About Us - W&H Peacock History
Founded in 1901, W&H Peacock have been conducting weekly auction sales in and around Bedford for over a century. Our Newnham Street salerooms are among the largest in the country and sell anything from a tray of bedding plants to a Range Rover, JCB’s to Georgian chairs.
Bedford is unique amongst provincial towns in having a busy and thriving auction every Saturday. In fact it has four auctions all conducted simultaneously in a 30,000 square foot auction centre.
Edward VII had just acceded to the throne when the Bedford firm of auctioneers; W&H PEACOCK was founded. It was 1901 and Walter Peacock had just returned from the Boer War to find that he’d lost his job at Stafford, Rogers & Merry auctioneers. Outraged by his former employers’ behavior he founded the company as a direct rival to them and held his first sale at Bedford cattle market in September of the same year, In April 1902, Walter’s brother Harry became a partner forming W&H Peacock which continued as a partnership until the late 1980’s. As the business has developed and grown, the Peacock family has retained close links with the company. Walter’s son Robert joined the company in 1921 and he went on to be its longest serving member of staff. And Walter’s grandson, Mr Dudley Peacock, was with the firm for almost 50 years. Under independent ownership, W&H Peacock along with Locke & England employ more than forty staff at their three auction centres in Bedford, St Neots and Leamington Spa and can offer more than 375 years of auction experience.
The Fun of the Auction
It’s said that when you buy at auction you can run the whole gamut of emotions in less than 30 seconds! There’s the excitement of the hunt and the joy of finding just what you are looking for. The chase and the challenge of the bidding, taking on an audacious adversary who tries to make off with your precious find. But an auction is more than that. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and the delight and exhilaration of triumphantly carrying home your cherished prize is hard to match. Is it any wonder then that at our auction houses we sell an average of 5,000 lots every week and attract a loyal and growing attendance from across the whole of the UK. Walking into an auction room for the first time can be a daunting experience; you are surrounded by hordes of people who all seem to know more than you. Don’t be put off and don’t think that you’ll be spotted “doing it wrong”. There are however a few basic rules. Always view the lots before you bid. Remember caveat emptor (buyer beware), the onus is on you to discover if a lot is faulty. When you hear the auctioneer read out the number and description of the lot you want to buy, it’s time to act! Signal your interest by raising your hand and, once the auctioneer knows you’re interested, they’ll look in your direction if the bid goes against you and they’ll keep returning to you until you show that you’ve reached your limit. Be brave, be confident. But decide before you start bidding the maximum amount that you want to pay and make sure you stick to your limit, unlike the gentleman who visited the Bedford auction centre to purchase a bicycle for his daughter and got so carried away that he went home with a pink Cadillac!
You never know what you'll find
It’s amazing what our valuers find in the most unlikely places. A while back we were asked to clear a property – a fairly routine instruction for W&H Peacock. We always check lofts and cellars as you never know what to expect. But in the garden stood a woodshed, and hidden amongst the garden paraphernalia was an interesting looking marble head, a mere 9 inches high. When our expert examined the bust it was found to be Roman and dated back to the 1st Century AD. It was put up for auction, sold for £2,600 and we had another very happy customer We won’t ever forget the full-size coffin or the chest of drawers, which shyly revealed a secret compartment containing several hundred pounds in cash. We uncover some great things during off-site valuations too. There was the penny farthing bicycle, found hidden behind a pile of old boxes and a 1934 Austin 7 discovered in a pigsty.
And the Future
Auctions are changing with the increased use of the internet. Nowadays a number of our auctions are held ‘live’ with buyers being able to bid live just as though they were sitting in the saleroom, but from the comfort of their home or even the beach! These auctions are linked onto the world wide web via our website allowing the remote buyer to see an image and description of the lot and hear the auctioneer selling. The variety of goods sold has also increased and as well as selling antiques, collectables, furniture, and other effects we now regularly auction plant and machinery, cars, vans, lorries, catering equipment as well as the whole range of modern domestic appliances and modern IT equipment. In addition we now hold regular specialist auctions including jewellery, rock & pop memorabilia, sporting guns, 20th century design and collectable toys. So why not visit the Bedford Auction Centre or to get a further ‘taste’ of what is on sale this week visit