The Year in Review | A Look Back at 2023

The Year in Review | A Look Back at 2023

Join us as we take a look back at the past twelve months, on what has been another successful and record-breaking year, where we have achieved our highest hammer total in our 241 year history.

19 December 2023


It is always worthwhile to take stock at the end of a calendar year and remind ourselves of the achievements and trials of the previous twelve months. At Sworders we look back with considerable pride at the 2023 sales calendar. Of course, the market for many traditional art and antiques remains challenging, but there are compensations. It seems to me that as the market tightens, provenance and its presentation is becoming ever more important.

In 2023 we sold more named private collections than ever before. Undoubtedly at the top of this list was the spectacular Guinness Sale at Elveden but – from a cache of photographs by Victorian author Lewis Carroll to further items from the collection of Sir Rod Stewart – we have relished every opportunity to tell a good story. Ultimately it is the narrative surrounding the many fine objects that we sell that really brings them alive.

I hope you enjoy this chronological review of some of the most memorable collections we have sold this year – followed by a just a few individual highlights from across our specialist departments.

Guy Schooling



A group of a Meissen ‘schneeballen’ type vases came for sale on 14-15 March by descent from Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon of Belgrave Square, London. Meissen porcelain vases modelled with ‘snowballs’ of flowers were first created in the 1740s. However, most examples (including these) date from the mid to late 19th century when the technique was revived. Currently they are amongst the strongest niches of the Meissen collecting market.  At 2ft 10in (85cm) high this two-section baluster form vase and cover was outstanding in both size and technique. It sold in our specialist Fine Interiors sale for £35,100.


 Left - A large Meissen porcelain Schneeballen vase and cover, c.1870, Sold for £35,100, Right - A large elm altar table, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Sold for £13,000

Sir John Craven was one of the City’s most influential dealmakers in the latter half of the 20th century, having had a central role in the self-reinvention of the Square Mile after the Big Bang of 1986. Selected contents from his home in Tetbury, Gloucestershire sold in our 14-15 Fine Interiors sale,  including this large elm altar table from the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911) which sold for £13,000.





Our timed Books and Maps sale that ran online from 14-23 April included eight photographs taken by Victorian author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-98), aka Lewis Carroll. The albumen prints, mostly laid down on card, came from a descendent of the sitter, Alexandra 'Xie' Rhoda Kitchen (1864-1925). She was the favourite photographic subject of Dodgson who photographed her around 50 times, from age four until just before her 16th birthday. Her granddaughter had sold around 10 similar photographs at Sotheby’s in the late 1980s but these new discoveries were found at the back of a safe while the family home in Essex was being cleared.  

The works assume a tableau format, showing the sitter in different costumes – asleep on a sofa, with a bucket and spade, wearing a fur hat and cape, dressed as a queen or as ‘a Chinaman’.  They sold collectively for a remarkable £121,400.


Collection of Photographs taken by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) [British, 1832–1898], Sold Collectively for £121,400.




Our 18 June Fine Interiors sale included a £43,000 collection of 17th  century Norwich silver from Bixley Manor, the estate of Sir Timothy James Alan Colman (1929-2021).

Norwich silver is particularly sought after as the city’s Assay Office closed 1702. Five trefid spoons and two plain beakers in the collection carried the mark EH for the remarkable Elizabeth Haselwood (1644-1715) who ran the family business from 1684 until her death. The spoons with marks ranging from 1675 to 1697 sold at prices from £750-£2,750 while the beakers made £6,240 and £7,800. Performing particularly well, a Charles I silver seal top spoon by Elizabeth Haslewood’s father-in-law Arthur Haslewood I with the date letter for 1641 sold at £9,750.

 A good Charles I East Anglian provincial silver seal-top spoon

A good Charles I East Anglian provincial silver seal-top spoon, Sold for £9,750


A spectacular array of vintage cars and automobilia assembled by latter day ‘Bentley Boy', Alexander Tanner (1942-2022) was sold on 21 June, in our specialist auction 'The Alexander Tanner Collection'. During his lifetime the property developer from Shalford, Essex, had sought to own at least two of the best cars from each of the last eight decades of the motor car, and for Tanner, the best cars were Bentleys. He joined the Bentley Drivers Club in 1974 and served as club chairman from 2008 to 2011.

Seven of the ten cars Sworders sold on behalf of the executors of his estate, were Bentleys including a 1932 4/8-litre Open Tourer with a Le Mans body built by VBE Restorations in 2009 (£253,000), a 1963 Bentley S3 Continental Coupé (£230,000) and a 1931 4 litre Drophead Coupé which sold for £126,500.


 Left- 1932 Bentley 4/8-Litre Tourer, Sold for £253,000. Right - 1963 Bentley S3 Continental Coupé, Sold for £230,000



Two trademark ‘microgauze’ wall-hangings by the pioneering British weaver Peter Collingwood (1922-2008) were included in our Design sale on 18July. They were consigned by Ron Stewart, the former head of the oriental rugs and textiles department at Liberty & Co. who acquired both directly from Collingwood in the late 1990s.

Both worked in cream and black linen, the larger of the two measuring 2.46m high by 47cm wide stamped M.9 No.13 sold for £10,400, with the smaller weaving titled M.84 No.233 measuring 1.81m high selling for £5,200.


Peter Collingwood (1922-2008)

Peter Collingwood (1922-2008), 'M.9 NO. 13'a microgauze wall hanging of woven cream and black linen, on steel, Sold for £10,400.

Based in Colchester for much of his career, Peter Collingwood was at the forefront of weaving for half a century. Sworders has sold several pieces in recent years including, in 2022, a large hanging that made an auction record of £22,500.





Probably the highlight of the year, was 'The Guinness Sale at Elveden', conducted for Lord Iveagh on 14 September. This single-owner on-the-premises auction comprised inherited furnishings with Guinness family connections from several properties, including Elveden Hall on the Suffolk-Norfolk border, and Farmleigh in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Bidding for the 438 lots, that began at 10am and concluded at 7pm, produced a total of £918,476.

Two large late 19th century pale blue ground wool carpets made by Ziegler and Company of Manchester at its factory in Sultanabad, provided the top lots of the day. Both carpets, retaining the cotton labels that documented their purchase at Harvey Nichols in September 1894, had been bought by Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927), the 1st Earl of Iveagh and Viscount Elveden for use at Farmleigh. They were bought by the same US phone bidder for sums of £44,200 and £42,900.


The Guinness Sale at Elveden 2023

Two large late 19th century pale blue ground wool carpets made by Ziegler and Company of Manchester, Left - Sold for £44,200, Right - Sold for £42,900

 Taxidermy: lion (Panthera leo)

Taxidermy: lion (Panthera leo), full mount on a naturalistic base, Botswana, S A, 210cm long, 129cm high, Sold for £15,600


Although its unique and impressive architecture and surrounding landscapes are a popular venue for film and creative industries, Elveden has been closed to the public since 1984. Experiencing the sale in such a unique setting was part of the appeal for the many people who viewed and the attendees on sale day.

Lord Iveagh said, 'It’s been a joy seeing Elveden Hall furnished once again and looking so good. And wonderful to have so many visitors appreciating both the building and the items in the sale.' He added: 'I sincerely hope all our successful bidders enjoy their purchases. The Guinness family has treasured these objects for many years, so it’s a source of great personal satisfaction to know they will continue to be appreciated for generations to come.'


The Guinness Sale at Elveden 2023




Our timed autumn Books and Maps sale included the collection of London book dealer Paul Bentley (1931-2022). A recognised specialist in the field of British maps, his research is credited in both James Howgego’s Printed Maps of London 1553-1850 and Ralph Hyde’s Printed Maps of Victorian London 1851-1900. 

The sale included a large number of rare London maps, notably two first edition copies of the Greenwood London maps published in 1827. Brothers Christopher and John Greenwood spent three years on their new survey of London (1824-26) producing a highly detailed map of on a scale of 8in to a mile. Engraved by engraved by James and Josiah Neele, it outlined plans for the development of Belgravia and Bayswater and the recent additions of both the Grand Surrey Canal and Regent's Park. The copy below, housed in the original full tree calf box, sold at £11,250.


LONDON MAP: GREENWOOD, John & Christopher: Map of London from Actual Survey Made in the Years 1824, 1825 & 1826. Published August 21. 1827, first edition, Sold for £11,250





The art of the samurai came to Stansted Mountfitchet on 2 November. As part of the autumn Asian art offering, a total of 150 lots were sold for the family of the late Peter Raymond Dennison, a collector of Japanese arms and armour for many years. The core of the collection was an array of 17th-19th century blades including multiple examples of the wakizashi, the katana and more than 30 varieties of polearms and spears.  There were also 15 gusoku (composite armours) dating from either the end of the Edo period or the beginning of the Meiji restoration. This example below made £3,640.


A Japanese gusoku (composite armour)

A Japanese gusoku (composite armour), Sold for £3,640  




Further items from the collection of Sir Rod Stewart came for sale in our 12-13 December Fine Interiors sale. Following the success of two similarly star-kissed dispersals in 2018 and 2019, there was a third bite of the cherry for those who wished to share in Sir Rod’s distinctive taste for art and interior decoration.

As befitting a singer-songwriter with number one hits including ‘Sailing’, a yachting painting by a recognised 20th-century marine artist led the 40-lot offering: ‘Hispania Leads at the Gybe Mark, Western Solent, 1912', an anachronistic oil by John Steven Dews (b.1949) sold for £22,000.


Fine Interiors, December 2023

Left - John Steven Dews (b.1949), ‘Hispania Leads at the Gybe Mark, Western Solent, 1912', oil on canvas, Sold for £22,000, Right - A George III brass mortar by Jan Verbruggen, dated 1779, Sold for £63,700.


Sending the old year out with a bang, a George III brass mortar by Jan Verbruggen sold for £63,700 on December 13. The rare muzzle-loaded gun, signed I&P Verbruggen Fecerunt AD 1779, came for sale as part of the contents of the idyllic Middleton Hall in Mendham, Suffolk. Dutchmen Jan (1712-1781) and Peter Verbruggen (1735-1786) played a key role in the modernisation of ordnance production at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, London. Appointed joint master founders at the Royal Brass Foundry in 1770, they undertook a full refurbishment of the factory and made more accurate guns using Britain’s first industrial lathe. It is thought that fewer than 30 pieces by Verbruggen survive, most in museum collections.






A rare Qing dynasty zitan ‘dragon’ box sold to a buyer from China for a staggering £143,000 on 3 November. The 49cm wide casket, that would have been used to store precious objects, is made almost exclusively of zitan, the purplish-black, fine-grained timber that was the preferred wood of the imperial workshops. Suitable for fine and intricate carving, in this case the box is adorned with the powerful dynastic images of the five-clawed dragon amidst clouds (symbol of the emperor) and phoenixes (the empress). The box came for sale from a private seller who inherited it from grandparents who lived in Bullwood Hall, Hockley, Essex between 1930-50.


Asian Art Results 2023

Left - A Chinese zitan wood box and cover, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Sold for £143,000, Right - A Chinese blue and white jardinière, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Sold for £121,250.


This 59cm long Qing dynasty (1644-1911) blue and white hexagonal form jardinière had been used for decades by a London family for growing hyacinths. It may have been acquired by the vendor’s grandfather, John Stevenson (1844-1918) while working with the China Inland Mission for more than 30 years.  Bearing a six-character Kangxi mark to the underside of the rim, it is similar to pieces in the Forbidden City in Beijing. It reached £121,250 as part of our 14 May Asian Art sale.





Inspired by Carlo Scarpa’s use of murrine glass in the 1930s and 1940s, Paolo Venini (1895-1959) designed a number of vessels in the 1950s that have become classics of post-war Italian design. The first of the series, a Damo (checkered, or chessboard) was designed in 1953. This 20cm ovoid form 'Murrine a Damo glass' vase, c.1953 decorated with turquoise and ruby murine came for sale as part of the Design sale at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet on October 31. It was estimated at £15,000-25,000 and sold for £31,200.


Design - Venini Vase and East Anglian Art - Bawden

Left - Paolo Venini (Italian, 1895-1959), a 'Murrine a Damo' glass vase, c.1953, Sold for £31,200, Right - Edward Bawden RA (1903-1989), A snowy day, High Street, Great Bardfield, Essex, pencil, pen and ink, watercolour and gouache, 43.5 x 56cm, Sold for £24,700




An easy choice for this year’s company Christmas card was this Edward Bawden (1903-89) watercolour, pen and ink titled A Snowy Day, High Street, Great Bardfield. Signed and dated 1955, it was part of the Bawden exhibition held at The Minories, Colchester in 1973. Expected to sell for between £7,000-9,000, it took £24,700 as part of the Modern & Contemporary Art auction on April 24. Works by Bawden and other artists from the Great Bardfield School performed strongly throughout 2023.





This bust-length profile portrait of a girl in a blue dress and white blouse seated on a chair is by the Italian-born English painter Charles Edward Perugini (1839-1918). The oil on canvas, initially CP, had been in the same family for many years and attracted plenty of interest before selling for £35,100.


 Charles Edward Perugini (1839-1918)

Charles Edward Perugini (1839-1918), Portrait of a girl seated on a chair, bust-length in profile, in a blue dress and white blouse, oil on canvas, 43.5 x 33.5cm, Sold for £35,100



Colour, clarity, carats and cut are the key variables when valuing gemstones. For substantial stones, such as the impressive brilliant-cut diamond in this ring, it pays to receive professional laboratory certification. Accompanied by a report from the Gemmological Certification Service that stated the diamond weighed 6.06ct and was graded Colour L with a faint white fluorescence and Clarity VS1. It sold for £35,100. And even better, purchasing this diamond ring at auction saved up to 0.42 tonnes of CO2e compared to buying new.

An 18ct gold single stone diamond ring

An 18ct gold single stone diamond ring, with a brilliant cut diamond of 6.06ct, Sold for £35,100




After a successful year, we now look ahead to all that 2024 brings. With a busy schedule already planned, we are excited to start the year with the highly anticipated, selection of treasures from the Maurice 'Dick' Turpin Collection. The catalogue is available to browse online here, we assure you will be as excited and intrigued by the offerings as are we.


Make sure you keep up to date with the 2024 auction calendar here and stay up to date with the latest news over on our blog.

All at Sworders would like to wish our clients, vendors and partners a lovely Christmas and best wishes for the new year. We look forward to welcoming you at Sworders in 2024.


 All sold prices shown include buyer’s premium




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