Cumbrian auctioneer returns to his roots

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Auctioneer Richard Harrison has returned to Mitchells in Cockermouth
Auctioneer Richard Harrison has returned to Mitchells in Cockermouth
18 September 2017 9:42AM

Auctioneer Richard Harrison has travelled far and wide meeting an array of colourful characters over the years but is delighted to be returning to his Cumbrian roots.

He is back working at Mitchells in Cockermouth, 20 years after he first started with the company.

After graduating from university with a fine art and valuation degree he spent five years at Mitchells as a general auctioneer, alongside auctioneer and company director Mark Wise.

"Back then furniture was selling very well so Mark did that while I did the smalls, such as silver, ceramics and glassware," said Richard, 46, who is from Penrith.

He left 15 years ago to work for Sworders Fine Art and Auctioneers in Hertford and Stansted.

An eclectic mix of people came to the sales, including Rod Stewart, Harry Potter star Rupert Grint and John Savident, who played Fred Elliott from Coronation Street.

Richard specialised in Asian art sales and coins. For 10 years he worked with David Battie, from the Antiques Road Show, on Asian art.

"He was a good friend and loved passing on all his knowledge, which was amazing," said Richard, who started out in PFK's auction house in Penrith as a 15-year-old porter.

"It was invaluable to someone like me. If everyone was as enthusiastic as him it would be great.

"As a porter I was told to leave Chinese stuff alone as it was a minefield, then the Chinese market boomed."

Richard travelled to Beijing with his work at Sworders. "The Chinese market was fantastic," he said.

The most expensive piece he sold was a rhinoceros horn libation cup, which is used to make offerings to gods, which went for £280,000.

Richard, his wife Emma, and sons, Robert, 12, and Finlay, 10, are all looking forward to living in the Cockermouth area.

And he is delighted to be back in the county where his love of all things old and interesting began.

He said: "Every day is different in this job, you expect the unknown. You are meeting people, hearing interesting stories and seeing some great things.

"It's the characters that make the auction world. Auctions attract the weird, wacky and wonderful - in a positive way.

"It's great to be back. Mitchells has always felt like the heart of the town. The fine art sales are so successful here and attract a lot of interest."

Richard is particularly interested in coins and Chinese and Japanese ceramics. He is hoping to run coin sales in the future.

"Some people think coins are a bit nerdy but there's so much history.

"I was showing one to my son, saying this is from before Jesus was born. Another one was from when Robin Hood was around.

"I like the romantic, historical side of things. You look at coins and wonder what trade or debt they have facilitated."

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