Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Sotheby's

  I am writing to follow up a matter you raised during the Select Committee hearing on Tuesday 23 May. You referred to some stone sculptures, which had once been located in a church in the Manchester area that were consigned to Sotheby's, and I promised that I would get back to you with more details on the specific case. Having reviewed our files, I think you were referring to 12 sandstone figures of saints which were once located in Gorton Friary, Manchester. The Figures were included in a catalogue of Garden Statuary for a sale at Sotheby's in Billingshurst on 28 September 1994.

  As I understand it, the Figures had been purchased in 1993 by a local businessman from the then owners of Gorton Friary. The previous owners were a firm of property developers seeking to convert the building into housing units. We are informed that at that time the Friary was in a considerable state of disrepair. It is also our understanding that whilst the Friary itself was listed as a grade 2 building and afforded certain protection under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the contents of the Friary, including the Figures, were not specifically listed.

  Following the publication of the catalogue for the Sale, Sotheby's was approached by the Planning Department of Manchester City Council, who advised us that they regarded the Figures as part of the fixtures and fittings of the Friary and that, as a consequence, the removal of the Figures without their prior consent was in breach of the Act. In response to these concerns, Sotheby's agreed to withdraw the Figures from sale. The consignor/vendor subsequently agreed to a private sale of the Figures to the Council.

  As I said to the Committee on Tuesday, we evaluate each claim in good faith, on a case by case basis, as the facts and circumstances of each inquiry may vary dramatically.

  I hope this is helpful, but please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further queries relating to this case.

  I do hope that we can build on the Committee's useful work in this area and look forward to being of assistance in the future.

May 2000

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