Yorkshire's oldest auctioneer dies aged 83 without ever retiring from his Hull sale rooms

Until three months ago Michael Baitson was still going into his offices on Anlaby Road in Hull.

Hull auctioneer Michael Baitson
Hull auctioneer Michael Baitson

Yorkshire’s oldest auctioneer, Mr Baitson loved the excitement of an auction room packed with people and the thrill of a bidding frenzy. He last brought down the gavel at an auction at the start of the pandemic last March.

His death at the age of 83, peacefully at his home, after fighting cancer for almost two years, marks the end of an era which has seen the drama of live auctions substituted by the rise of internet sales. When Mr Baitson started out there were at least eight auction houses in Hull

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Once lockdown restrictions are fully eased, Gilbert Baitson will remain the only one still with a live antiques and specialist sale.

Much of his professional life was closely bound with the social and historical fabric of Hull - he twice sold Fort Paull, the Napoleonic fortress at Paull, as well as one of the city’s icons, Yankee Burger, a drive-through diner, complete with a pink Cadillac on the roof.

Later he brought down the gavel on the Arc building on Castle Street with its grove of wind turbines. He also presided over numerous charity auctions, including for the giant Larkin Toads in 2010.

One of his more unusual sales was three-quarters of a tonne of false teeth which ended up gravelling the drive of a local caravan dealer. There was always a surprise in the offing like the coffee-stained pair of bookshelves, by a design firm called Isokon. They weren’t particularly attractive and bidding started at £100. They fetched £3,500.

His father Gilbert set up the family business in 1935. Michael, who was educated at Pocklington School, joined full-time in 1962 after being a pig farmer and a market gardener. A “kind, gentle, loving husband and father who would go out of his way to help people”, he married wife Nancy in 1962 - the start of a 59-year marriage. They had three childre,n Judith, Andrew and the late Helen, who also joined the business at 17 and became a High Court enforcement officer alongside her father. She died 12 years ago of cancer aged 46.

Andrew continues the family business. His father, he said, was never comfortable with public speaking, but give him some lots to sell and he was a man transformed.

“He was a man of few words, but the words he had were full of wisdom,” he said.

For those wishing to pay their respects, the cortege will leave the auction rooms at 389-395 Anlaby Road at 12.50pm on July 14, before a private family service at Haltemprice Crematorium.