An auction to get your teeth into

Billy Yull on Channel 4's Four Rooms with the desk before it was restored.
Billy Yull on Channel 4's Four Rooms with the desk before it was restored.

THE desk where author Bram Stoker penned Dracula is set to go under the hammer for up to £50,000 after it was sold by a Hartlepool man for just £2,000.

Up until this year, the desk where the literary masterpiece was created in 1897, was owned by Billy Yull, from the Headland.

But he appeared on Channel 4 art programme Four Rooms in April, where Belgravia art dealer Andrew Lamberty bought the desk for £2,000.

Now it looks to fetch 25 times as much when it is put up for auction after being restored and turned into a work of art by British-based furniture maker and designer Mark Brazier-Jones, Andrew’s friend.

California company Profiles in History, the world’s largest auctioneer of original Hollywood memorabilia, will handle the sale, on December 15 and 16.

The auction house expects the desk, along with a matching baroque candelabra crafted by Mark, to fetch between £37,500 and £50,000.

Andrew commissioned Mark to preserve the desk, but also make it a stand-alone art piece.

His improvements include embroidered imagery “appropriate to the great man’s inspirations and imagining”, including bats, a savage hound reminiscent of Dracula’s arrival in Whitby Abbey, and scrolling rose thorns and buds.

Hearse driver Billy had owned the desk for a number of years, after a neighbour was given the artefact, and he even wrote his own novels on it.

He had told the programme that it had been the source of some supernatural occurrences and that whoever owns it is struck with bad luck.

The premise of the show is that antique sellers visit four art dealers, Celia Sawyer, Jeffrey Salmon, Andrew Lamberty and Gordon Watson, in different rooms but once sellers turn down an offer for their wares they must move on to the next room and cannot go back.

Despite its shabby appearance and missing drawers, Billy had hoped to sell the desk for £5,000.

He visited Celia first, who was worried about its condition and she offered £1,000 but Billy decided to move on.

Gordon wouldn’t go higher than £2,000.

Possibly sensing that he may have been close to walking away empty-handed, Billy decided to accept Andrew’s offer of £2,000.

Jeff revealed the highest he would have gone to was 28p.

At the beginning of the last Century Irish-born Stoker gave the desk to close friend JSR Phillips, editor of the Yorkshire Post.

It then passed to his son, ER Phillips, and then his son Guy Ragland Phillips took it to London and repaired it for his own use.

Ragland Phillips then bought a house in Henry Smith’s Terrace, Hartlepool, overlooking the sea and later sold this house to Gillian Broderick, leaving the desk behind.

The desk is recorded as having part of its legs missing at this time.

Mrs Broderick passed the desk on to her son, Andrew, now of Michigan USA and it was later given to neighbour Billy in 1995.