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Margaret and Jeff Dale celebrate 40 years running Oakham Auction Centre





A couple who have run an auction room together for 40 years are also celebrating their golden wedding this month.

Despite being ‘like chalk and cheese’ by their own admission, Jeff and Margaret Dale share a passion for antiques and still delight in finding quirky furnishings and household items with history to go under the hammer.

Jeff, 73, has never missed a sale day at Oakham Auction Centre, which he and Margaret, 78, founded back in the 1980s in Station Road. They later moved it to South Street and then to its current location in Pillings Road.

From left, older daughter Emma with Margaret and Jeff Dale, and Oakham Auction Centre employees Sue, Ethan and Andy
From left, older daughter Emma with Margaret and Jeff Dale, and Oakham Auction Centre employees Sue, Ethan and Andy

And while auctioneering has changed, with online buyers able to bid from around the world, Jeff still loves the excitement of sale day - when he discovers the true popularity and value of the lots he’s picked out.

“Just recently we had a box of general items from a house to sell, and inside were about 30 children’s marbles,” said Jeff.

“We received several messages asking for more details, which was odd because we didn’t think people would particularly collect them.

Margaret and Jeff Dale, centre, with Roy, Emma and Harry to their right, and Bea, Fleur, Darren and Fiona to their left
Margaret and Jeff Dale, centre, with Roy, Emma and Harry to their right, and Bea, Fleur, Darren and Fiona to their left

“When the marbles were auctioned, the starting bid was £10 and they sold for £700.

“The man who bought them had taken two trains to get to Oakham, and it turned out he only wanted three of the marbles, which turned out to be 18th Century German.”

The couple’s older daughter, Emma, 44, is now involved in the business too. And while they have no plans to retire, with Margaret still running the admin and sales room, Emma is at the helm.

Jeff, who grew up in Uppingham with a bedroom that overlooked Market Place, met Margaret 53 years ago, when she was working at The George Inn, Oakham.

Margaret and Jeff Dale with their grandchildren Fleur, Bea and Harry
Margaret and Jeff Dale with their grandchildren Fleur, Bea and Harry

He and the rest of his rugby team turned up for drinks and made a mess of her tables. Nevertheless, the couple hit it off and married on July 6, 1974 in St Edmund’s Church, Egleton.

Margaret was one of seven children and St Edmund’s was her family church. It continues to play an important role in their lives - Margaret and Jeff’s younger daughter, Fiona, 42, married there too.

Both of their children, and their grandchildren Harry, eight, Bea, seven, and 21-month-old Fleur are involved in raising their fold of Highland cattle, which graze on land at Barnsdale.

They stumbled into farming 20 years ago almost accidentally, after Emma expressed an interest in a cow and calf that were for sale.

Jeff and Margaret, who live in Wing, were in their fifties at the time but adapted to raising livestock, and the family has also gradually acquired a flock of Texel sheep.

“You think at 53 your life is pretty stable,” said Jeff.

“But now the animals are a family enterprise and our grandchildren have grown up around them.”

Max, their Highland bull, was breed champion at this summer’s Rutland County Show and the family are also involved in Uppingham Fatstock Show each winter.

Around running a business, keeping livestock and their family commitments, Jeff and Margaret also find time to hold charity auctions, and until May last year Jeff served on Rutland County Council.

Jeff and Margaret plan to celebrate their golden wedding with close family, while their celebration of the business’s 40th anniversary is being shared much more widely, with their many customers over the years.

Jeff, who believes he must have visited about a thousand different homes through his work, said: “We have some very good supporters of the business, both buyers and sellers, and appreciate all the support over the years.

“We still see people now who were customers 40 years ago and we’ve met some very interesting people along the way.”

Margaret and Jeff Dale with a couple of their Highland cattle
Margaret and Jeff Dale with a couple of their Highland cattle

If you have a human interest story to tell, email news@lincsonline.co.uk and we’ll get in touch.



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