Obituary: Cecil Bruton

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The Independent Online
When Cecil Bruton retired in 1983 he was presented, amongst other more conventional gifts, with a child's miniature garden roller labelled "Lot 1". He retained a great affection for this symbol of his many country house auctions.

He always reckoned that the most unusual lot he ever sold was a pair of Wat Tyler's boots. He remarked dryly that Tyler must have been very relieved to remove them as they looked most uncomfortable.

He was the fourth generation of his family to join the Gloucester firm of Bruton Knowles and Company (now Bruton Knowles) and his career lasted 53 years. Born in Gloucester in 1912, he was educated at the Nautical College, Pangbourne, his ambition being a career in the Merchant Navy. The 1930s slump forced him to change his plans but he retained a lifelong love of the sea and was proud of his wartime service in the Royal Navy.

As well as property and fine art he regularly sold livestock in Gloucester Cattle Market. His stamina was legendary: it was not uncommon for him to sell for seven hours without any break at all - a tremendous feat of concentration.

Bruton devoted much of his time and energy to voluntary and charitable work, and raised many thousands of pounds for good causes. He held two sales for Gloucester Cathedral and another two for Tewkesbury Abbey. In 1977, by invitation of the Duke of Beaufort, he realised pounds 18,000 towards Gloucestershire's contribution to the Queen's Silver Jubilee Appeal.

His long association with the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution began in 1932 when, by means of a special sale in Gloucester Cattle Market, he collected pounds 30 - a sizeable sum at a time when the average weekly wage was around pounds 5. He was secretary of the RABI's Gloucestershire Committee from 1960 to 1987 and a member of the national council for nearly 25 years. In 1989 he was awarded the RABI cup, the first member of the council ever to receive it. He was elected a vice-president in 1990. He never lost sight of the individuals whom the institution served. He sought to provide down-to-earth help, whether it was getting an RABI pension for a needy widow or organising a telephone for someone who could not otherwise afford it.

There were many other public roles. He served on the committee of the Three Counties Agricultural Society, becoming a vice-president in 1981. He was president of the Gloucestershire Root Fruit and Grain Society from 1960 to 1992. He was a life vice- president of the West Midlands Holstein Friesian Breeders' Club. From 1983 to 1991 he was Treasurer of the Friends of Gloucester Cathedral. For 20 years he was a city magistrate.

Bruton was a great raconteur and had a fund of auction stories. He particularly enjoyed his dealings with Prinknash Abbey, where, as land agent for a number of years, he was a frequent visitor, often joining the Benedictine monks for a simple silent meal.

Once he was asked if he would accompany two monks to Gloucester station to meet a visiting abbot. Bruton felt conspicuous enough standing on the platform flanked by his two companions in hooded habits but was nonplussed when the train arrived, the visitor alighted, and the two monks prostrated themselves on the platform.

Bruton's work brought him into contact with people from every section of society. All were treated with the same respect and courtesy. He enjoyed sport and played cricket for the Bruton Knowles and Co cricket team. His great passion was motor racing, latterly only as a spectator but in his youth as a participant, winning an award in the London to Land's End rally in his souped-up Austin Seven.

Only three years ago whilst on holiday he was persuaded by his grandchildren to do a lap of a go-kart circuit which he performed with panache.

Nicola Bennetts

Cecil Tew Bruton, auctioneer: born Gloucester 5 April 1912; married 1938 Diana Harris (one son, one daughter); died Gloucester 12 May 1997.

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