TV viewers have gone mad for Yorkshire over the past year, thanks to programmes that showcase its spectacular natural beauty and the actual and fictional everyday lives of those lucky enough to live and work in God’s Own County.
All Creatures Great and Small was a ratings sensation, as was Our Yorkshire Farm, not forgetting The Yorkshire Vet, The Yorkshire Dales and The Lakes, perennial Emmerdale, historical Gentleman Jack and re-runs of past favourites, such as Heartbeat and Last of the Summer Wine.
Now, just as we were going cold turkey, fresh meat has arrived in the form of The Yorkshire Auction House. It premieres at 9pm on Monday, March 22, on the Really channel and has all the makings of a “must watch” series. Centred on Ryedale Auctioneers in Kirkbymoorside, owned and run by Angus Ashworth, it has everything from heartfelt human interest stories to laughter, tears, live auctions and fascinating information about antiques and collectables.
The show follows the auctioneer Angus and his team as they are called to do house clearances. He in his car and strong men Pete and Andy in a van are filmed while driving and chatting as the camera swings to take in the stunning scenery, which is mostly in Yorkshire but with a few trips “abroad” as far as Scotland and, dare we say it, Lancashire.
On arrival, we see them sifting through a home and mountains of personal possessions while deciding what can be sold at auction, what they can recycle and what should be taken to the tip. Those who have lost a loved one and been left with the task of clearing a property will know that this is emotional, and those moments are captured as Angus deals with them deftly and sensitively.
We get to know about the former homeowner as relatives recount memories of happy times and, inevitably, shed a few tears. A daughter watches as her late father’s property is emptied, with the finds revealing his long and productive life as an artist who always preferred, where possible, to make what he needed rather than buy it.
Two sisters, who finally got around to asking Angus to clear the home of their beloved aunt, tell us the story of an extraordinary woman who defied convention, had a secret passion for old coins and who clearly had impeccable taste.
Perhaps most surprising is the relief relatives feel after the contents of a life have been packed away into the van. Angus has taken away the stress of having to deal with it all and the empty rooms allow closure.
Later, loved ones attend the auction where Ryedale Auctioneers prepare to put the items deemed covetable under the hammer. The family reaps the proceeds but more than that, they see treasured possessions leave for a new life with someone else who loves them and recognises their worth.
“There is a big social side to our saleroom and the auction is vibrant and I try and build a rapport, so much so that one woman called us to say she tunes in to listen to it online instead of having the radio on,” says Angus, who began his career 21 years ago with David Duggleby Auctioneers.
On his 16th birthday, fresh from leaving Ryedale School, he packed a suitcase and moved into a bedsit in Scarborough to start learning his trade from the bottom up. “My mum liked antiques, my uncle was a well-known dealer and I collected militaria so I think it’s in my blood. I’d done some work experience at Duggleby’s so I knew I would enjoy it,” he says. “I had no interest in academia and I’d worked out that I had three options. Number one was to be an auctioneer, two was work in the family engineering and deep sea fishing business and three was to join the army.”
He ended up doing all three. After working his way up at Duggleby’s, he joined the family business and the Territorial Army. The latter led to tours of Afghanistan and Iraq. Through it all, his love of auctions was undiminished and prompted his father to suggest he get back in the game. The perfect site appeared and Angus launched Ryedale Auctioneers in 2010. His knowledge and charisma caught the eye of TV producers and appearances on The Antiques Road Trip followed.
An early adopter of online auctions, running alongside in-the-room sales, his business has grown and has fared well in lockdown with bidders from all over the world competing against each other. “Years ago you’d get bidders from within a 10 to 20-mile radius and they were mostly dealers. Now, you have all sorts of people bidding from all over the world. A lot are from America, New Zealand, Australia and the Far East and, for some reason, we also have a lot of buyers from Malta.”
The Yorkshire Auction House and the stories it uncovers looks set to attract even more attention to his saleroom. “When me and my team go into a house, it takes the pressure off the relatives and we sometimes find surprises I can remember going into a house in Scarborough and finding £25,000 worth of cutlers exhibition items under the bed. The man who had lived there was from a family of cutlers in Sheffield.”
Another find was a sketch by L.S. Lowry. “The person who had passed away had once been an art student and wrote to Lowry, who sent him a sketch. We found it in a drawer and it made £11,700 at auction.”
Among the most unusual finds while clearing a house were 19th-century glass condom moulds. “They were used to make condoms from pig intestines,” explains Angus. “The Science Museum bought a set of three.
*The Yorkshire Auction House premieres at 9pm on Monday, March 22 on the Really channel and is available to stream on discovery+
*Angus Ashworth’s tips early technology as becoming more collectible and says: “Things like Sega Megadrives, Commodore games and Nintendos because people in their 40s and 50s are buying what was cool but which they couldn’t afford when they were young.”