Bonham's Fine English Furniture Sale: The Old Rectory

Design guru to the stars Giles Newby Vincent is selling his country pile and its fabulous contents. Homes & Property sneak a peak.
The Old Rectory, a blushing beauty sitting in romantic semi-formal gardens, is considered one of the finest smaller country houses in East Kent. On a village green complete with duck pond at Wickhambreaux near Canterbury, the symmetrical, eight-bedroom Queen Anne house, built in 1713, is as perfect as an enlarged dolls house with interior panelling and a stunning array of Georgian furniture.

All will soon be for sale but for now Bonhams is selling most of its contents on March 12. The house, valued at £1.8 million, is owned by Giles Newby Vincent, interiors and gardens designer and architect to the rich and famous.


Vincent designed the interior of a Georgian rectory featured in Downton Abbey
He worked on interior design for Lord Heseltine's listed Thenford House in Northamptonshire, won a competition to design a museum —not yet built — for Elton John's photography collection at his house in Woodside near Windsor, and designed the interior of a Georgian rectory featured in Downton Abbey.

Vincent's style blends inherited with lived-in, often mixed with modern British art to inject life. This auction offers a bit of the landed but comfortable style he offers his grand clients.

Affordable treasures
The backbone of the sale is Georgian furniture. Then there's Delft and other blue-and-white ware, plus tapestries, paintings, 18th-century mirrors, brass and silver candlesticks, and garden furniture.

Modern pieces include a canteen of solid silver cutlery with more than 100 pieces, estimate £2,000 to £3,000, while The Pink Rug, a painting by living artist Michael Clark, has an estimate of £2,000-plus.

Special items include Lot 842, a George II walnut double-chair with shell decoration and tapestry seat, bought in 1904 by Lord Leverhulme for £79, now estimated at £25,000-£35,000.

A feather-banded Queen Anne walnut double-domed bookcase, Lot 833, also sits in this price bracket, its insides cunningly fitted with candle slides, pigeon-holes, drawers and mirrors. But there are plenty of useful — as well as decorative — cheaper items.


Left: Lot 128, American Folk Art embroidery (£700-£1,000); right, Lot 19, mahogany table, £600-£800
Estimated at £600-plus are Lot 19, a George II tripod table; a carved beech William and Mary armchair with some wear, and Lot 41, six tapestry cushions, some 17th century. Delftware can be a good buy at auction, and Lot 83 includes a large drug jar, a large mug and a flower brick for £500-plus, while Lot 84 is four blue-and-white flagons.

Paintings include Lot 882, a stunning early 17th-century portrait of a lady, by the circle of Frans Pourbus the Younger, for £15,000-£20,000. Four late 17th-century Italian hand-coloured framed prints of Narcissi are offered at just £500-£800 and Lot 128, an adorably quirky American Folk Art embroidered cat, is estimated at £700-plus. If you buy the entire auction you will have an instantly furnished home that looks as if it has been there forever.


Useful yet decorative: Lot 41 is six tapestry and embroidered cushions, some 17th century, priced at £600-£800
Vincent, 52, always looking for the next project, has bought a dilapidated house and outbuildings to renovate and expand in five acres near St Tropez in the south of France.

Old houses are in his blood. Raised in a Georgian house, grandson of a gentleman architect and with antiques dealer Elizabeth Newby Vincent as his aunt, he studied architecture in Brighton and Florence. His career began at the National Trust in the Eighties, restoring historic homes.

Late in the decade, he took on a massive project of his own — La Tuilière in Provence, a dilapidated 16th-century priory in 40 acres of olive groves and cypress, once part of an estate owned by the Marquis de Sade. Vincent renovated it completely, scouring France for old materials, turning it back into a bucolic paradise — albeit with a massive infinity pool. "After spending 10 or 20 years on a project," he says, "there is always the temptation to do another, while you can."

Get the look
Vincent's tips for buying at auction for your home:
* A maxim from my aunt: "Antiques should always look inherited rather than bought, as if they had always been there." So some natural wear is perfectly all right.
* Be bold with scale: it adds drama. Small rooms don't need small furniture.
* The market for brown furniture is turning upwards, because people want character and quality. If you want something brown, now is the time, before prices rise further.
* Mix old and new: in an old house, antiques look sympathetic, but modern art puts you in your own time.

The Old Rectory contents will be sold by Bonhams as part of its Fine English Furniture Sale on March 12. Visit for details. Giles Newby Vincent's design company is at

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