Autioneering cliché, autioneering cliché, autioneering clichéd

7 02 2011

The first of a few slightly less common businesses coming up begins with the Criterion Auction Rooms at 53 Essex Rd.

That’s a bit weird in itself. The auction rooms is directly next to Barrio North but somehow we’ve lost 47, 49 and 51. I’m going to assume that this is because the property combined a few different places but it’s interesting to think of these other numbers that had tenants, owners, events and happenings just being removed from existence. I wonder if at first it was 47-53 and that just got a bit unwieldy. There’s a stone road sign in East London from the 1700s proudly claiming ‘This is Baynes Street’ which I suppose is a similar sort of thing. At what point did people stop having to say ‘this is’? A nice thought about the difference in how we interact with a space.

Auctions at Criterion take place Monday at 17:00 so, as this is Friday at 15:00 this is going to have to be done in a couple of parts. I wandered in to find the place busy. A mixture of older people milling about, well-spoken Islington ladies asserting that this was just exactly the escritoire for them and sleazy looking men I assumed to be antiques dealers looking for some sort of hidden treasure. Maybe too much Lovejoy for me.

I strolled around with two thoughts, one just trying to get a feel for the place and the other with a view to finding something to buy. I’d really like to keep my purchases to things that I actually need and although I’m sure I could make a cast iron case for ‘pair of marble obelisks of large size’ I can’t see them going down very well at home. A few nice bits caught my eye in a half interesting kind of way until I stumbled upon a stunning pair of Queen Anne leather wingback chairs. These would be perfect for the drawing room I thought. I quickly remembered that I don’t own a drawing room or a house or enough money for Queen Anne chairs and settled on ‘small amusing cast of michelin man’ with a guide price of £20. I’ll come back on Monday and hope that something so obscure and frankly hideous won’t attract too much attention.

On hand to help the people viewing lots were two young guys who were happy to answer my questions. One had worked there for a couple of years, his seniority denoted by the fact that he didn’t have to wear an apron like the other bloke. I remember those heady days. Neither had direct knowledge of what was there before but one guy said his dad had told him it was some kind of car showroom or garage. Makes sense, perfect size and frontage for that. I wondered if it was one of the businesses that had been there with the milliners and factories that Doreen told me about in the chemist. I had visions of chirpy garage attendants rushing out to fuel up Model Ts. Maybe too much Back to The Future for me. The fact that this guy’s Dad had told him it was a garage suggested that he could tap into a longer chain of local knowledge. In standard style I failed to press him on it and lost the opportunity to find out more.

I thanked them both and made to leave, just staying long enough to find out that they, like everyone else, used SX Hardware but that they preferred The Old Queen’s Head directly opposite to any of the other bars. They’re all pretty trendy round here to be honest. The Kings Head, my next stop is the only proper old man pub up this end of the road. They also used Essex Cars, the minicab office but weren’t sure exactly where it was. I presume that’s their go to option for anyone who unexpectedly finds themselves on Monday evening in possession of two marble obelisks of large size. Both thought Angel was up, one asserting that this was because Essex Road is on a slope. Be interesting to check that out on an OS map one day.


That was fascinating! I went along to the auction at 17:00. I was a bit nervous that I’d end up buying something really weird and/or expensive by accident. It’s a strangely hypnotic experience, listening to the auctioneer rattling through the lots and bids with a flowing rhythm. he even chucked in a few jokes and nods to regulars in the crowd. We quickly got to lot 217, the amusing Michelin man cast. Within a few short seconds my £20 item was up to £280 and I was well out of the game. Blink and you’ll miss it but at least I wasn’t poor. I waited for the next item I’d earmarked, some kukhri knives. Again the bid went too high for me and I realised that I’d missed out on the two things I was waiting for. I got slightly desperate, bidding on anything around the £20 mark. I lost out a couple of times and then took the opportunity to bid on a victorian meat plate that quickly dropped from £30 to £10. A brief bid off ensued which I won at £18 + buyers premium. It’s a piece of shit and I don’t need it but I left the auction rooms like a lottery winner!

  • Business has been there since – 1989
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 66.5
  • Previous business was – Some kind of car showroom or garage
  • Seven people work there
  • Interviewee arrives there by bus
  • I bought a charming cracked Victorian meat plate
  • Cumulative spend – £48.07




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