Bids roll in for stones

A pair of transom heads
A pair of transom heads

Ancient stone from Canterbury Cathedral raised £210,000 in an historic ‘white glove’ sale conducted by The Canterbury Auction Galleries recently. The total was more than twice expectation with buyers both locally and across the world securing unique works, some dating back to the 15th century.

Auctioneer Tony Pratt said, “Every one of the 144 lots sold and I was presented with the traditional pair of white gloves afterwards, only the second time this has happened in my 40 years as an auctioneer.
The total raised is believed to be a record for an auction of its nature. A similar sale of stone from York Minster raised £44,000 in 2014.

Many of the stones dated back to 1428, when the 16-metre high Great South Window, one of the Cathedral’s largest, was built. Some were carved from the light creamy-yellow Jurassic limestone from north-western France, near the city of Caen. Others were in Portland and Doulting stone, some retaining the detailed carving and markings of previous generations of stonemasons who worked to conserve the window over the centuries.

They had to be removed after a fall of stone in 2009 identified serious problems in the structure that holds the world-renowned, early medieval stained glass depicting the Biblical ancestors of Christ. Now complete, the reconstruction using 40 tonnes of new stone was one of the largest conservation projects of its kind ever undertaken in Europe, costing £2.5 million

The sale attracted worldwide attention. A private U.S. buyer from New Hampshire purchased 16 lots of window mullions, costing a total of £17,000, while a buyer in Mumbai secured four minor transom heads for a total of £13,000 and a Los Angeles bidder paid £1,250 for a single moulded section of Caen stone from a minor mullion. It dated from 1428 with evidence of 1860s repair.

A London collector purchased seven lots including the two most valuable pieces in the sale: fan-shaped principal springer stones dating from 1428, one with the mason’s mark of the Moline Cross on two faces, both showing repairs in Portland and Doulting in the 1840s and 1930s. They each sold for £7,400.
The same buyer paid £3,100 for an arched Caen stone header with contemporary piercing; £5,100 for a pair of Caen minor mullion springers; £4,400 for a fluted Caen principal mullion arch stone and £6,100 for a Caen principal mullion arch transom head, all with various repairs. He said they were for his own personal enjoyment.

Setting the tone for a successful sale came with the first lot, which a local supporter of the cathedral secured with a hefty £5,000. The pair of principal mullion transom heads in Portland stone dated from 1792, each with Caen and Doulting repairs done in the 1860s and 1930s.

Numerous pairs of external moulded sections of minor mullions were also sold for around the £500 mark. One man purchased three sets for his grandchildren.

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