John Pye Auctions Weekly Story – ‘Badly chewed chairs’

Sometimes, a thing of beauty can be a disaster, as I discovered in the tale of a set of gorgeous Regency chairs. They were retrieved by my team from an old wooden shed in the Nottinghamshire village of Cossall, near Ilkeston.

The 12 sabre-leg mahogany chairs looked magnificent with their brass inlays – a symbol of Prince George’s Regency period, 1811-20, in which furniture makers developed artistic madness, copying features from classical Roman and Greek eras. As I knew only too well, the chairs were exquisitely styled and looked beautiful.

There was only one problem, you couldn’t sit on them. They were riddled with woodworm and were so delicate that two of the 12 were broken when they were moved. They were so impractical as chairs but so lovely to look at.

I was amazed that we even sold them but, in fact, they made £550. That was in May 1974 when the average wage was £38.10. I think they needed a sign on them: LOOK – BUT DON’T SIT!

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