A ONE-OFF experiment selling old stock has sparked a major revival of interest in antiques in the Ford and Etal community.
It is only six months since Peter Repper and Peter Fagan, together referred to as ‘The Two Peters’, had their first dabble at the auction business.
Somehow they shoe-horned 80 people into the historic Horseshoe Forge, where they run Ford Country Auctions and Old Forge Antiques & Interiors, for their first event.
The success of that auction persuaded the pair to hold regular events, nowadays in the considerably larger venues of Etal Village Hall and Lady Waterford Hall, and interest is snowballing.
The next such event, an antiques and arts sale in Etal Village Hall on October 20, is expected to have up to 350 lots go under the hammer, an indication of the enthusiasm garnered in the local community.
“The auction business grew out of a one-off experiment in selling the shops’ older stock in February 2012 and has escalated rapidly into serving the needs of the local community keen to sell unwanted items and acquire new objects which fit in with new tastes or new homes,” explained Peter Repper, formerly a procurator fiscal depute and defence lawyer in Dumfries and Edinburgh.
“In effect, Ford Country Auctions has become the local goods and chattels recycling centre, and all for the modest seller’s commission of 10 per cent of hammer price,” he added.
“The local community is very enthusiastic about the auctions we hold at Lady Waterford Hall and Etal Village Hall and has effectively been the driving impetus for pushing us to formally establish the business and hold regular auctions.
“Andy Stockdale, a local wood turner who’s pretty much retired now, even made a gavel for us!”
This popularity has been put down to the refreshing approach they’ve taken to what is sometimes seen as a rather stuffy subject.
“There is a perception among ordinary people that auctioneers can sometimes be arrogant, aggressive or pretentious but we like to keep the auctions pretty down to earth and friendly affairs,” said Peter Repper.
“We don’t want people to feel intimated about coming along and putting their hand up to bid for something which unfortunately can be the case in some places.
“We’re just two ordinary guys who just enjoy sharing this little auction business out in the country and it seems to be working.”
Peter Fagan, well-known in north Northumberland as the former owner of Colourbox collectables, added: “We thought there was a demand for people to sell as well as buy antique items and we’re delighted that has turned out to be the case.”
The pair, both originally from Essex, met simply by chance in Ford little over a year ago and found they had a mutual interest in local history and weird and wonderful objects.
“Peter had set up a gallery for art and glass in the Horseshoe Forge and one day we just bumped into each other,” said Peter Repper. “I had never done anything like it before, but we got on well on set up in business together.
“Before we knew where we were people were asking us to sell things for them,” he continued. “It wasn’t a plan on our part, we just stumbled into identifying there was a need for this type of thing in the local community.
“People are down-sizing, people are needing new furniture for new homes and we’re sometimes in a position where we can sell some of the things they don’t need anymore, sometimes to their near neighbours!”
“We only take 10 per cent though and there are no other fees,” adds Peter Fagan. “Most antique dealers would take 15-20 per cent commission.
“Auction house prices can be patchy,” Peter Repper continued. “We set sensible reserve prices and 99 per cent of the time we achieve them.”
The cramped interior of the Horseshoe Forge contains many of the original features of its working days as the estate forge and smithy, including two sets of giant bellows for example.
“It might be small in size but it’s a perfect base for us,” said Peter Fagan. “I don’t see us moving from here no matter how well we do...”