Thu, 18 Oct 2018
Jonathan Pratt, MD at Dreweatts 1759
Nearly three decades after he first worked at Dreweatts as a porter, Jonathan Pratt has returned as the company’s new managing director.
And his return to Donnington Priory is a bit of a homecoming for the former Shaw House School pupil, whose family first moved to the area as evacuees during the war.
Looking at the beautiful building that is now his office, some of which dates back to the 13th century, you can understand why Jonathan, 46, has been drawn back to it.
He was born in Surrey, before his family moved to Ashmore Green when he was nine months old.
Cold Ash had been his father’s home as an evacuee during the Second World War and, after spending time in the Merchant Navy, he returned to the area to raise his own family.
Looking out over the sweeping lawns at Donnington Priory, Jonathan recalls a summer’s day he and some friends floated a dinghy up the River Lambourn from Shaw Social Club to the very spot we were meeting.
Starting his school life at Winchcombe, Jonathan attended Shaw House, before going on to study science and mathematics A-levels at St Bartholomew’s School.
“I should have taken art, looking back now,” he admits. “I then took a year out and worked at Prudential in Reading for six months and that showed me that I didn’t want to work in an office.
“So I wrote to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and enrolled on a course in Southampton studying fine art and chattels valuation.”
Admitting that he “quite enjoyed student life”, Jonathan stayed on for four years, leaving with a degree and has since gone on to gain a diploma in retail jewellery and a diploma in gemology – one of just two courses in the world.
He is now a fellow of the Gemmological Association and a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
His first job after leaving Southampton was as a furniture porter at Phillips Auctioneers in Edinburgh.
After that he moved to Phillips in Guildford, then enjoyed roles as a valuer both at a London company and Dreweatts.
During his first stint at Donnington Priory, Jonathan was involved in the successful Fawley Court house sale, which he says served as his “baptism into the auction business”.
He then joined Sotheby’s Sussex in 2002, before becoming managing director of Bellmans just three years later.
Here he oversaw a five-fold increase in the firm’s turnover, taking it from £1.5m to £6m, and introduced a streamlined three-tier sale system.
And then Jonathan came full-circle, returning to Newbury and Dreweatts 1759 earlier this year, after a chance encounter with George Bailey, now chairman of the company, in Bond Street.
“If I can become managing director after going to the local comprehensive and starting out as a porter in 1991, then anything is possible for anyone,” he says.
“I am settling in nicely and hopefully building up relationships with everyone.
“I do have some plans, but that’s for another day.”
The other well-known string to Jonathan’s bow is his regular television appearances on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Flog It!.
It was while at a colleague’s wedding back in 2008 that the idea was first put to him and he has been a regular face on the shows ever since.
“I did four series of Antiques Road Trip, which was great fun, but very greedy on your time,” he admits.
“I was away from home for 30 days one summer, filming two series back-to-back and it did have an impact on work, so I decided to do one series the following year.
“Then a family illness meant I decided to stop altogether.
“In 2011, I was doing a series with Charlie Hanson in Belfast and it was like a holiday. It was great for me, but not for my wife, who was left at home with four young children.
“I still do Bargain Hunt and I’m still a Flog It! person. I would love to get Antiques Road Trip here one day.”
But for now his attention is all on Dreweatts 1759 and his first sale, which was due to take place earlier this month.