Any auctioneer will tell you that what they really dream about is the classic country house sale. These used to be an occasional but regular staple of the calendar, both in the early 20th century and in the decades after the Second World War, when families whose estates has been requisitioned for the war effort found that they no longer had the resources for their upkeep.
These days, such sales are few and far between; many of the great estates have now passed into the hands of wealthy entrepreneurs and foreigners who have the wherewithal to shape them in their own image, while other stately homes have now become the property of the National Trust or other bodies who have found commercial options for keeping them going.
Occasionally a gem of a country house sale does turn up, though, the latest being the contents of Athelhampton House in Dorset, a Tudor manor house whose contents have just sold for £1.5m.
From a £75,000 George II side table to a Charles I oak stool at nearly £34,000, the furniture was a delight, but equally enticing were the books, glassware and ornaments.
If you ever want to know why art and antiques have such an enduring appeal, just glance through the catalogue; it’s food for the soul.