Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood was formed in January 2009 when Bearnes and Hampton & Littlewood merged to bring together their complementary expertise in the fine art auction and valuation market to form the largest fine art auction house in the South West of England.
The firm covers Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset. It regularly attracts buyers from around the World who are able to bid online at all of the firm's major sales.
The firm's history stretches back to 1945 when Arthur Bearne established auction rooms in Torquay, which were expanded by his son Brian. The firm realised its first auction record in 1963 when it sold a Spode dinner service from Saltram House on behalf of The National Trust for £3,400.
Bearne's subsequently identified other important works of art including an unrecorded Hogarth portrait, which sold in 1967 for £24,000. In 1968, after extensive research, a Hawaiian wood bowl brought back to England from Captain Cook's third voyage and originally in the collection of Sir Ashton Lever, realised £15,000, which was a world record at that time for any item of ethnological art.
In 1976, Bearne's formed a close association with Sotheby's and in 1977 became part of the London Company and operated from Rainbow, an imposing mansion overlooking Torbay. The Torquay business operated under the name of Sotheby Bearne until 1982 when, following a reorganisation throughout Sotheby's worldwide, a partnership was formed to re-acquire and continue the business.
In 1997, in order to develop the business further, Bearne's relocated to Exeter, Devon's capital city. The salerooms at St Edmund's Court in Okehampton Street were purpose built and have proved to be an ideal location from which to expand.
Christopher Hampton and Rachel Littlewood established Hampton & Littlewood in 2001, specialising in antiquarian books, maritime and sporting sales as well as holding regular sales of selected antiques in salerooms previously occupied by the Internationally renowned auction house Phillips. Christopher Hampton was the former South West Regional Director for Phillips, while Rachel Littlewood was the firm's Probate Manager in the West Country. Hampton & Littlewood built strong links with the professional community, as well as private clients throughout the South West.
Since the merger, Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood have expanded considerably, with larger improved premises and additional new types of auctions, such as the Maritime sale and regular 20th Century & Contemporary sales.
The company has embraced the use of new technology and all of the sales are fully illustrated, both online and in a professionally produced glossy catalogue and online bidding is available for all of auctions, enabling prospective buyers to bid all over the world.
As a founding member of the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers (SOFAA), Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood is committed to the highest standards of ethics, customer service and performance and have a long track record for identifying, valuing and selling fine art, antiques, antiquarian books, maritime, sporting and collectors and 20th Century & Contemporary items.