Gavel changes hands

By Charlie Jacoby, April 17, 2009
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Retiring: Graham Slyper (above) will hand over to Philip Waterfield

Retiring: Graham Slyper (above) will hand over to Philip Waterfield

Strettons’ head of auctions Graham Slyper is to retire after 34 years at the firm. Mr Slyper came to the Walthamstow-based company in the 1970s as a qualified surveyor dealing with landlord, tenant and professional work Strettons had by then grown to be a medium-sized independent firm of chartered surveyors and auctioneers following its establishment in 1931 by Jack and Sidney Tobin.

Sidney Tobin was the auctioneer and, at a sale at the end of the 1970s, he asked Mr Slyper to step in and run the day.

“I got involved in auctions by accident in the late 1970s,” says Mr Slyper “Sidney Tobin asked me to step in – I knew nothing about auctions. The sale was a Success, though I’m sure that had
nothing to do with me. The next thing I knew he asked me if I could take it over.”

At that time, Strettons was doing three or four auctions a year and each catalogue contained only about two dozen lots. Under Mr Slyper, the business has grown to seven auctions a year and a best-ever catalogue of more than 250. Even its 1 April catalogue, in these recessionary times, had 88 lots.

Philip Waterfield has been a director for ten years

Philip Waterfield has been a director for ten years

At the April 1 auction, the firm presented Mr Slyper with an antique gavel in recognition of his work. He has not conducted a sale for more than 15 years but they persuaded him to take the rostrum for the first lot of the sale, which he sold.

“Peter Tobin, on behalf of Strettons, made a lovely presentation to me of an antique gavel, following which I returned to the rostrum after an absence of almost 20 year to offer the first lot of the sale,” says Mr Slyper.

“At least I am now able to boast I was the only auctioneer of the day with a 100 per cent record. On a personal basis, it was also great that my father, who will be 90 in a few weeks time, was also there to see my farewell performance.

“That said, the auction itself last Wednesday was seriously affected by the G20 protests. As I drove in to town that morning I thought to myself that the traffic was unusually light, and then to see the new hotel next door to the New Connaught Rooms, and numerous nearby shops, boarded
up did not bode well for what was to follow.

Within minutes of my arrival there were phone calls from potential buyers asking if they could sign up for telephone bidding, but time was, by then, extremely short as while they
could fax us the complete paperwork, most were unable to meet the requirement for us to hold a deposit. On that basis £9 million and 68 per cent (and still rising) is not too bad!”

Philip Waterfield will take over from Mr Slyper. Mr Waterfeld has been a director at Strettons for ten years in charge of all other agency excluding auctions. Well-know to sale-goers, he has been a regular on the rostrum for years. “He has already moved his desk to the auctions department,” says Mr Slyper, “and I’m busy showing him what to do.

“The trouble is - something lands in front of you and you want to get on and deal with, not show somebody else.”

Strettons merged with Edwin Evans and remains a family company. Three sons of the founders’ family are still engaged full time, there are 11 directors, nine associate directors and four
consultants. Many of its clients have been with the firm for 50 years and include property owners and users from private individuals, government departments, charities, property companies and multi nationals."

In dealing both with clients and our team of staff our aim has been to retain the ethos of a family firm while moving into the 21st century,” says Mr Stretton.

Strettons has a staff of about 90, based in five offices at Walthamstow, City/Spitalfields, Battersea, Stratford and Harlow. The geographical bias is east London, City fringe, Essex and the M11 corridor, but the auction and portfolio management departments work nationwide.

The firm has not seen the last of Mr Slyper. He wil work there for the next five years a day or two a week as a consultant. He is also a director of Barnet football club and, he says: “I’ll spend a lot more time there. I have got a home in Cyprus and I have five grandchildren. I might even get to Shul a little more often.”

Strettons’ remaining 2009 auctions are on: May 18, July 13, September 8, November 2 and December 16. Entries invited.

    Last updated: 4:22pm, April 28 2009