in front of me to see who I was avoiding ! My back took a beating but it was Worth it, I think I paid 150 euros. From the same shop I bought a huge pair of curtains with several interlinings that had come from the Ritz when it was remodelled, I had to take a taxi as they were so heavy, I paid 200 euros, when made they must have cost thousands ! I didn't either set out to buy these things or really need them but as you say situations arise and when its right to buy ,,

  3. Oh dear, I am picking up some reindeer antlers (£45) in Glasgow tomorrow and hope I do not skewer the Weegies in the same way. Well done on the Ritzy curtains! I aspire to unaffordable drapery. By coincidence, I used to walk past "Drapers' Hall" in the City of London in the way to work earlier in the year, and was tempted to drop in to see if they could run me up something in a Baronial crush.

  4. Remember if you need 100 metres or so of some 'baronial' printed linen I do have a best friend who works with some great digital printers and her prices are way lower than the UK or even europe, You would have to have them made into curtains yourself. I've seen some great John Piper linen that I love was considering having it redone ,,,I KNOW that you are not there yet but you can keep it in mind ,,, xx