March 1, 2018

Moss Harris & Sons – in the 1930s – antique shop images

Images of Antique Shops are something that the Antique Dealer Research Project has been collecting since the research project began in 2013; we now have more than 600 photographs of antique shops, interiors and exteriors, dating from c.1900, and illustrating the changing fashions for shop displays and marketing antiques over the last 100 years.  And thanks to John Hill, of the antique furniture dealers Jeremy Ltd., who very generously shared some early photographs of the antique dealers Moss Harris & Sons with us, we have some more fascinating images of this most important antique dealer firm.

John very kindly sent us these two photographs of the business of M.Harris & Sons.  Both appear to date from c.1935, when M.Harris opened an extra showroom at 61 St. James’s Street, London. Below is a photograph of the New Oxford Street shop of Moss Harris – it is fascinating to see how the shop had been remodelled, changing the old 1920s shop front (see further below) – certainly the shop front has a much subtler facade, and the late 19th century style advertising, a legacy of the firm of D.L. Isaacs, which Moss Harris took over in c.1918, has been much toned down; its also noticeable that the 1930s shop front has two Royal Warrants and a uniformed doorman.

Moss Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street, London, c.1935. Photograph courtesy of John Hill, Jeremy Ltd.

Compare with the facade of M. Harris & Sons New Oxford Street shop in c.1920.

Moss Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street, London, c.1920.

John also sent us a photograph of the Moss Harris & Sons’ delivery van, also dating from c.1935; another very smart thing and indicative of the high class antique dealer business that Moss Harris had become by the 1930s.

Moss Harris & Sons, delivery van, c.1935. Photograph courtesy of John Hill, Jeremy Ltd.

All of our corpus of photographs of antique dealer shops are currently being uploaded to the Antique Dealer Research Project Interactive Map – (see here – Antique Dealer Map).  Thanks again to John Hill for sharing his images of Moss Harris & Sons.


February 28, 2018

New Oral History Interview – Jackie Mann

We conducted our 36th Oral History Interview a couple of weeks ago – thanks again to the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA) for their continued support in allowing us the ability to travel around the country to conduct these ‘BADA Voices’ oral history interviews. 

Our latest interview was with Jackie Mann, who formerly worked with the well-known antique dealer Maurice ‘Dick’ Turpin (1928-2005) – see previous blog post on the M. Turpin photograph archive, which arrived at the University a couple of months ago. We’ve yet to process the images for our interview with Jackie and will be adding the details of the interview to the Antique Dealers Project website next week, so keep you eye on  Jackie is now in her 80s and has a very considerable experience of the British antiques trade. As well as working with ‘Dick’ Turpin for many years at his premises in London at Queen’s Mews and at his shop in Bruton Street, Jackie began her career in the antiques trade with the antique dealer Harry Kenyon in Chester.  Jackie had some particularly vivid memories of working in the Kenyon family antique dealing business, which was initially begun by Harry’s father in Chester and was continued by his grandson, Gerald Kenyon, with an antique shop in Dublin.

Our interview with Jackie is a lively and fascinating series of reflections on over 50 years in the antique trade; and we’d thank to especially thank Jackie for taking the time to be one of our interviewees; and we’d also like to say thank you to Chris Jussel for introducing us to Jackie!


January 27, 2018

Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map Website

It’s been a while since we updated everyone on the continuing development of the Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map Website. The website, as we hope you will know, is being constantly updated with new dealerships, by our fantastic group of data input volunteers, and the project team of course – see

There are now more than 4,100 dealers in the website, trading over the period 1900 to 2000 – and as you can see from the screen-shot below, there are a number of interesting clusters of dealerships emerging. The long ‘bar’ at the bottom of the screen-shot is the ‘slider bar’ that you can move backwards and forwards with the computer cursor on the actual website itself to change the parameters of the dates that the map illustrates – the picture below had been set at dates between 1900 and 2000 when the screen-shot was taken.

Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map Website – UK and European based dealers 1900-2000.

For the actual webpage click –

Of course, the Map of Britain is still far from complete, and we need to add many more dealerships before we can start to analyse the data and begin to get a clearer picture of the changing geography of the British Antiques Trade over the course of 100 years…but there are some fascinating developments illustrated in the Map so far.

The Map website also allows you to focus in closer, to see how the antique dealerships are located at lower levels of the map – right down to street level. You can also take a look at the patterns of dealerships in particular locations at particular periods in the 20th century.  The screen-grab below, for example, shows the patterns of dealerships in the South of Britain in the period 1900 to 1940.

Antique Dealers Project Interactive Map Website. South of Britain 1900-1940.

For the actual webpage click –

The map also has quite a lot of specific biographical data associated with various antique dealerships – these are also constantly updated as new data is added by the teams of volunteers.  Below is an example of a street-level section of the Map, focused on London with the date parameters of 1900-1935.  The red dot on the map is the location of the dealer Robert Partridge, in New Bond Street, with the information on the antique dealer R.W. Partridge opened up on the left side of the screen.

Antique Dealer Interactive Map – R.W Partridge data opened up.

For the actual webpage click – and R.W. Partridge

The information in the Interactive Map on the 1,000s of antiques dealers already added, includes their various locations in the UK, and elsewhere if they had branches in other countries (such as the USA for example), and also includes images of the exteriors and interiors of the shops (if we have them) at various points in their history.

Here’s the screen-shot from the entry for Phillips of Hitchin, the well-known dealership that was established in 1884.

Antique Dealers Project Interactive Map. Phillips of Hitchin page.

For the actual webpage click of Hitchin

As you can see, above, the data on each dealership includes locations, trading names of the firm, people associated with the firm, various trade memberships, various ‘classifications’ (these are from the Trade Directories and etc) and also how the dealers described themselves (in their publicity) at various times.  Eventually we also hope to build the sections of the website that will track the objects bought and sold by the various dealers….but at present we are concentrating on filling the map with the locations of antique dealers over the 100 year period that the Map focuses on.

We hope that this brief overview of the on-going status of the Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map will encourage you to take a look at the Map website, and see what you can discover.  And do keep your eye on the developments!


December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

On behalf of everyone associated with the Antique Dealers Research Project we wish all of our blog readers and followers a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Carol Singers outside the Old Curiosity Shop, 1956. Image copyright Getty Images.

Merry Christmas


December 22, 2017

James Munro’s ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, Inverness c.1910

I recently acquired a rare copy of the auction sale catalogue of the collection of antiques of the antique dealer and antiquary James Munro – all part of the growing body of historic antique dealer ephemera we are building at the University of Leeds.  Munro traded from ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ in Castle Street, Inverness during the period c.1870 to the opening decade of the 20th century.  The catalogue dates from 1910 and includes a wide selection of antique objects that would have been of interest to collectors in the period.  Like many Scottish collectors, Munro appears to have had a particular interest in Scottish antiquarian objects and especially anything associated with the Jacobite Rebellion. Munro is listed in the Trade Directory for Inverness in 1899 as ‘Antiquarian’, at 3 North Church Place, Inverness – I’ve yet to find out when Munro died, but the sale is a posthumous auction, so he certainly died a short time before 1910.

Title page, ‘A Catalogue of the Valuable Collection of Antiques…belonging to James Munro Esq. 1910. Private Collection.

The catalogue contains some fascinating photographs of the stock of objects that would have been on sale in Munro’s shop.  The collection amounts to 1,398 lots at the auction; although it seems this was not the full extent of the collections of Munro.  Indeed, the ‘Introductory Note’ to the catalogue, penned by the ‘auctioneer’ R. Noble, of ‘The White House’ Inverness (who also appears to have been working as a cabinetmaker – (or at least there is an R. Noble listed as ‘cabinetmaker’ at the White House in the 1909 Trade Directory for Inverness) states that a ‘Mr F. Maciver, of the Highland Bazaar, has pleasure in intimating that he has purchased the entire stock belonging to the estate of the late Mr James Munro and he is now issuing this catalogue of the articles to be sold by auction…..(and he) intends to dispose of the remainder by auction on a future date.’ I wonder if there is another catalogue of the other auction, if it took place?

There are some wonderfully interesting objects in the auction sale – lot 377a, for example – ‘AN OLD DIRK with ivory handle inlaid with gold.’ The catalogue states that this dirk was allegedly the same dirk that was used by Alexander Fraser, the ‘Young Master of Lovat (born 1677)’ to kill the piper at ‘the wedding at Teawig’ – a story that at the time had also been rehearsed in the recently published book, The Clan Fraser in Canada by Alex Fraser (1895). The dirk is a little hard to see in the photograph on the title page of the catalogue, but it’s the small dagger, just to the left of the rifle on the right hand side of the photograph (above).

The auction also included ‘A RARE OLD HIGHLAND TARGE, an excellent example of the XVII, Century…’ (lot 812 – and is the small, circular shield in the centre of the photograph of the title page of the auction catalogue – there is a very similar Targe in the National Museum of Scotland and we are checking to see if this might be related to that Targe?)

Munro’s collection must have been well-known in Scotland – he had earlier loaned a number of ‘Highland Curios’ and ‘Jacobite Relics’ from his collections to the Highland and Jacobite Exhibition, held at the Inverness Free Library and Science and Art Building in 1903 –  these two photographs of the displays at the 1903 exhibition are from the ‘Exhibitions Study Group‘ website.







The Highland and Jacobite Exhibition took place between 14th July and 20th September 1903 and was one of a number of similar exhibitions that took place throughout the 19th century and into the opening decades of the 20th century throughout Britain.

The auction sale of Munro’s ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ took place at the ‘Music Hall, Inverness’ on Wednesday 28th, Thursday 29th and Friday 30th September 1910, and as well as the famous collections of ‘Highland Curios and Jacobite Relics’ also included a wide range of objects that were symptomatic of an antique dealers’ stock at the time – here’s a photograph of a selection of ‘Old Furniture’ as it was described at the time, from the auction catalogue –

A Catalogue of the Valuable Collection of Antiques…James Munro….1910. Private Collection.

The chairs appear to be a selection of 18th and mid 19th century examples, as well as some evidently of more recent date, supplemented by some antique mirrors and pole firescreens. The small corner chair in bottom left is especially interesting – it was described as ‘an Old Laburnum Corner Chair from Orkney, supposed to have belonged to the Bishop of Orkney’ (Lot 937).

Whether the chair actually had this illustrious provenance is, I guess, not really the point – as with many of these ‘relics’, it was the object’s role as ‘story teller’ that was central to their interest to collectors. As the commentary of Mr Noble suggests in the ‘Introductory Note’ to the catalogue – ‘Anyone visiting his Old Curiosity Shop in Castle Street and looking around could not help feeling as if transported back into the times of clan feuds, and even into Druidical and Pictish ages.’


November 25, 2017

Antique Dealers – ‘Treasures I Would Not Sell’

The complex social and cultural relationships between ‘dealers’ and ‘collectors’, and indeed the historical dimensions of these evolving identities, is a fascinating topic (and something I’ve been working on for the last few years). And I was recently reminded of this subject when I came across an intriguing little article on the dealer Moss Harris (Harris, as many readers of the blog will know, founded one of the world’s leading antique dealing businesses, M. Harris & Sons in c.1915, taking over the business of D.L. Isaacs); the history of Moss Harris & Sons is also partially sketched out in an earlier blog post (see the blog on the oral history interview with John Morris).

The article, published in The Bazaar, Saturday June 15th, 1929, was titled ‘Treasures I Would Not Sell’.  The article is no great piece of journalism – it seems to have been essentially an excuse to have a sneaky peek into the private collections of some high profile antique dealers.  Anyway, the article indicated that there were in fact 2 objects that Moss Harris ‘would not sell’. One was described as a ‘graceful Hepplewhite side-table’; the other was a ‘magnificent Chippendale armchair’. Harris was obviously so proud of the ‘Chippendale armchair’ that he appeared sitting in the very chair in an image published in the next issue of The Bazaar (22nd June 1929): The photograph of the picture of Harris is very grainy I’m afraid, but the quality of the original is rather poor…anyway, here is Moss Harris, cigar in hand, sitting proudly in his ‘Chippendale chair’:

Moss Harris, in his ‘Chippendale chair’. Image from ‘The Bazaar’ June 22nd 1929.

The article suggested that Harris did eventually sell the Hepplewhite side-table; as Harris stated;

‘I bought this (Hepplewhite side-table)…quite forty years ago from an old established London firm for much less than £100. It was one of those pieces that I was loth to part with.  In fact, I eventually sold it to a collector only on condition that if he ever parted with it he would sell it back to me….he fulfilled my request in a sense. For when he died ten years later he thoughtfully left it to me in his will.’

But the chair, it seems, was a different story; indeed, the article set me off to see if it was possible to identify the ‘Chippendale chair’ that Moss Harris would never sell, and to find out what happened to the chair – and, thanks to the help of my amazing colleagues at the V&A Museum in London (Kate Hay and Leela Meinteras) as well as the help of Lucy Wood and Sarah Medlam, we think we might have answered that particular question.

Anyway, the Chair – the 1929 article recounted Harris’ memory of the acquisition of the chair, as he states:

‘It was, in a way, a ‘holiday find’….I was touring the country some 300 miles from London before the War. (this would be World War I)  A fellow guest at my hotel recognised me, and knowing my interests, told me of some beautiful Chippendale chairs that he heard were for sale at a little place about 100 miles further on.  The next day accordingly saw me many miles away, and sure enough I found five exceptionally fine ‘Chippendales’.  Four of them I sold to a private museum, and the fifth – well you see it here.’

Tracking down the chair should be relatively easy.  The model is a very famous one – but it seems there are actually 6 of them (not 5 as Moss Harris stated in the 1929 article).  One was sold by Moss Harris to Lord Lever in 1915 and remains at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool – it was illustrated on the cover of Lucy Wood’s monumental study of ‘Upholstered Furniture’ published in 2008. 

A set of four of the chairs eventually made their way to Frank Partridge & Sons, the leading London antique dealers, trading in New Bond Street, and were exhibited together at their Summer Exhibition in 1949 – the current whereabouts of these four chairs is not known?

But it seems that Moss Harris did keep his word and never actually sold the final chair of the 6, the one that Moss Harris is actually sitting on in 1929.  The chair, so Moss Harris’ mentioned in the 1929 Bazaar article, was exhibited at the ‘Exhibition of Art Treasures (1928) organised by The British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) at Grafton Galleries; probably item no.134 ‘A Chippendale stuffed-back easy chair, with carved mahogany scroll arms, carved frame and scroll legs, circa 1760’.  It was also still in his possession in 1937, when it was illustrated in the book, published by M. Harris & Sons, called ‘The English Chair’ (1937, republished 1947) – here is the chair; and the cover to book and the image of the chair.


The chair was eventually sold posthumously (Moss Harris died in 1941) at a Christie’s auction sale on November 9th 1944 (lot 114, where Harris is recorded as the owner in the Christie’s archives – and thanks again to Kate, Leela, Lucy and Sarah for this information) – the buyer was recorded as Sir S. Bairn(?). But it seems that the chair was acquired by that other famous antique dealer firm, Mallett & Sons sometime after 1944, and was sold by them to the collector Brigadier Clark, who gifted the chair to the V&A in 1956. And here is Moss Harris’ chair:

W.16-1956. Image courtesy of the V&A Museum, and copyright V&A Museum.


There’s still some ambiguity in the history of this set of ‘Chippendale chairs’ – it’s certain that Moss Harris retained the chair – it was, as I say, sold posthumously at Christie’s in 1944.  But there’s also some contradictions in the story that Moss Harris recalled about his acquisition of the chairs sometime ‘before the War’. Lucy Wood also tells us that the chair in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, the one sold to Lord Lever by Moss Harris in 1915 (when Harris was at that stage, working with the established dealer D.L. Isaacs), was, according to the records at Lady Lever Art Gallery, originally purchased by Harris at a Christie’s auction in London on 10th June 1915 – so not the ‘300+ miles away from London’ that Moss Harris recalled in the 1929 article.

But perhaps Moss Harris’ memory was unclear, or perhaps he spun a story for the reporter? Either way I’m pretty sure that the chair that now resides at the V&A Museum is indeed the ‘Treasure’ that Moss Harris ‘Would Not Sell’.  And in that sense it’s an amazing discovery.



October 29, 2017

The Social & Cultural Identity of the Antique Dealer

As many of the readers of the Antique Dealer research blog will know, one of the themes I have been investigating as part of the Antique Dealers Research Project has been the ways in which ‘antique dealers’ have been represented in historical visual and literary culture. As part of the research activities dominated by this theme I’ve been assembling books and ephemera associated with the construction of the identity of the antique dealer over recent years; and there are literally scores of books by/on antique dealers, and a wide range of fascinating ephemera – of which more in a later blog post perhaps?

But anyway, the representation of art dealers and agents for art, as well as dealers in antiques and curiosities, is something that I have been working on, off and on, for over 10 years.  And it’s clear, from my research, that a distinctive trope has emerged in relation to art and antique dealers. A key example from the 18th century would be the character of the art dealer called ‘Puff’ in the satirical play Taste (1752) by the writer Samuel Foote. This trope of the dealer as ‘problem’ takes on particular formation in 19th century culture. For example, the stylistic character of the dealers Remonencq and Magus in Honore de Balzac’s novel Cousin Pons (1847), or the personal qualities of the character of ‘Grandfather’ of Little Nell, in Charles Dicken’s Old Curiosity Shop (1840). There’s a lot more to say on these developments of course – but I thought readers of the blog might be interested to see a more recent, late 20th century example, of the continuing legacy of these highly significant identities.

One of my recent purchases (in a local charity shop no less) is this board game, produced by the Leeds based manufacturer Waddingtons in 1976, called ‘SWINDLE’.


‘Swindle’ board game, 1976, Waddingtons, Leeds.

The game is a fascinating example of the continuing trope of the antique dealer as ‘problem’.  As the tag line for the ‘Swindle’ game itself suggests ‘The great game of dubious antique dealing for 3 to 6 ‘swindlers’ 9 years and upwards’.

The publicity for the board game continues to rehearse this, now, very common trope. The players in the board game take on the role of a ‘dubious’ ‘antique dealer’ – and even the player pieces themselves reinforce the idea of the dealer as implicitly untrustworthy – the pieces are shaped as the moulded head of a, quite obviously, dubious character – (the chap looks like a ‘cad’!)

Player piece – the ‘Swindle’ board game, 1976.

The publicity information on how to play the game continues these implied, and explicit, suggestions about the role of antique dealers in contemporary culture.  Players are tasked with some quite revealing rhetorical questions  – ‘How convincingly can you pass off a Plaster of Paris bust as a genuine marble antique?’, it states; and ‘How good are you at picking the difference between a real Regency chest and a cheap chipboard swindle?’

‘Swindle’ board game, 1976.

‘A super-cool bluff are essentials for players in this action-packed game of dubious antique dealing’ -states the publicity on the cover of the board game.

These stereotypes and tropes are, as I suggest, something that emerges as a distinctive form in the 18th century, but becomes more embedded in the cultural consciousness in the 19th century – indeed, it is perhaps no coincidence that these notions settle into familiar patterns at the same moment that the conjunction of ‘art’ and ‘money’ develops as a discrete anxiety. But these speculations and observations are perhaps better left to a longer, deeper analysis, rather than attempting to deal with them here – it is interesting though, that a piece of ephemera, a now probably long forgotten board game from the 1970s, has such a fascinating genealogy, and that a popular board game can open up the prospect of deeper critical analysis of perhaps one of the most fascinating tropes in art and culture?


October 22, 2017

New Oral History Interview – John G. Morris

Our ‘Voices from the Trade’ oral history interviews continue to make progress, thanks again to the BADA for their generous support towards the Oral History project. 

Our most recent interview was with John G. Morris (and his wife Lorraine).  John established his own business, John G. Morris Limited, in Petworth, West Sussex, in March 1963, and will be very well known to many readers of the antique dealers blog. John was a specialist in antique English Furniture and his shop in Petworth was a regular feature in the country antique trade for more than 35 years, until his eventual retirement in 1996.

John G. Morris, photographed for the Voices from the Trade research theme, as part of the Antique Dealers Research project. Photograph copyright Antique Dealers Project, University of Leeds, 2017.

John is now 87 years of age, and as well as some fascinating reflections on his own antiques business, he also had some astonishingly vivid memories of the time he began his career in the antiques trade, starting with the world-famous antique dealers M. Harris & Sons on 4th November 1946. During this enthralling interview, peppered with delicious anecdotes of his time at Moss Harris, John recalled with amazing clarity the characters he encountered during an astonishing 70 years experience of the antique trade!

John started with Moss Harris & Sons, aged just 16 years of age – working in workshops at M. Harris, at 27 Little Russell Street, near the British Museum. The main showrooms for M. Harris were in New Oxford Street (shown below, in c.1921); John recalled a different shop front when he joined the firm in 1946 – and thinks that the shop front was changed sometime in the late 1930s, just before World War II.

M. Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street, London, in 1921.

M. Harris were perhaps the leading antique furniture dealers in the world and when John joined the firm in 1946 they had been trading for 80 years.  The business had roots back to 1868, with the firm of D.L. Isaacs. Moss Harris, who made his first fortune as a dealer in horsehair, recycling this material back into the furniture trades for upholstery work, acquired the D.L. Isaacs business around the time of World War I and established M. Harris & Sons. They published a celebratory publication in their centenary year 1968. When John worked at the firm, he recalled that they still had more than 100 rooms filled with antique furniture.

John initially worked under the then office manager, Harold Dawson, and was tasked with booking in goods that constantly arrived in the yard behind the New Oxford Street shop – he remembered that in those days there was often so much stock that they had trouble getting it into the store rooms in time before closing the yard. John was paid £2.0.0 per week when he started, but obtained a pay rise of 5 shillings a week within a few months.

John’s memories of the business in the 1940s and 1950s will, I’m sure, be a rich resource for future scholars; he remembers, for example, one of the old retainers from the D.L. Isaacs business deal (there was an agreement, apparently, that a member of the Isaacs family was to be attached to the business until the last member of the family died out) – and John remembers ‘Old Ick’, resplendent in top hat, walking the floor of the M. Harris galleries. John also remembered the sad day when George Harris (one of two sons of Moss Harris) died suddenly of a heart attack; George was found dead in his Bugatti in Mecklenberg Square at 4am.  John recalls having to steer George’s Bugatti back into the yard at M. Harris as the police removed the car back to the shop. One of the lighter memories John recalled, was the time in 1947 when Sidney Harris (the other son of Moss Harris), was entertaining some important clients at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, but had inadvertently left the shop without his wallet.  John was immediately dispatched to the Grosvenor House Hotel with £100 in crisp £5 notes, and was allowed by Sidney to wander the stands at the Grosvenor House Fair during the afternoon – the first time that John had seen Grosvenor House, which was then the premier event in the antiques calendar.

M. Harris & Sons; one of the showrooms in 1948.

John also recalled that in 1946, when John joined the firm, business was booming, but after John did his National Service in 1948, and returned to M. Harris in the Spring of 1950, he remembered that the business had changed; George had died in 1947, and Sidney, his brother, also died in the late 1940s, leaving the firm with significant Death Duties to pay.

There are many other more amusing, and illuminating anecdotes of John’s time at Moss Harris – memories of visits by Queen Mary and the Princess Elizabeth in the early 1950s (Moss Harris were granted Appointment to Queen Mary as  ‘Dealers in Antique Furniture & Works of Art’), as well as many other well known personalities and V.I.P.s.

John’s memories of his own business, which he started, with his wife Lorraine, in 1963, were equally fascinating. He recalled the antiques scene in Petworth – which when he opened his shop in 1963, had just 4 antique businesses; 2 of which were cabinetmakers and antique dealers (Ron Denman and Mr Collingham)….

Lorraine Morris, wife of John Morris. Photograph 2017. Photograph copyright Antique Dealers project, University of Leeds.

…. and 2 antique dealers proper (Bill Boss, and Miss Streeter, of Streeter & Daughter). As the antique business boomed during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Petworth became home to at least 15 dealers, eventually becoming a key location for the trade.  During the interview John also recalled his memories of some of the ‘old characters’ of the antique trade, now long gone – people such as Sam Wolsey, Claude Partridge, J. Rochelle Thomas, and ‘Jippy’ Botibol (J. M. Botibol), as well as more recently departed dealers such as the legendary Dick’ Turpin.

Our interview with John makes an absolutely fascinating addition to our corpus of interviews with members of the antique trade, and like all of our interviews, will, once edited, be available on the project website in due course.


September 24, 2017

New Archive – M. Turpin Antiques

Thanks again to the generosity of our wide community of friends and supporters we have accepted the donation of the partial archive of the well-known antique furniture dealer M. Turpin.  Maurice ‘Dick’ Turpin (1928-2005) established his business in the early 1950s, initially in Old Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London, before gravitating towards the Mayfair area and settling in Bruton Street by the 1990s – a street which at that date was also the location of R.A. Lee & Sons, whose archive is also now part of the collection of Dealer archives at Leeds.  Indeed, the M. Turpin archive is a great addition to the growing number of antique dealer archives now at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

We have many people to thank for the M. Turpin archive coming to Leeds University – the archive has been very generously donated through the auspices of Bonhams Auctioneers (and special thanks to the help of the Bonhams team at Leeds Office, Jane Winfrey, Jackie Brown, and Simon Mitchell; and Alison Hayes in their London office). The initial donation to Leeds was facilitated by Sally Stratton and Guy Savill, whilst they were at Bomhams London office (and they are now heading up the new auction business The Pedestal). I understand, from Sally, and from our previous project Research Fellow, Elizabeth Jamieson, that the original donation was through Jackie Mann, Maurice’s partner – so there are quite a few people to thank for ensuring that this important archive is saved for future generations of researchers – thank you all!

The M. Turpin archive itself mainly consists of a large series of fascinating photographs of stock sold by the firm; there are literally 1000s of B/W and colour photographs. Unfortunately there are no stock book or business records, but that said, the material donated to us gives a fascinating insight into a major antique furniture business over the course of 30+ years of trading.  There are, for example, photographs of the stands that M. Turpin took at various antiques fairs in the period. Here’s a B/W photograph of the stand of M. Turpin at the Maastricht antique fair in 1979.

M. Turpin, Maastricht Antique Fair 1979. Photograph courtesy of the Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

And another photograph, this time in colour, of M. Turpin’s stand at the same fair in 1988 – a much larger stand, with many more objects, indicative of the success of the business no doubt.

M. Turpin, stand at Maastricht Antiques Fair, 1988. Photograph courtesy of the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Amongst the many wonderful and historically significant objects that passed through the firm of M. Turpin was this flamboyant Regency period polychrome penwork cabinet – probably well-known to many people.

Regency Penwork Cabinet – M. Turpin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. Original photograph copyright P.J. Gates, London.

The cabinet was purchased by Maurice Turpin in the 1980s, and seemed to have remained with him until it was sold at the auction sale by Christie’s of the M. Turpin Collection in 2006, after his death – (see Christie’s The Legend of Dick Turpin 9th & 14th March 2006), where it sold for £78,000.  This history is, of course, well known in many circles, but what is perhaps less well known, and revealed in some of the discrete sections in the M. Turpin archive, is the history of the restoration of the cabinet.  The Turpin archive contains a large number of restoration records for a wide range of objects that were either part of stock/collection of M. Turpin, as well as, it seems, records of restorations to many other objects belonging to collectors and dealers.  These make fascinating reading.  The penwork cabinet, for example, appears to have suffered minor damage to the cornice at some stage – here’s a photograph of the record in the archive.

Restoration Record – Penwork Cabinet: M. Turpin Archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections. Photograph copyright Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Restoration Record – Penwork Cabinet. M. Turpin Archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. Photograph copyright Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Other restoration records provide valuable insight into the processes of restoration and the changing taste and fashion for the presentation of antique objects – here, for example is the record of the cleaning and minor restoration to an early 18th century walnut stool.

Restoration Record – M. Turpin Archive. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. Photograph copyright Brotherton Library Special Collections.

It is a great pity that the actual business records and stock books for M. Turpin do not survive (unless someone knows where they are?), but this very extensive photographic archive, and the fascinating series of restoration records, will, I’m sure, be invaluable for future research into the history of the antique trade.  The M. Turpin archive will soon be catalogued and made available for research, so keep your eyes on the Brotherton Library Catalogue online.



August 29, 2017

New Oral History Interview – Michael Pick of Stair & Co.

Our Oral History Interviews with key members of the antique trade continues – thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of Chris Coles, our Lead Volunteer Researcher; and thanks again to the BADA, who so generously support these new ‘BADA Voices’ extensions to the Oral History research theme for the Antique Dealers project. 

Our new interview is with Michael Pick, who for many years worked at the well-known English Furniture dealers Stair & Company – Michael also worked at Frank Partridge & Co., so his experience at the top of the antique trade is very considerable indeed.

Michael Pick, in 1995, whilst at Stair & Co. Photograph courtesy of Michael Pick.

Catalogue of Stair & Andrew, c.1920s. Private collection.

Michael started his career in the antique trade in 1978, joining the firm of Stair & Co (established as Stair & Andrew in 1911) under the care and tutelage of Mary Holder, who had formerly worked for the dealership R.L. Harrington, which Stair & Co purchased in 1968. Michael stayed with Stair until 2000, when he joined Frank Partridge & Co., staying until 2006. For more information on Stair & Co., and Partridge & Sons, and many other dealers, please see our research project interactive website

During this highly engaging interview Michael told us how he was introduced to the world of antiques by the well-known writer on collecting, Bevis Hillier (who was at the time at Connoisseur Magazine) before he eventually obtained a position with Stair & Co in 1978. Michael reflected on his time at Stair & Co., recalling the regular buying trips with Mary Holder around the other London dealers, in the Fulham Road and Kensington Church Street in the 1970s and 1980s. As Michael suggested during the interview, the importance of American collectors to many British antique businesses, not least Stair & Co., was a key theme. Stair had opened shops in Palm Beach and Williamsburg in the USA after WWII, expanding their American operations that had been established by Stair & Andrew in New York in 1911.  Michael highlighted how crucial the UK-USA market was to the Stair business, recalling that Alastair Stair came to London 2 or 3 times a year with his wife Phyllis, buying 300 or so pieces on each trip to feed the appetite for American collectors and decorators.

As many of the followers of the Antiques Dealer project will be aware, Stair & Co was bought by the music mogul and antique collector Jules Stein (1896-1981)  (owner of MCA, Music Corporation of America and film star agent), in 1952; the business was sold to the financier David Murdoch in 1981 after the death of Stein. Michael tells us that the Stair business shifted slightly with the acquisition by Murdoch, moving to a much more eclectic look, a mixture of old and new, that is now so fashionable.  Indeed it seems that David Murdoch preferred this look, exemplified, as Michael tells us, in the collections that Murdoch assembled at his home ‘Casa Encantada’ in Bel Air, Los Angeles. This was a property originally built in the 1930s for the Hylda Boldt Webber, before being bought by the hotelier Conrad Hilton (1887-1979) who sold the house to Murdoch in 1979, shortly before Murdoch bought the Stair & Co business.  And here’s a an early photograph of ‘Casa Encantada’ (taken in 1939), when it was then owned by Mrs Boldt Webber.

Casa Encanada, Bel Air, Los Angeles, in 1939, the home of Mrs Boldt Webber. Photograph copyright University of California.

Murdoch apparently purchased the Bel Air mansion fully furnished from Conrad Hilton, before selling the contents and refurnishing the property with, then, very fashionable ‘English Antiques’. These recollections from Michael certainly reinforce the historical significance of the transatlantic trade in antiques, not just in the opening decades of the 20th century (as many people will know), but also how these significant exchanges continued throughout the 20th century.

Our interview with Michael continued with his reflections on his move to Frank Partridge & Sons in 2001; Michael recalled that the most significant change was not so much in the quality of the objects that Stair & Co and Partridge sold, but more in the sheer scale of the operations – Michael tells us that Stair & Co had just 3 members of staff, whilst Partridge had as many as 32 members of staff when he joined the firm.

Partridge & Co., New Bond Street, London, c.2000.

There are many other fascinating observations on the history of the antique trade in our interview with Michael, from the changing taste in antiques, the presentation (and sales ticketing) of objects, to the increasing significance of Antique Fairs.

Like all of our other Oral History interviews with members of the antique trade, our interview with Michael will be available via the project websites, once our team have had a chance to edit the interview.  Our thanks go to Michael and Chris for all their help with the ‘Voices from the Trade’ oral history interviews project.






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