£330,000 Delaney street scene now valued at £5,000-10,000 in October 28 sale The fake Lowry at the centre of a £1 million art fraud that landed Maurice “Lord Windsor” Taylor in jail has been seized by police and is heading to auction to help pay his victims compensation. Once sold for £330,000, it is now valued at just £5,000-10,000. Cheshire fine art and antiques auctioneer Adam Partridge will sell the painting on Thursday October 28, together with two genuine Lowrys and other art works, taken from Taylor’s sprawling mansion, Brownlow Hall, near Congleton. The seized property, to be sold without reserve, is expected to raise around £50,000-70,000, some way short of the £1.2 million Taylor needs to raise to save himself from being sent back to prison to serve a 10-year sentence. In March 2009, Chester Crown Court was told that Taylor, 62, dubbed “Lord Fraud”, had tricked an art dealer into buying the “Lowry” for £330,000 in a meeting at his room at London’s Ritz Hotel. Taylor had persuaded Bonhams auctioneers that the picture had come from a Manchester industrialist’s collection and was genuine. They had given Taylor a £600,000 insurance valuation on the painting, which he used to dupe David Smith, managing director of Lowry specialist dealers Neptune Fine Arts in Belper, Derbyshire, into buying it. Mr Smith, who never took possession of the painting, learned it was a fake in late 2007, after he had already made a down payment of £230,000. The picture, which is signed and dated “L S Lowry, 1964” was, in fact, by the Manchester artist Arthur Delaney (1927-1987) a follower of Lowry, painted in homage to his friend and mentor and not intended to deceive. Taylor purchased it, knowing it was a fake, in 2004 for £7,500. Despite being signed and bearing an inscription on the reverse which reads: "People and Mills - LS Lowry Purchased From The Artist 1909”, experts said Mill Street Scene, an oil on board of a snowy cityscape with Lowry’s trademark matchstick figures, lacked fluidity, while its muddy skies and its lampposts picked out in red were wrong. Taylor was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after denying six counts of fraud and one of forging an invoice to cover his tracks. He was subsequently ordered to pay back £1,157,300, which included the £230,000 to Mr Smith and £8,000 prosecution costs. If he fails to do so, he faces a further 10 years in prison. Arthur McEvoy Delaney (1927-1987) was born in the All Saints district of Manchester into a theatrical family, his mother being a dancer and his father the famous comedian Frank Randle, a contemporary of George Formby and Gracie Fields. Randle appeared at many local music halls and he had a notorious reputation. The police were sometimes required to ban his bawdy act and he had a habit of throwing his false teeth into the audience. Young Arthur was born out of wedlock and the boy had a difficult childhood. After very little schooling, he started work aged of 13 in a Manchester textile design studio and remained there all his working life, retiring after 32 years. He married his childhood sweetheart and the couple had four children. He started to paint as a hobby with no desire to turn professional. However, he held a highly successful one-man show at the Tib Lane Gallery in Manchester in 1974, when all his pictures sold within an hour of the preview opening. He and Lowry were great friends and Lowry was Delaney’s mentor. Delaney went on to exhibit at the Royal Academy and his works continued to sell well, many as limited edition prints. The genuine Lowrys are pencil drawings with unquestionable provenance. "St Luke's Church", was previously accompanied by a letter from Lindsay Brooks, head of galleries at The Lowry Centre, dated 13th March 2006 stating that in her opinion and in the opinion of Mike Leber (former director of Salford Museum and Art Gallery), Judith Sandling (former curator of The Lowry Collection, Salford Art Gallery) and David Alston (former director of galleries at The Lowry), the picture is by LS Lowry. It is estimated at £5,000-7,000, while a study of a male nude, signed with initials and dated 1916, is estimated at £2,000-3,000. The drawing was previously sold at Phillips North West on March 26, 1992, and prior to that at Sotheby's in Chester in March 1991, where it was listed in a group lot with provenance from Emmanuel Levy. Both works were previously with Manchester dealers Grove Fine Art. Also from Taylor’s collection are two oils by Robert Oscar Lenkiewicz: “The Painter with Karen Ciambriello, Project 18", estimate £3,000 to £5,000 and "Elaine Armstrong, three-quarter length, naked", estimate £2,000-4,000. The latter, an oil on board, was in the Lenkiewicz Studio Sale conducted by Bearne's of Exeter on October 23, 2004. Taylor, a self-styled lord of the manor, purchased the title “Lord Taylor Windsor” on the internet for £1,000 alongside an estate in Devon – which covers just eight square inches. An assessment of his wealth revealed that for many years he had led an extravagant lifestyle, fuelled by the profits of fraud. He had purchased lavish Cheshire homes worth over £3 million, drove top-of-the range Bentley and Range Rover cars, and regularly placed large cash deposits into his accounts. The court heard that more than £6 million had passed through his accounts, which he could not explain. Most if his assets had been spent and those remaining may only just cover the repayment. Detective Inspector Terry Tinsley of the police Economic Crime Unit said: “The audacity of Maurice Taylor is staggering. He led a life of luxury, borne out of the exploitation of others by dealing in fake paintings. Now he is faced with the harsh reality that he must repay over £1 million and literally pay the price for his criminality and life of luxury.” Click here for the complete sale catalogue
by Christopher Proudlove DAISY Makeig-Jones must surely have had fairies living at the bottom of her garden. Where else could she have found the inspiration for the most magical of ceramic wonderlands that she created for Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre? The piece pictured here is a product of her vivid imagination. Just how important today's collectors consider them to be is illustrated by the fact that this amazing octagonal bowl decorated with 'Toadstool, Woodland Elves 7' and 'Fairy in a Cage' patterns, circa 1920 went for £300 over its high estimate of £2000 in Mallams Ceramic sale last Wednesday in Cheltenham (May 5th 2010). Wedgwood’s rise to prominence in the 18th century was based on innovation in manufacture and designs that, despite being adaptations of classical motifs from the antique, were presented in a new form, which had broad based appeal. However, during the 19th century Wedgwood lacked the innovation and energy provided by its founder Josiah I, and its wares became for the most part derivative, concentrating almost exclusively on production of its traditional basalt and jasper wares. By the early 20th century, the factory was nearly bankrupt. The key to its survival to a very large extent was the development, in the early 1900s, of a dazzling range of new glazing techniques, particularly one which produced a finish of multi-coloured iridescence. The catalyst for change at the company's Etruria works in Stoke-on-Trent was Daisy's fairies. They were loved by some and hated by others, indeed, some thought she was mad, but without doubt, they helped the company return to profitability after the First World War. One of seven children, Susannah Margaretta ‘Daisy’ Makeig-Jones was born in 1881 in a small mining village near Rotherham, where her father was a GP. From an early age, Daisy showed she had an artistic talent and when her father moved his practice to Torquay, she entered the town's School of Art. After a short spell at a London school of art, she managed, through a relative, to obtain an introduction to Cecil Wedgwood, at that time managing director of the company. Despite his fears that a doctor's daughter might find it difficult to adjust to factory life, in 1909 Daisy joined the company as a trainee designer. Wedgwood need not have worried. Her art school training helped considerably and by 1914, she was considered good enough to be given her own studio. Fairies bring good luck, they say. Daisy's run started by being placed in the studio next to the one where trials were being carried out on the new glazes that were to add so much to her inspired designs. There, she was able to watch the paintresses at work and pass to them watercolour drawings of her Fairyland ideas so that, in effect, they became part of the experimentation. In fact, Daisy subsequently carried out her own test firings with glazes of different colours and lustres that were later adopted when production began – a mere nine months after being taken on as a staff designer. Impact of the ware on the public was phenomenal and all the best shops clamoured to obtain pieces for sale. At first, decoration featured butterflies, dragons, fish, birds and other naturalistic designs in stunning, even garish, colour schemes that were such welcome relief during the drab war years. However, these earlier pieces should not be confused with true Fairyland Lustre. This first appeared in 1915, by which time Daisy's imagination was beginning to run riot. Rich blues, purple, orange (her favourite colour) yellow, green and gold, were all worked together with pixies, elves and sprites in ways reminiscent of book illustrations by Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham. Like all clever pictures, the harder you look, the more you see: elves playing leapfrog; spiders spinning evil webs; gaudy rainbows over romantic castles; ghostly woods and apparitions in the Land of Illusion. Interestingly, rather than being figments of an over active imagination, many Fairyland designs have strong links with folklore, legend and tradition, though clearly, Daisy's fairy people did things their way. The interest in Fairyland Lustre among today's collectors is, no doubt, fuelled by the urge to own something of such individualistic character. The search could prove long and expensive, however. Prosperity was on the decline come the late 1920s and in 1930 a new chairman took the helm at Wedgwood who was not a lover of the ware. In the end, Daisy was asked – and then told – to retire, which she did under duress in 1931. She died in 1945. Scarcity value, therefore, also plays a part in boosting saleroom prices of Fairyland Lustre. Very little comes on to the market that is likely to fetch less than £200-£300. However, the ware is also the kind of thing that could go overlooked in the right place – or wrong place, depending on how you look at it! Perhaps the fairies will bring you a little luck at the local jumble sale. www.ukauctioneers.com
By Christopher Proudlove It's all a bit chaotic chez nous just now: the electricians are due tomorrow, followed by the decorator, followed by the carpet layer and hopefully followed by the man who is going to build me a new office. Fingers and toes are crossed. The Business Manager (Mrs P) has seized the opportunity for a clear-out. It is also proving to be an opportunity to remind each of us of all the knickknacks, bric-a-brac and assorted junk that we have accumulated over the years since we moved here. Strangely, it appears to be my things alone that are earmarked for being jettisoned. Among her treasures rescued from oblivion are three tiny felt dolls dressed respectively in the uniforms of the army, navy and air force. Smaller than a peg doll and obviously home-made, they really are quite charming. I'm secretly pleased that she's decided to keep them.
Between you and me I thought I might try to buy her a full size felt doll like the sailor toy illustrated here. He dates from around 1935 and he was made by Norah Wellings who, I hadn't realised until now, had her own manufacturing business in Shropshire. Fabric dolls have been around for centuries. They probably started life as home-made playthings for poor parents to give their children when they could afford nothing better, unless of course you count the very small number of ancient examples that have been found alongside mummified remains in Egyptian tombs. Manufacture on a commercial basis started in the 19th century when people like Margarete Steiff (better known for her teddy bears); the other famous German maker Kathe (subs: a umlaut) Kruse and the Italian company Lenci. owned by Enrico Scavini, flooded the worldwide market. Britain was slower to adopt the felt doll, but in the 1920s the toy company Chad Valley emerged as a major producer. The business was founded in 1823 when Anthony Bunn Johnson opened a printing and binding business in Birmingham. It moved to Harbourne on the outskirts of the city in 1897 on a site adjacent to the River Chad and in 1919, the name Chad Valley was registered as a trademark for the toys, made by the business now run by Johnson's sons. Three years earlier, in 1916, the Johnson brothers had acquired the former Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Wellington, Shropshire, and founded the Wrekin Toy Factory. In 1922, Chad Valley, by now a well known toy producer, moved into the premises in order to expand its range to include fabric dolls and teddy bears. The Chad Valley Wrekin Toy Works took their subjects from cartoons and films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bonzo and the dolls made by Mabel Lucie Attwell. Dolls of the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, dressed in the Queen Mother's favourite colours of pale pink, blue and yellow were a particularly favourite line in the 1930s. They were notable for their inset glass eyes, a process which Chad Valley had patented in 1925. Norah Wellings left school at 14 to care for her invalid father but took a correspondence course with the London School of Art studying drawing, painting and sculpture. Following her father’s death in 1919, she joined the staff of the Wrekin Toy Works, aged 26, rising through the ranks to become chief designer of their cloth doll range. Why she left is not clear, but in 1926 she decided to set up her own, founding the Victoria Toy Works, also in Wellington, in a building owned by her brother, Leonard, who was a plasterer. He looked after the administrative and commercial side of the business, while Norah designed all the soft toys and dolls herself, which were made by a workforce of six seamstresses. She attended her first British Industry Toy Fair the following year, whereafter the business blossomed. Needing larger premises, in 1929 the business was relocated to a redundant Baptist Chapel in King Street and at its peak, it employed around 250 workers. Norah was an innovative manufacturer. In 1926, she had obtained patents for a fabric or felt head back with buckram and lining on the inner surface with a coating of plastic. The head was finished with the waterproof coating, rendering the doll suitable for washing. The faces of her dolls have a charming, impish look, full of mischief, yet demure and angelic. They have either painted or inserted glass eyes and, oddly, somewhat pronounced years which were applied separately. Interestingly, the so-called "Jolly Boy Sailor" doll which caught my eye was a particularly popular line in the gift shops on the Atlantic ocean liners which stocked many of Norah's products. The sailors' caps carried the names of each particular ship on their cap bands, making them ideal mementos and holiday souvenirs. A large number of dolls depicting children from different lands included Maori Boy, South Sea Islander, Cowboy, Mountie, and Chinese Girl. Sizes vary from 8 to 30 inches (20-75 cm). Each bears printed fabric labels either on the wrist or, more usually, on the soles of the dolls' feet. A huge 70 per cent of her output was exported overseas. Leonard Wellings died in 1959 at the age of 67, prompting Norah to retire that same year. The workforce was given two weeks' notice and production at the factory ceased. She died in 1975 at the age of 82. For more, the definitive book on the subject is Norah Wellings: Cloth Dolls and Soft Toys by Gillian Trotter, which is available on Amazon. Check our auctions for Norah Wellings dolls www.ukauctioneers.com
by Christopher Proudlove It stands just eight inches tall; it represents the fabulous art of Peter Carl Fabergé, jeweller to the last Czars of Imperial Russia and it must be one of the most exclusive Easter eggs imaginable. It is the Lilies of the Valley Egg (pictured) and it was commissioned from Fabergé by Nicholas II as a surprise gift to his mother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, to mark the Easter of 1898. Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920) had taken control of his father's modest St. Petersburg jewellery firm in 1870. Combining innovation with tradition in a refined aesthetic line of impeccable craftsmanship, he became jeweller by appointment to most European courts and suppliers of objets de luxe to the rich and noble. His firm of goldsmiths went on to employ 500 people in workshops of St. Petersbsurg, Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London. And the young Czar Nicholas was used to giving expensive presents. His father, Alexander III, had started the fashion back in 1885 when he asked Fabergé to dream up something that would remind the Empress Marie of home. (She was a Danish princess, the daughter of King Christian IX). An Easter egg was the obvious choice. Ever since the beginning of time, the egg has symbolised new life and new hope. As early as the 13th century, Europeans were exchanging gifts of painted hens' eggs. The wealthy of the Middle Ages sometimes embellished these eggs with gold and jewells and later they included ingenious "surprises" concealed within the fragile shell. Simplest of these surprise Easter eggs were made in wood in the 19th century by Russian peasants celebrating the Orthodox Church's most important festival. When unscrewed, these eggs revealed smaller and smaller ones, just like the famous Russian dolls. But other surprise eggs were on a more grand scale. Ingenious toys were the delight of European kings of the 18th century. Louis XV, for example, gave his mistress, Madame du Barry, a jewelled egg that contained a porcelain cupid. He, in return, received eggs painted by such masters as Boucher and Watteau. An important egg is in the Danish Royal collection. Made from ivory, it contains surprise after surprise as it is unscrewed until comes the final gift of a diamond ring. This is reputed to have inspired Fabergé who fashioned for the Czarina an egg the same size as that of a hen's in white enamel on gold, the shell of which unscrewed to reveal a gold yolk. That separated in turn to show a golden hen with ruby eyes and a red gold beak and comb. Inside the tiny hen was a diamond studded replica of the Russian Imperial Crown, and inside that was a minute ruby pendant So enchanted was the Czarina that Alexander commissioned an egg from Fabergé every Easter until his death in 1894. Nicholas, the last of the Czars, continued the tradition but ordered two eggs, one for his mother, the other for his Czarina. According to the latest research carried out at the Central State Historical Archives in Leningrad, 54 Imperial eggs were produced by Fabergé. However, even if you could afford one, you're unlikely to find any; of the known surviving eggs, few are in private hands. The new Czar's coronation in 1897 inspired one of the most famous and exotic of all the Imperial Easter eggs in red gold, diamonds and enamels. Just 3½ inches long, the egg was covered with a trelliswork of gold foliage, intersected by black enamelled Imperial eagles. Inside, the egg contained a working model of the Royal Coronation coach, painstakingly crafted in gold which alone took 15 months to make. Fabergé's inspiration came from a number of sources. The Lilies of the Valley Egg, for example, captures the richness of spring after a bitter Russian winter. The deep pink enamel egg is swathed in a bouquet of the flowers made from pearls and diamonds, with the Imperial Crown set in the top. When triggered, a secret mechanism fans out the concealed surprise: finely painted miniatures of Czar Nicholas and his two elder daughters, each in a tiny oval, diamond-set frame. The Cuckoo Egg, is another treasure, the magnificent gold, enamelled and jewelled table clock was crafted in 1900, and was the first of only six automaton eggs ever produced by Fabergé. When a button at the top rear of the egg is depressed, a circular, pierced grille opens and the bird rises on a gold platform, crowing and moving its wings and beak. When the crowing is finished, the bird drops back into the egg and the grille snaps shut. However, the bird is a cockerel and not a cuckoo, although Fabergé's eldest son Eugène (1874-1960) whose honour it was each year to deliver the surprise eggs to the Czarina on Easter morning, reckoned the egg was always referred to as the Cuckoo Egg. The ingenuity of Fabergé's surprises is exceptional. He made quartz snowdrops in a platinum basket in the Winter Egg of 1913; a tiny, gold singing bird in the Orange Tree Egg of 1911; and 12 revolving, miniature Imperial palaces in the Rock Crystal Egg of 1896. In contrast is the Steel Military Egg of 1916, the last to be presented before the Russian Revolution. Fabergé's acknowledged masterpieces, the eggs reflect the wealth and splendour of the Imperial court and of the epoch that ended with the Great War. Easter eggs of such grandeur were made by Fabergé for only a handful of customers apart from the Imperial Court. Among those few was Dr Emanuel Nobel, the Swedish petroleum magnate and nephew of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prizes, while another was an egg made for the Duchess of Marlborough, the former Consuelo Vanderbilt, when she and the Duke visited Russia in 1902. A number of surprise Easter eggs are being made by today's master craftsmen. While none would hope to aspire to Fabergé's magnificence, they are nevertheless all collectables of the future. Why not commission one for your Czarina?
A watercolour by Birkenhead-born Victorian artist George Cockram of the bustling George's Dock in Liverpool in the 19th century is expected to fetch up to £1,000 a sale of fine paintings, silver and jewellery at UK auction Halls’ Welsh Bridge saleroom in Shrewsbury on March 24. "The painting captures a fascinating view of sailing ships in George's Dock in 1895," said William Lacey, Halls' paintings and books expert. George's Dock, built by Henry Berry and opened in 1771, is now home to luxury penthouse apartments in one of the city's most exclusive River Mersey developments. In 1899, the dock and the adjoining George's Basin were filled in to create what is now the Pier Head to provide one central place for Liverpool Docks' offices. George Cockram (1861-1950) is best known for his landscape and countryside paintings. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and was a member of the Royal Cambrian Academy.
Downsizing on a grand scale and the brilliance of late 17th and early 18th century English cabinet-making
By Christopher ProudloveInvariably, there comes a time when a collection of antiques has to be sold. Aside from the “no pockets in a shroud” scenario, it’s usually a case of downsizing to a smaller home, or else liquidating one group of objects either to afford something better, or to raise funds for purchases in an entirely new area of collecting. With the exception of the former, early English furniture collectors John Parry and his wife, Norma, have had more experience of selling their prized possessions than most. In 1997, the Wrexham couple sold their first collection of walnut and oak at Christie’s in London. It surprised everyone – including Mr and Mrs Parry – selling for not much short of £2 million and setting a new benchmark in the UK auction market. Among the many world auction records was that for a walnut bachelor's chest which sold for £265,500. This was downsizing on a grand scale. But there were three pieces that the now retired house builder could not bear to part with: a George II burr walnut writing chestchest; another George II example with the rare feature of having a veneered back and a Queen Anne burr walnut dressing table or lowboy “the best I’ve ever seen”. These three gems formed the nucleus of a second highly important collection and now that too is for sale in a second downsizing operation. Described by Christie’s furniture specialist Rufus Bird as “a joyful celebration of the richness, variety and quality found in these magnificent pieces, showing the brilliance of late 17th and early 18th century English cabinet-making,” it is expected to realise around £1.2 million. Expectations are that that figure might prove conservative. With such a nest egg, one might think the collector would set his sights on going after pieces even more rare and special than the last. But not at all. Now aged 74, the entirely self-taught connoisseur says he intends to seek out furniture in lower price brackets and he has already started to taste success. He spotted a “lovely George II kneehole desk” in a provincial saleroom with an estimate of £600-800, which the auctioneers had described as “burrwood”. “I knew straight away that it was walnut and I paid £1,400 for it. It’s easily a £3,000-4,000 piece in London,” he said. “I don’t mean to boast, but I had some fabulous things, but I got to thinking and realised what a huge responsibility they are. I’ve loved sharing the collection with others, such as the Arts Fund, but you never know when your time is going to come.
“I’ve always collected things because I love them, not because of what they’re worth. That’s not my mantra. I find collecting to be a wonderfully satisfying hobby. It is extremely rewarding to find a new treasure, which perhaps displays a style and form previously unknown to me. “Early examples, particularly of walnut, which comprise the three essential qualities: colour, condition and patination, are very difficult to find. I am convinced that many items were undoubtedly bespoke. This is an attribute which I find quite irresistible.” Titled Three Woods: A Passion for Walnut, Oak and Yew, the Parrys’ second sale comprises 120 works, pick of which is a charming early 18th Century Queen Anne walnut kneehole bachelor's chest (estimate: £100,000-150,000). That impressive George II burr walnut writing chest saved from the first sale is estimated at £60,000-90,000, while a George I burr-walnut bachelor’s chest is in at £70,000-£100,000. John places importance not only on the aesthetic beauty and quality of craftsmanship of the furniture he has collected, but also the usefulness of pieces which has enabled them to be used and enjoyed as part of the home. This is demonstrated by a Welsh oak dresser from the early 18th century (estimate: £10,000-15,000); a George II walnut and elm Windsor armchair, circa 1740 (estimate: £10,000-15,000) and a George III brown oak and oak tripod table, circa 1760 (estimate: £3,000- 5,000). In contrast, a stunning late 17th Century Charles II silkwork casket, known as The Wilby House Casket, which is in remarkable condition, is estimated at £40,000-60,000, while smaller, delightfully quirky lots include 15 fruit-shaped tea-caddies from the late 18th century with estimates ranging from £3,000 to £9,000.
The John Parry Collection is at UK auction Christie’s in King Street, London, on Thursday March 25. Viewing is from March 21-24 and cataloguing can be found on the Internet at www.christies.com.
By Christopher Proudlove
When we first started going to auction sales -- we furnished our first home almost entirely from them -- our favourite was held in the village hall hired each month specially for the event. The auctioneer arrived on Friday morning and spent the day receiving goods from anyone who cared to turn up with something to sell. Stuff poured from the backs of lorries and vans, family cars and, on one occasion that I witnessed, the bottom of Silver Cross pram. And yes, the pram was left to be sold too. There were no catalogues in those days. Your goods were given a code which, if you were lucky, identified them apart from everyone else's and lot numbers which you were expected to stick on yourself. Naturally enough, this led to a certain amount of confusion -- probably deliberate on the part of some of the more unscrupulous individuals who used the place -- and that was that. Viewing happened for a couple of hours that evening followed by the same prior to the start of the sale the following morning at 10.30, whereupon the auctioneer took his place on the rostrum. Actually, that’s not right. Sometimes, there was so much stuff that it overflowed outside into the car park. In such circumstances, if you owned something that was capable of withstanding bad weather, you arrived for the sale to find your property lying where you left it the day before. It was a bad sign. The stuff outside was knocked down very cheaply, specially if it was raining. But back to the sale proper. With luck, the auctioneer started at lot one and proceeded at an alarming rate of about 120 lots an hour, hopefully in chronological order. If the next lot couldn't be found, which was often the case, the auctioneer would skip to the next one that could, presuming the wayward lot would turn up in the course of events. Sometimes it never did. Those Saturday morning sales were remarkable for all manner of reasons. Apart from the fascinating people-watching opportunity they offered, they were also fantastic learning grounds for keen novices like us and there were also some amazing bargains, specially if you knew what you were doing. There were times when the auctioneer was laughing so much that he was incapable of proceeding and times when the audience was laughing so much that not a single bid could be elicited from it. We bought a lot of junk, and actually some quite good things which today, five homes later, still hold pride of place. Bidding was rough and ready. You shouted "Yes!" or "Here!" when you wanted to join in the fray and so skilful was the auctioneer that once he'd taken a bid from you, he came back to you as the bidding progressed until such time that you dropped out. Of course, the room was always packed with dealers and the auctioneer knew each of them personally and exactly what it was that each would buy. If you were fortunate enough to beat one or other of them, you were expected to call out your name to the auctioneer's clerk, who entered it against the lot on his sales sheets. Once full, the sheets were ferried to the office (actually the village hall kitchen) as each became full so that names, lot numbers, purchases and prices could be tallied and invoices made out in time for the end of the sale. All of it was done by hand and rarely was there an error. It ain't like that today. Now, mobile phones, computers, digital cameras, broadband Internet, Twitter, YouTube, iPhones and Google have revolutionised the process of buying and selling at auction. It seems like innovation follows innovation almost on a daily basis. Auctioneers have not been slow to embrace technology. The first thing to go was buyers having to shout out their names. Now, you register to bid and are given a numbered paddle or card which your purchases are recorded against. Naturally, invoices are computerised. Next came online catalogues and some auctioneers have actually dispensed with printed versions altogether on the premise of saving paper but no doubt saving money in the process. Online catalogues allow Ukauctioneers and the salerooms they represent to alert buyers by email when specific objects come up the sale. For example, if you're looking for a Georgian D-end dining table, you tell the UKauctioneer's website the appropriate keywords and it will email you each time they appear in a catalogue. Another new feature of the auction scene is Twitter. I'm still coming to terms with this micro-blogging service in which you're supposed to tell people what you're up to in 140 words or less. Innovative UKauctioneers and their auctioneers have adopted the idea to tell their clients, or “Followers” as Twitter likes to call them, when new catalogues have been posted or other features of their business. I'm also still learning how best to use my new iPhone, but one of the applications it boasts allows me to browse any auction catalogues anywhere; get real-time auction results; email lot details to friends and submit objects for appraisal, all from the comfort of well, anywhere I like. It won't be long before every auction-related service has such an “app” of its own. The latest great idea at the time of writing, at least as far as I'm concerned, involves YouTube. For the uninitiated, this is a website which allows anyone to upload and/or download high-definition videos with stereo sound of anything that takes your fancy. Congleton, Cheshire fine art and antiques auctioneers Adam Partridge harnessed this brave new world to help promote the sale of an amazing single-owner collection of what collectors called mechanical music -- that's the stuff that our forebears listened to in the days before electricity. Click here and you’ll be presented with a selection of downloads featuring some of the Symphonions, Polyphons, barrel organs and phonographs from the John Nixon Collection that were sold recently. Not only can you see them but actually hear them working too. The juxtaposition of old and new was never more pronounced. These days auctioneers’ websites allow you to read their complete sale catalogues, with each lot illustrated; request a condition report on any lot; leave a commission bid and even join forums to discuss, well, anything you like with others in a saleroom’s buying community. Will live auctions disappear altogether? Unlikely, I for one would much rather go back to the village hall than stare at a computer screen any longer than I have to. But the computerised services offered in this digital age make bidding and buying a breeze compared to the old days.