Historic desk brings alive the smell of an industry's past

PROBABLY Britain's smelliest antiques are going under the hammer tomorrow.

A Victorian table and desk – mementoes of the once great Humber fishing industry – would ordinarily go for hundreds of pounds.

But the furniture will be lucky to fetch 10 – such is the aroma they've acquired in a century of use on Grimsby fish dock.

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"They must be just about the smelliest antiques in Britain," said Paul Cooper of Scunthorpe-based auctioneers CJM Asset Management.

"Even in the recent spell of sub-zero weather you got the niff in our warehouse at ten paces. Put them in a warm room and I think they would clear the place!"

The smelly antiques were put up for sale after the closure of fish merchant Harold Bryant Limited, which went into liquidation last November.

Leading restorer Richard Barstow says the pieces could be restored – but it will need time and onions. Mr Barstow from Gallant Antiques and Restoration of Kirton Lindsey said one his most difficult jobs was doing up collectors cabinets on behalf of the British Museum that reeked of formaldehyde.

He said: "Believe it or not raw onions did the trick. They drew out the smell of formaldehyde – without leaving the cases smelling of onions."

"These pieces have obviously had fish oils soaking into the timber for a very, very long time, so they will whiff. I would be inclined to surface clean them, get the onions to work and leave the pieces to breathe. How long it would take is difficult to say."

The furniture will go under the hammer tomorrow among 800 lots including close to 250,000 worth of display kitchens.