The saleroom that went for a song

It was the sort of bargain for which property hunters can usually only yearn: a Grade I listed, Palladian-style country house, in a convenient town centre location, for £4,000.

Beth and David Elstob holding a 19th century plaque of Louis XVIth in Coronation robes in the ballroom at Bedale Hall.

More than 65 years have passed since the transaction that saw Bedale Hall – at the north end of the market place in the Hambleton town that sits between the Dales and the Moors – pass from the Beresford-Peirse baronets to the council, with the stipulation that it be used to benefit the community.

But with the news that its spectacular, Rococo plasterwork-decorated ballroom is to become a part-time auction house, bargains are back in fashion in Bedale.

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The booming trade in “secondary market” furniture among aspirational families past their first flush of youth, and the number of landmark Dales properties passing from one generation to the next, makes the town the ideal place to do business, according to the husband-and-wife team of antique experts setting up shop there.

David and Beth Elstob have taken an office at Bedale Hall and will fill its ballroom on four days a year, beginning in March – with another sale in December inside the orangery at the similarly palatial Newby Hall, near Ripon.

All will be streamed on the internet to prospective buyers across the world.

“North Yorkshire is a good area for auctions,” said Mr Elstob, who decided to set up his own business after years of putting items under the hammer for other companies.

“There are a lot of old houses with treasures still to be discovered, a lot of collectors in the Dales and plenty people buying big houses here who want to furnish them and are looking at the secondary market to do that.”

He believes the era of stylish but minimalist furniture from Ikea has passed, and that homemakers today are seeking to decorate their rooms with items that had been amassed for pleasure by a previous generation of collectors and which have come back on to the market through house clearances.

“It’s recycling – a very green way of doing things,” he said. “People of my age, in their mid-30s and 40s, who are setting up home, are looking to use antiques and art to mix old styles with new.

“They can put a contemporary mirror over a Georgian chest of drawers and it will look a million dollars.

“And antique furniture is still very reasonable. It’s not an investment, but a piece that’s worth £300 now will still be worth £300 in 10 years’ time.”

Locally desirable items, he said, included furniture with the “Mouseman” signature of the Dales carpenter Robert Thompson, whose old workshop at Kilburn is also in Hambleton – though the main interest lay in more prosaic pieces.

“People might aspire to own a 1920s Mouseman dining table or a Hockney painting, but it’s only those big names that carry the value,” Mr Elstob said. “That’s not where the market is now.”