After half a century in sales, Tring’s man with the gavel still gets lots of pleasure from his work

Tring Market Auctions.
Tring Market Auctions.

Auctioneer Stephen Hearn now has half a century of selling experience under his belt, and while he may be an old fashioned businessman at heart the benefits of advancing technology have not passed him by.

He knows that people would not be bidding from around the globe on sale days at Tring Market Auction if it wasn’t for the development of the internet.

Tring Market Auctions.

Tring Market Auctions.

But that said, the 68-year- old is still a promoter of face-to-face transactions, helping people flog a few of their ‘bits and bobs’ and polite chit chat on the phone with customers.

In line with his traditionalist values, when the Brook Street auction house recently hosted a charity sale day for Stephen’s wife of 43 years Penny, the current Mayor of Dacorum in aid of the Pepper Foundation, he made sure staff spent hours ringing around contacts to make sure they knew about it, even though an email about the event had been sent out to all customers.

Much has changed for the village boy from Wigginton who walked down the hill to Tring for his first day at the cattle market under W Brown and Co, which later became Brown and Merry, more than 50 years ago.

“I can remember the very day because the offices were where the history museum is now and the door that I walked through is still there,” said Stephen.

Stephen Hearn

Stephen Hearn

Never in his wildest dreams did the teenager – who came from a farming family, which gave him a knowledge of cattle and helped him start his working life as an assistant to the auctioneer – think that one day he’d own the auction house, which now specialises in fine arts and antiques.

It all started when the auctioneer Stephen was helping was called away during an auction.

He recalled: “I said: ‘What would you like me to do?’ and he said: ‘Carry on’.

“I stood there awestruck with my mouth open. It didn’t frighten me but I was concerned that I should do the job right.”

So it was almost by accident that Stephen, who dreamed of escaping work altogether to play cricket but was told that wasn’t a proper job, became an auctioneer.

The transition from cattle to fine arts started when a farmer wanted to sell some of his furniture.

“We converted a couple of the animal buildings into a sale room and we made the seats out of bales of straw,” said Stephen.

“A huge amount of people turned up just wondering what it was going to be like.

“Three months after we had another sale and then it developed into a sale very month.”

As the farming industry dwindled the arts and furniture side of things filled the void and Stephen puts the success of the business down to his belief that when things get tough you roll up your sleeves, work harder and sell more.

Today, the father of two sons who have joined him in the business has probably auctioned more lots than most gavel-wielding professionals in the country.

“It’s like standing on stage for hour after hour,” he said.

“You have to put in a decent performance because otherwise people get fed up and go home.”

The auction house has featured many times on television shows like Flog It and Bargain Hunt and the business is now an international operation.

“We have major buyers from all over the world,” said Stephen.

But the businessman still gets his pleasure from helping people to afford a little bit of luxury by selling their wares.

“It is lovely to see people benefit from some of their sales,” he said. “Especially older people. It means they can have a little bit of luxury.

“You do your best and make sure that you get the very best price and that in itself is very satisfying and very rewarding.”

To find out more about forthcoming sales, visit