Step 1 of 2
Join Our Mailing List
Effetto is the marketplace connecting interior designers and collectors with curated selections of high-end furniture and collectibles from the world’s best dealers.

To ensure you get the most relevant news please let us know if you are:
Please select an option to proceed

Drew Pritchard, the UK’s favourite antique dealer, embarks on a new adventure

The antique-dealing star of hit TV series Salvage Hunters – whose private clients have included Diane Keaton and the Spice Girls – is auctioning a lifetime’s worth of treasures through Dreweatts to embark on a new chapter

Drew Pritchard, antique dealer and presenter of hit TV show Salvage Hunters, has an enviable flair for spotting interesting pieces – a gift he suggests he has partly inherited from his parents. His father is an artist who worked as a sign-writer. And he and his mother were keen on antiques.

Pritchard grew up in Glan Conwy, North Wales, where he developed an eccentric habit of amassing discarded items, as he reveals in his autobiography, Man With A Van – My Story: “From the age of eight, in 1978, I had a way of finding beauty in things that others saw as worthless junk.” A magpie, he’d pick up old bicycle parts and rusting military hardware; later, once he’d established his antiques business, he would graduate to selling high-quality or carefully restored pieces. “I was fascinated by the history, the stories behind the stuff itself,” he says.

Pritchard showed no interest in school as a child, precociously informing his teachers that lessons were a waste of time if they couldn’t teach him anything of relevance to the dream job he’d set his sights on from the age of 11 – dealing antiques. This was easier said than done: the blasé schoolboy had no choice but to knuckle down and acquire the experience, skills and in-depth knowledge of the vast field he would eventually need.

From the age of eight, I had a way of finding beauty in things that others saw as worthless junk… I was fascinated by the history, the stories behind the stuff.

Drew Pritchard in ‘Man With A Van’

In Man With A Van, he recalls that the antique trade in the 1980s was an elitist cabal that was hard to break into. Fortunately, his father secured him an apprenticeship with a stained-glass restorer that lasted seven years. He feels indebted to the grounding this gave him in restoration work. Then, at 23, the ambitious Pritchard set up his own business.

From Drew Pritchard’s private collection (Photos: Eleri Griffiths)

Unusual, rather than purely commercial or profitable pieces, have always caught his eye, and he only buys ones he’d like to have in his home. A typical example of one of Pritchard’s past acquisitions was an 1840s rocking chair specifically designed for this use – unlike the traditional practice of creating one by adding a rocker to a four-legged chair.

And while finding a piece that’s in good condition is a major plus, he isn’t put off by items with a superficially bashed-up appearance. His extensive restoring experience enables him to visualise how an object will look after he’s titivated it. Yet he needs to weigh up whether this outlay is cost-effective. The history-loving Pritchard is drawn to an object’s patina, too, and restoring it needs to be done judiciously. It often involves striking a balance between preserving some of its unique texture and cleaning it up so much that the piece looks sterile.

A constant in Pritchard’s career has been his passion for industrial furniture, which he helped to popularise in the 1990s. At the time, he recognised the unsung beauty of humble functional, utilitarian items. He was also an early adopter of computers and the internet at the turn of the new millennium, harnessing the latter’s international reach via his website, which significantly boosted his turnover. His other stock-in-trade was architectural salvage.

Early on, it became apparent that Pritchard possessed two characteristics that gave him a head-start – entrepreneurial acumen and an independent outlook when making aesthetic judgments, based on appreciating such qualities as originality or perhaps a particularly pleasing colour. Pritchard’s taste is adventurous, encompassing such diverse pieces as classic pop Americana, animal-themed statuary that errs on the kitsch, and finely crafted Regency furniture.

Drew Pritchard’s collection includes a rare fairground ride from around 1930, themed around the first, pre-Disney Mickey Mouse 1928 movie Steamboat Willie (Photos: Eleri Griffiths)

These attributes are evident in Quest TV series Salvage Hunters, which he’s presented since 2011. The hit show sees him exploring labyrinthine antique shops and emporia, deftly clinching deals en route. Its voiceover puts each discovered piece into historical context, adding an educational layer to the show.

Now, a large number of pieces from his personal collection of furniture and art are up for auction, in a sale entitled Drew Pritchard: The Collection at auction house Dreweatts. The sale testifies to his eclectic taste and boundless curiosity to learn more about different periods of design. The auction also includes pieces from a cottage Pritchard owns in Conwy. Appropriately, given his love of British country houses, it takes place at Dreweatts’ saleroom at Donnington Priory, near Newbury in Berkshire. Steeped in history, this elegantly proportioned 1655 house stands on land formerly occupied by a 14th-century priory that was suppressed during the 16th-century dissolution of the monasteries.

Drew Pritchard prepared to auction a lifetime of treasures (Photo: Eleri Griffiths; courtesy of Drew Pritchard)

Built up over 30 years, his collection includes a rare fairground ride of circa 1930, themed around the first, pre-Disney Mickey Mouse 1928 movie Steamboat Willie. Another lot is a Regency satinwood and Macassar ebony library table by George Oakley, one of Regency London’s most feted cabinet-makers. Oakley was a leading exponent of the 19th-century vogue for Grecian-inspired, Neoclassical furniture. His relatively pared-back furniture was nevertheless opulent, fashioned from opulent materials, in this case exotic timbers and inlaid brass, six-point stars.

Pritchard explains the unexpected catalyst for the auction: “I discussed having a sale of my furniture and art at Christie’s in South Kensington some years ago. Then suddenly, the 2008 global recession hit and really affected my business, and the auction was shelved.” Pritchard’s main supply of architectural features came from old houses that were being renovated, but this dried up with the financial crash. Another setback for him was the pandemic.

In 2023, several circumstances coincided to make the sale possible at last. “It was very serendipitous,” recalls Pritchard. “Quite by chance, in just three days, an estate agent who knew I owned three warehouses got in touch to ask if I was planning to sell them. This made sense as I needed the capital. But it begged the question of what I’d do with the vast number of items stored in the warehouses. Then, out of the blue, auction house Dreweatts contacted me to propose a sale of my private furniture and art collection.”  

Coincidentally the two-day sale was confirmed in 2023 – the 30th anniversary of his business, making it feel more of a milestone in Pritchard’s career. Held on consecutive days, the first day’s sale features 373 lots, the second 622. His collection includes both treasured pieces that he’s owned for 30 years and others acquired more recently. Bidding can also be done online.

Pritchard says that the items in the sale represent a fraction of his collection: “I spent three months whittling it down.” Can he pick out his absolute favourites? “I particularly like a pair of walnut and upholstered armchairs designed by John Howard and his son George, leading 19th-century furniture-makers for Bridgewater & Grafton, estimated to fetch £15,000–£25,000.” He also mentions two 18th or early 19th-century leather panels depicting the Battle of Cannae, fought during the Second Punic War of 218 BC that saw Hannibal defeat the Romans. It carries an estimate of £8,000–£12,000.

Drew Pritchard is including two 18th or early 19th-century leather panels in the Drewatts auction, depicting the Battle of Cannae, fought during the Second Punic War of 218 BC that saw Hannibal defeat the Romans. The panels are among Pritchard’s favourite items being listed

But he’s more enamoured, it seems, of lot 128 – very rare Regency rosewood bedside cabinets that regrettably he will have no space for in his new home in Bath, a sprawling, dilapidated 19th-century townhouse that he’ll move into when it’s fully restored. The sale will help finance its renovation. He’s already bought pieces to furnish it with, including a Gothic Revival bookshelf and a 1940s Portuguese rug with a geometric pattern. The project suits him perfectly, giving him the opportunity to do one of the things he loves best – taking off in his car around 5am on an antique-hunting adventure, exhilarated by the prospect of never quite knowing what he’ll discover.

Read more: Furniture | Lighting | Interiors | Vintage | Antiques I Design | Dealers | Interior Designers