Britain's 10 most remarkable auction houses



2016-10-11 15:04:43

Each week across Britain, strange and wonderful objects are changing hands in the country's auction houses.

Let's delve into this little known world, as we explore the UK's most remarkable auctioneers.

Henry Aldridge & Son: Titanic memorabilia

"You never get surprises livin' in Devizes," sang the Wurzels. Yet they clearly weren't aware of the Wiltshire market town's auction house.

Because there, just a stone's throw from the Kennet and Avon canal, lies Henry Aldridge & Son – which devotes itself to water borne craft on a much larger scale: namely the Titanic.

The violin from

The violin from 'the band that played on' - sold for £1.1 million

Titanic collectors from all over the world bid in the company's auctions. And they bid big. £1.1 million for an archive containing the Titanic bandleader's violin. The ship's deckchairs have sold for £85,000, while poignant letters home from passengers and crew who died in the tragedy make regular appearances.

"People's interest in Titanic stems from the human element, every man, woman and child had a story to tell so in essence you have over 2,200 sub plots to the main event, " explains the company's Andrew Aldridge.

And what does the average Titanic collector look like? "There isn’t such a thing really," says Andrew. "They come from all ages and walks of life."

Visit the website.

Mullock's: vintage fishing tackle

Nestled in the hills of Shropshire you'll find Mullock's – an auction house as quaintly British as its surroundings. Tennis, golf and cricketing memorabilia feature prominently, as do British militaria, toys and historical documents. Yet it's the company's vintage fishing tackle department that sets Mullock's out from the crowd.

Looking for an antique cased roach? Mullock

Looking for an antique cased roach? Mullock's is for you

Collectors from around the world descend on the auction house three times a year for Mullock's vintage fishing tackle sales. And they're prepared to spend. £3,000 for a rare reel was a recent highlight.  With vintage rods, lures, nets, and even the odd cased fish or two, on offer – there is something for all vintage fish enthusiasts. 

Visit website.

Reeman Dansie: royal memorabilia

Forget commemorative tea towels.

If you want a truly special piece of royal memorabilia, check out Reeman Dansie. The Essex-based auctioneer offers only "grade A" royal memorabilia - things touched, used, worn or signed by royalty. From letters written by Queen Victoria to a school rubber used by Princess Diana, these are pieces to fascinate. Reeman Dansie sold a Princess Diana signed photo for £5,000 in 2015.

Reeman Dansie sold this Princess Diana-signed photo for

Reeman Dansie sold this Princess Diana-signed photo for £5,000

It is the only auctioneer in the world to host two dedicated auctions of royal memorabilia a year.

Visit the Reeman Dansie website.

Liverpool Beatles Auction: the Fab Four

There's only one auction a year. But by jingo, that auction is an absolute Fab Four bonanza. Organised by the city's Beatles Shop, the Liverpool Beatles Auction takes place at the end of August, offering around 300 lots of Beatles collectibles.

A visit to the Liverpool Beatles Auction is a trip back to the 60s

A visit to the Liverpool Beatles Auction is a trip back to the 60s

2016's sale was as eclectic as ever, ranging from a pair of Apple matchbooks (£45) to a lost Beatles demo (£18,000), via a soup tureen once owned by John Lennon (£210).

Discover more.

Paul Fraser Collectibles: the unusual

The Bristol-based collectibles dealer holds auctions but seldom. Yet when it does, they set the world's media agog.

The company's September 2016 sale featured an astonishing selection of pieces, including Gandhi's prison bowl, a lock of Lord Nelson's hair, a slice of Charles and Diana's wedding cake, a Margaret Thatcher Spitting Image puppet and Madonna's underwear.

Remember Spitting Image

Paul Fraser Collectibles recently sold this Margaret Thatcher puppet from Spitting Image

And that's in addition to scores of signatures from Henry VIII to Marilyn Monroe. 

See Paul Fraser Collectibles' website.

Vectis Auctions: toys

Nostalgia for our childhood is a powerful emotion. And there's an auction house in Stockton-on-Tees that has been making a tidy living from it for 28 years.


You'll pay more if the toy has its original box

When you walk into a Vectis Auctions sale, you're walking into hundreds of different childhoods. The toys cars, the toy trains, the dolls, the bears. Whatever era you grew up in, and whatever toys you loved playing with as a child, you will find something to jog the memory at Vectis.

Visit Vectis Auctions.

Kerry Taylor Auctions: fashion

Just south of London's Tower Bridge, where once the pungent tanneries  of Bermondsey created leather garments, it's now another kind of clothing you'll find here. Vintage fashion. Celebrity-worn dresses. Even the occasional gentleman's suit from yesteryear.

A Mondrian-inspired Yves Saint Laurent dress

A Mondrian-inspired Yves Saint Laurent dress sold for £27,000

Kerry Taylor Auctions was the company behind the sale of 10 Princess Diana dresses in 2013. That sale included the Victor Edelstein evening gown Diana wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House in 1985, which made £200,000.

Rare early designs from prominent fashion houses regularly pass through too. A Mondrian-inspired 1965 Yves Saint Laurent dress auctioned for £27,000 in 2011.

Learn more.

Elephant House Auctions: macabre

"Extraordinary auctions of eccentric curiosities" is how this Leamington Spa auctioneer describes itself. For 11 months of the year those eccentric curiosities have a fairground bent to them – with vintage arcade machines, one arm bandits and fortune teller contraptions all on offer. But each October, things take a spooky twist with the Auction of Horrors.

A vampire killing kit - complete with Bible and garlic

A vampire killing kit - complete with Bible and garlic

It's as terrifying as it sounds. Lifesize mummy replicas, death masks of hanged murderers, vampire killing kits. There's something for everyone…

Visit website.

MacDougall's: Russian art

With a name like MacDougall's, you might expect to find the works of the Scottish colourists passing through this London auctioneer. Not a bit of it. It's wall to wall Russian art. And it's the place to go for any self-respecting London-based Russian looking to adorn his or her Mayfair apartment, as well as those from around the world who appreciate the works of Serov, Aivazovsky, Kustodiev et al.


Viktor Popkov's Three Artists (1962) sold for £190,050 in 2016

 Its auctions are big: a quarter of the Russian art market's annual turnover goes through MacDougall's.

Learn more.

Fellows: jewellery

"More canals than Venice" proclaims Birmingham's tourist board. Possibly true, but Venice's canals don't send you under the Aston Expressway. In the rain.

While Britain's second city is somewhat off the tourist trail, a trip to the city's historic jewellery quarter is a must. Because it's there, among the jewellers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, you'll find Fellows, which has been hosting auctions since 1876.


Fellows hosts several jewellery auctions a month

Specialising in jewellery and watches – this is the place to come if you want to buy or sell great-granny's brooch collection (you know, the ones she insisted should become a family heirloom).

With several auctions a month, you can pick up some superb bargains, with many items coming directly from pawnbrokers.

Visit Fellows.

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