September 23, 2018

Antique Dealer Hunting in Prague

I took a break from research and had a long weekend in Prague a couple of weeks ago – well I say I took a break from research, but it seems I must have packed ‘research’ in my bag, because when I got to Prague I ended up doing more ‘research’ on 20th century antique dealers based in Prague!

It started with a bit of serendipity (as most of the best things do!); I always try to visit museums and galleries when I can (obviously), and ended up going to the Veletrzni Palac (the ‘Trade Fair Palace’ – what an extraordinary name for a public art gallery), which is part of National Gallery Prague.  This was because the National Museum of Prague was closed for renovation – actually, when I got to Veletrzni Palac that was also partially closed for renovation….but they did have an extraordinary exhibition called ‘The Mystery of Capek’s Carpet’. The exhibition is running at the Trade Fair Palace until 25th November…so if you are going to Prague I’ve certainly recommend a visit!

The Mystery of Capek’s Carpet exhibition at National Gallery Prague. Photo copyright of National Gallery Prague.

The exhibition is based on a short story by the Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) called ‘Cintamani and Birds’, published in a volume of short stories called ‘Tales from Two Pockets’ (1929).  The story is based around the discovery, in an antique shop, of a rare ‘white-ground Anatolian carpet’, dating from the 16th century. The collector spots the carpet in the shop of ‘Madame Severynova’ and tries, unsuccessfully, to buy it throughout the story.  It is guarded by Madame Severynova’s pet Poodle, ‘Amina’ – a dog ‘so fat it makes you ill’, as Capek states in the story. Anyway, the collector eventually realises Madame Severynova will never sell the carpet to him so he resolves to break into the shop one night and try to steal it – but of course, the dog will never let this happen and repels him and he never manages to get the carpet – ‘the one-of-a-kind carpet is still lying there today’ Capek writes at the end of the story; ‘It is, I’m certain, one of the rarest carpets in the world. And right to this day, that hideous, mangy, stinking Amina is on it, grunting with bliss….’.

The eponymous carpet was recently acquired (in 2014) by the National Gallery, Prague and this was the catalyst for the exhibition. Here’s the carpet – a very rare, white ground, 16th century ‘Anatolian’ example (from modern-day Turkey).

‘Chintamani and Birds’ carpet in the Mystery of Capek’s Carpet exhibition at Trade Fair Palace, Prague. Author’s photo.

The story was also made into a film in 1964, called ‘Chintamani Carpet and a Swindler’ directed by Jiri Krejcik. Here’s a film poster for the film.

Film Poster for ‘Chintamani Carpet and a Swindler (1964). Photo from National Film Archive, Prague. Copyright National Film Archive, Prague.

The exhibition includes a range of material associated with Capek (who was a collector of Oriental carpets himself) some photo stills from the film, showing ‘Amina’ the dog (not a poodle, as in the short story, but a dachshund) and the collector (the ‘Swindler’)’ in the movie, with the rare carpet in the background.

Chintamani Carpet and a Swindler (1964) film still. Image copyright National Museum, Prague.

Chintamani are wish-granting jewels in Buddhist philosophy and are represented by the three little floating balls above the wavy lines in the carpet in the photograph here – the combination of Chintamani and Birds is, apparently, very rare in ‘Oriental Carpets’, hence the desire of the collector to acquire this example in the story.

Anyway, what interested me most in the exhibition was that the ‘antique shop’ in the short story was actually based on a real antique shop in Prague in the 1920s owned and run by a female antique dealer called Helena Zajickova (1879-1944). There was a design for a new shop sign for Zajickova’s shop in the exhibition –

Hand-coloured photograph of a design for a neon sign for Helena Zajickova’s shop, by Neon CKD, 1933. Author’s photo.

Helena Zajickova was one of the leading antique dealers in Prague during the 1920s and 1930s – she started trading in c.1906, and by the 1920s was supplying antiques to Prague Castle. According to the exhibition Zajickova’s shop was located at 10 Palacheko Street, in Prague’s New Town in the 1920s. So, of course, I had to go and see if I could find the shop – and it still exists…the window grills appear to be the same ones!

10 Palackeho Street, Prague, 2018. Author’s photo.

Capek’s niece, Helena Kozeluhova, recalled in her memoires that her uncle Karel Capek, would often visit the shop of Helena Zajickova, and that she had a cat (rather than a dog) that would sit on the carpets – fiction and reality often collide in these fascinating ways of course, but it was interesting that I found another important antique shop in such a serendipitous way!


August 15, 2018

The Warwick Cabinet at The Bowes Museum: Shopping for Antiques in Two Centuries

This is a longer than usual blog-post; it derives from my recent research on objects at The Bowes Museum and the history of the antiques trade.

Anyway, I recently was honoured and delighted to have been asked by The Bowes Museum to choose my favourite object from the collections as part of their project to celebrate 125 years since the museum opened.  My favourite object is ‘The Warwick Cabinet’; it’s a very well-known object, one that has been thoroughly studied by many leading historians of furniture and design. It is a piece of 18th century furniture of quite extraordinary craftsmanship, made in London in the 1770s by Mayhew & Ince, one of the leading firms of cabinetmakers and is immensely important for the history of English furniture.

The Warwick Cabinet. Image courtesy of The Bowes Museum.

But this is not a commentary on the design and aesthetic qualities of this object, beautiful though it certainly is.  What I’m really interested in is when, how, and why, the Warwick Cabinet arrived at The Bowes Museum in the first place. My interest in The Warwick Cabinet is part of my continuing research into the history of shopping for ‘antiques’ – and the Warwick Cabinet very usefully draws attention to this on-going fascination with ‘old’ things at two distinctive moments. It’s a story that begins with the Earls of Warwick, who in the 18th century purchased a ‘second-hand’ (but not yet ‘antique’) 17th century French marquetry panel and ends with the purchase of the Warwick Cabinet by The Bowes Museum in 1979.

So, the Earls of Warwick and their ‘old’ marquetry panel – it’s not known exactly when or where the panel was acquired, but it seems likely that it was purchased by either Francis, 1st Earl of Warwick (d.1773) or his son, George, 2nd Earl of Warwick (d.1816) in Paris; or it may have been imported, possibly by a cabinetmaker, and purchased by one of the Earls in London.  Whatever the truth, in the 1770s the 2nd Earl commissioned the well-known cabinetmakers Mayhew & Ince to make a new and fashionable piece of furniture incorporating this discarded fragment of 17th century French furniture. This was, incidentally, something of a specialism of Mayhew & Ince in the 18th century – they supplied, for example, a pair of commodes and corner cupboards ensuite using a similar technique of incorporating elements of older furniture for Lord Exeter at Burghley House, Lincolnshire, in 1767.

The marquetry panel in the Warwick Cabinet was possibly previously a table top and was almost certainly made for the French Royal Court of Louis XIV; it is thought to have been made by the famous French cabinetmaker André Charles Boulle (1642-1732).  I guess we can’t say whether the 2nd Earl enjoyed this 17th century marquetry panel for its ‘oldness’ (it’s antiquarian value) or just admired the bravura display of the art of marquetry, but his recycling of this salvage from the past is something that underscores our own contemporary interest in ‘antiques’.

The Earl’s of Warwick were justly proud of their new and fashionable cabinet and it attracted several comments in the journals and diaries of visitors to Warwick Castle in the 18th century. And as interest in ‘old furniture’ began to accelerate during the 19th century the cabinet was loaned to the famous Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857, (it still bears the red printed labels from the 1857 Exhibition pasted to the back of the cabinet), where it was described in the guidebook to the exhibition as ‘a magnificent example of inlay in coloured woods…as fine a specimen of its kind, perhaps, as exits’.

Warwick Cabinet front panel. Image courtesy of The Bowes Museum.

The cabinet remained in the collections of the Earl’s of Warwick until it began it’s more recent peripatetic journey from Warwick Castle in the late 1960s and was sold by the Trustees of the Warwick Castle Resettlement as part of a series of auction sales in 1968.   Anecdotally it’s said that the increasing pressure of visitors to Warwick Castle in the 1960s meant that corridors needed to be cleared of clutter and the Warwick Cabinet just happened to be in one of the corridors, having been removed there from its location in the State Bedroom to allow the famous suite of 17th century Brussels tapestries in the Bedroom more light and space to be seen by visitors – an interesting example of the pressures of an increasing interest in ‘old things’ (a.k.a. heritage) acting as a catalyst for putting ‘old things’ into circulation on the art market – ‘heritage’ and the art market are two worlds that are much more intimately connected that one might think.  Anyway, the particular auction sale in which the cabinet appeared was a sale of ‘Important French & other Continental Furniture & Works of Art’ at the auction house of Christie’s in London on 30th May 1968. It was lot 85 in the auction and was elaborated described as ‘A Dutch Marquetry Cabinet, the panels in the style of van Meckeren the front with an urn of summer flowers, birds and dogs on a scrolled base, in various fruitwoods on ebony ground…’.   We now know of course, thanks to evolving scholarship, that the Warwick Cabinet is an important example of English furniture, but it would be fair to say that scholarship on the firm Mayhew & Ince was in its infancy during the 1960s.  The cabinet was sold for 900 guineas (a guinea was equivalent to £1 plus 1 shilling) at the auction in 1968, a comparatively reasonable sum, no doubt a result of it being ascribed as Dutch furniture, which was much less popular than French or English furniture at the time. One could speculate that it might have attracted even more interest had it been more accurately catalogued as English furniture.  Indeed, during the 1960s English furniture was on the up, with 2 successive world record prices achieved at auction – in 1965 the famous Chippendale library table from Harewood House, Yorkshire made 41,000 guineas at auction, following on closely from the previous record auction price for English furniture of 25,000 guineas achieved in 1961 for a commode attributed to Thomas Chippendale from the collections at Raynham Hall, Norfolk.

The Warwick Cabinet was bought at the 1968 auction by well-known dealer in antique continental furniture and works of art, David Drey, then trading in the ultra-fashionable King’s Road, Chelsea, in London.  Drey opened his antique shop in 1951 and was a member of the illustrious dynasty of art and antiques dealers which began in Munich in the 1860s with famous art dealer A.S. Drey.  David Drey appears to have very quickly sold the cabinet to the luxury department store Asprey’s. The fact that it was bought by a high-class luxury goods department store and not one of the many specialist antique English furniture dealers at the time gives us a further fascinating insight into the history of antique dealing (a subject very close to my heart); and brings us back to the subject of shopping for antiques, this time in the 20th century.  Asprey’s had been founded in 1781 as a silk printing business, but by the 20th century they had become a luxury emporium, making and retailing silver, luxury watches and jewellery. Like many ‘department stores’ Asprey’s opened an ‘antique department’ during the opening decades of the 20th century – Harrods did the same in c.1900, as did the department store Debenham’s – then known as ‘Debenham & Freebody’ –  who had an extensive series of ‘antique departments’ in their store in 1909, including ‘old glass’ and ‘antique lace’. Indeed, such was the success of Debenham & Freebody’s antique departments that they opened a separate antique store in Welbeck Street, London, in 1923.  The retailing of antiques by department stores such as Harrods, Asprey and Debenham’s also highlights the accelerating interest in antiques as fashionable furnishings in the early 20th century.  Incidentally, Asprey’s antique department consolidated its position in the world of antique dealing by absorbing the internationally famous London antique dealer R.A. Lee (established in the 1940s) in the 1990s.  The merger was one of a number of high profile mergers and acquisitions of antique dealing businesses at the time, indicative of the over-heated money-fuelled antiques markets of the 1980s and 1990s.

Asprey displayed the Warwick Cabinet on their stand at the world-famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in 1969, then the premier event of the UK antiques calendar. At this date it was then thought to be piece of French furniture of the Louis XVI period, dating to c.1780 but incorporating a panel of 17th century French marquetry; it was described as such by Asprey’s in their advertisement of the cabinet in the magazine Connoisseur July 1969.

Warwick Cabinet, Asprey advertisement, Connoisseur, July 1969.

The cabinet was bought by a private collector based in London in the same year and remained in that collection for 10 years, when in 1979, and by then correctly ascribed as English rather than French or Dutch furniture, it was sold to the Getty Museum in the USA. Ironically, the Getty probably wanted to acquire the Warwick Cabinet because of its panel of 17th century French marquetry (to this day they have very little English furniture in their collections). Indeed, The Getty Museum had (in 1976) only recently acquired one of their most spectacular pieces of French furniture, a 17th century French marquetry cabinet on stand attributed to André Charles Boulle, the suggested maker of the Warwick Cabinet front panel.

Cabinet on Stand, attributed to A.C. Boulle, c.1680. Getty Museum, USA. Wikicommons.

However, the significance of the cabinet to British cultural history was recognised and the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Works of Art placed a temporary export stop on the cabinet, allowing time for a UK museum to raise the funds to match the then purchase price of £80,000.  Norman St. John Stevas, then Arts Minister in the Thatcher Government, withheld the export license because the cabinet was considered to be of ‘outstanding national importance’.  The Warwick Cabinet was saved for the nation.  A ‘Rare Antique, comes North’, as the local newspapers reported at the time, and it began a new life in the collections at The Bowes Museum.

And so, I guess what interests me about my ‘Favourite Object’, is less so much about what objects actually are and more about the afterlives of objects; how they are put into motion, circulate and come to a temporary rest – and that’s a story that could be told about every object at The Bowes Museum, indeed every object in every museum.


July 21, 2018

Antique Dealer Map

We thought we would update you on the continuing development of the Antique Dealer Map website antique

We have been adding more data to the website, mainly, as many of you will know, focusing on adding names and addresses for antique dealers trading in Britain in the period 1900-1950 (with any branches in other countries too, as long as the dealership has been based in Britain at some stage).

There’s still an awful lot more data to add of course, and once the student volunteers return to the university in September we’ll have a new ‘cohort’ of helpers adding data to the website; so we hope to continue to increase the amount of data added to the website in the coming months.  I should add that if anyone out there would like to help in adding data, please do email us and we can set this up for you, (after a little bit of training of course) – and besides helping with this important research project, you will also get your name on the roll of honour on the project website.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at the data we have already in the website and even with the partial data we have, there are some fascinating facts emerging from the map – one can already imagine how significant the map website will be as more and more data is added. The map, as many of you will know, can illustrate the clusters of dealers as they evolve in various locations, from a bird’s eye view, as well as down to street level.  So, for example, here’s a view of the dealer locations in London, in and around Bond Street, W1 in the period 1900 to 1910.

Antique Dealer Map, University of Leeds.

And here’s the same view, for 1930, where one can see the expansion of the trade over the decades:

Antique Dealer Map, University of Leeds.

And the same view in 1950, which illustrates a continued expansion;

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

One can also focus on the development of dealer shops in many different towns and cities in Britain of course – here’s the map of Southsea, Hampshire, in 1900

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

Southsea became a very popular location for antique dealers during the period between the end of The Great War (1919) and the period after World War II, as this screen-shot of the Map in 1950 demonstrates:

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

The map also reveals some fascinating information on the popularity of particular shops as locations for antique dealers, perhaps also revealing previously hidden networks of dealers and of key relationships between dealers.  For example, the famous dealers Stair & Andrew (later, Stair & Co) were located at 25 Soho Square, in a shop that was previously occupied by the well-known dealers Nico Salomon and the dealers Hamburger Brothers –

Antique Dealer Map, University of Leeds.

And when Stair & Co moved to Bruton Street, London in 1929, they were joined in the premises by the antique dealers, H.G. Rye, and Arthur Watson in the early 1930s.  And when Stair & Co left the shop in Bruton Street in the 1940s, the dealer G. Jetley took over the shop.

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

And in Bath, for example, the shop of the well-known dealer and author R.P. Way was later occupied by the dealer Nat Ayer, before Ayer moved his business to Mount Street in London in the 1960s.

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

As we add more and more data to the Antique Dealer Map, more and more of these interesting relationships will emerge and be visualized, and this will help us to build up a fascinating ‘picture’ (quite literally) of the evolving antique trade in Britain in the 20th century.




June 25, 2018

Antique Dealers from the 1920s – Ropley of London

Archive material relating the the history of antique dealing in Britain continues to come to the University of Leeds – this time whilst it may be only a very small amount of photographic material, (some 40 black and white photographs relating to the London based antique dealer ‘Ropley’), it is nonetheless a fascinating set of photographs that provide further insights into the cultural history of the antique trade; they also complement the extensive photographic archive material in the Phillips of Hitchin, M. Turpin and Roger Warner archives already at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at University of Leeds.

At present we don’t know that much about the dealer ‘Ropley’ but in the 1920s they were trading at 35 Duke Street, Manchester Square, and at 19 Mount Street, London (see Here’s an old advertisement by Ropley, undated, but probably from c.1920?

Ropley, advertisement, c.1920.

‘Antique incised lacquer cabinet’, Ropley Antique Dealers, c.1920.

Just like Phillips of Hitchin, and many other antique dealers during the opening decades of the twentieth century, Ropley sold a wide range of antiques and also supplied fabrics – Phillips of Hitchin, for example, as earlier posts on the antique dealers blog have indicated, produced and supplied reproductions of historic textiles (see blog posts for July and August 2017). The set of Ropley photographs date from the period c.1910-1920, and were taken by the firm of Sydney Newbery, of Brixton; many of the photographs have pencil annotations on the back, with several marked ‘Ropley’ in pen in the top left and right-hand corners.

This photograph of a Chinese lacquer cabinet on stand is annotated on the back ‘Antique incised lacquer cabinet on gilt stand; height with stand 4ft 1in, width 2ft 1in’, and is inscribed ‘Ropley’ in the top left-hand corner of the back of the photograph.

And the pair of eighteenth-century hall chairs, shown in the next photograph, are described on the back of the photograph as ‘Pair of antique Queen Anne mahogany hall chairs with decorated coat of arms in the backs. Over 100 years old. 3ft 1in x 1ft 2in.’ They were available for the price of 13 guineas at the time (one guinea was equal to 1 pound plus 1 shilling; 1 pound contained 20 shillings).

‘Pair of Antique Hall Chairs’, Ropley Antique Dealers, c.1920.

We now know of course that the hall chairs do not date from the period of ‘Queen Anne’ (i.e. the opening decades of the eighteenth century), but perhaps we can excuse Ropley in their error.  Other photographs in the small amount of Ropley material illustrate the range of ‘antiques’ that a dealer such as Ropley sold in the period; including (left), ‘a pair of pole screens with wood panels on dull green ground..£19 the pair.’ together with an ‘Antique Mahogany Workbox on stand…£21 10 Shillings.’  And (right) a selection of eighteenth-century torcheres (there are no annotations are on the back of the photograph of the torcheres, other than what appear to be stock numbers of the objects – it would be fantastic if the Ropley stock books still existed).

‘Pole Screens and Workbox’, Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

Torcheres, Ropley Antiques, c.1920.












‘Chippendale’ furniture was one of the most desirable antique furniture during the 1920s (as it is today of course), and the photographs from Ropley also include examples of the ‘Chinese Chippendale’ furniture, which was extremely popular at the time.

‘Chippendale fret table’, Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

‘Antique Mahogany Chippendale side table..’ Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

The ‘Chippendale fret table’ is annotated on the back of the photograph, ‘A Fine Old Chippendale fret table, 3ft 7 and a half inches long, 19 and a half inches wide, 24 inches high’ and was priced at £50.10 shillings – quite a price at the time.

Verso of the ‘Chippendale fret table’ photograph. Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

Other annotations on the back of the photographs indicate that they were to be used in advertisements by Ropley – the pencil inscriptions suggest the size of the image in the advert (3 and 3 eighths inches wide) and have instructions to the publisher to edit the image ‘Background Away’.

Finally, a few of the photographs also indicate if the objects had been sold; with annotations in red ink on the front of the photographs, and similar annotations on the back of the photographs – the chair (below) had been sold to ‘E.J. Stirling Esq.’

Stock of Antique Furniture from Ropley Antiques, c.1920.


And the tables in the photograph below, had been sold to ‘Miss Wood, Ontario, Canada’ – an indication of the significance of the transatlantic antiques trade in the period.

Antique tables, from Ropley Antiques, c.1920.


This small archive of dealer photographs offer further fascinating insights into trade practices in the 1920s and will be a very useful resource in the continued study of the history of the antique trade in Britain.



June 14, 2018

Antique Dealer Exhibitions & new material in the Phillips of Hitchin archives

As followers of the Antique Dealer blog will be aware, one aspect of the continued development of the Antique Dealer research project has been an investigation into the emergence and role of themed exhibitions staged by antique dealers over the course of the 20th century.  Indeed, as a platform for dissemination of information on antiques and as a mechanism for the marketing of antiques, these exhibitions very usefully draw attention to the deep synergies between structures of knowledge and the art market.  Dealers have regularly organised selling exhibitions of course – the famous ‘Summer Exhibitions’ held by the leading New Bond Street dealership Frank Partridge & Sons from the 1950s to the 1980s, were opportunities to showcase new stock and for the swish private preview parties for the exhibitions, which were significant events in the social calendar.  Such exhibitions were attended by the most influential collectors, museum curators, interior decorators and antique dealers.   But what is of particular interest to the research project are the more scholarly, thematic exhibitions that antique dealers have staged over the years. These exhibitions, which remain a regular part of the current practices of antique dealing at the top of the antique trade, demonstrate the discrete, focused and scholarly contributions that many antique dealers have made to the knowledge of antiques – such exhibitions have often been accompanied by museum-type catalogues composed by antique dealers who are acknowledged as leading specialists in their field.

We are very fortunate that in the recent additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archive (again very generously sent up to us in Leeds by Jerome Phillips, who found the extra material whilst tidying up some stores – thank you again Jerome!) we now have a range of material that illustrates the detailed planning and execution of a range of ground-breaking exhibitions held by Phillips of Hitchin during the 1970s and 1980s.  Jerome organised these immensely influential selling exhibitions on specific furniture types – a model, unsurprisingly, that was also being adopted in public museums such as Temple Newsam in Leeds at the time (see, for example the exhibitions on ‘School Furniture’ organised by the furniture history scholar Christopher Gilbert at Temple Newsam in 1978 and a similar exhibition at Temple Newsam on ‘Common Furniture’ in 1982).

The Phillips of Hitchin exhibitions in June 1981 and June 1984 (certainly staged to coincide with the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair held each June in London) are key examples of these types of antique dealer exhibitions.  In 1981 the exhibition on ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ was a scholarly project, with antique furniture placed in rooms to mirror the social use of the objects at the time they were made – rather like a ‘period room’ setting that was also so popular in museums at the time.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ June 1981. Photograph Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Here’s another room at The Manor House, Phillips of Hitchin’s shop, with the assembly of some furniture suggestive of a more rustic dining space. The exhibition had a fully illustrated catalogue – Jerome remains a leading scholar on antique furniture and wrote many essays on the subject that appeared in publications such as Antique Collector; it’s also worth mentioning that in 1978 Jerome composed the new Introduction to the reprint of R.W. Symonds Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks (first published in 1940).

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ June 1981. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Phillips of Hitchin’s exhibitions on dining furniture might be considered as relatively conventional, and of course they were more than just museum-type scholarly projects and also offered the opportunity for potential buyers to imagine new schemes for their dining rooms.   Jerome’s next exhibition, in June 1984, was of a type that was more ground-breaking, for the antique trade at least (as I mentioned, museums such as Temple Newsam were already organising exhibitions focused on specialist furniture types in the 1970s).  The ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ exhibition in 1984 involved considerable primary research and was again accompanied by a catalogue with a discursive essay on the historical development of travelling and campaigning furniture.

Phillips of Hitchin catalogue for Exhibition of Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850.


The Travelling and Campaigning Furniture exhibition was obviously more specialist in nature, as I imagine was the audience for the exhibition – specialist collectors of ‘metamorphic’ furniture and museum curators perhaps? But the exhibition itself was a considerable success, according to the detail in the Phillips of Hitchin archives on the exhibition.  Indeed, reading the archive one cannot but admire the research and the time and effort that went into the planning and delivery of these exhibitions.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The new parts of the Phillips of Hitchin archive contains numerous photographs of the actual exhibitions, together with correspondence and supplementary detail on the planning of the exhibitions themselves – it’s a wealth of material that helps us to understand the objectives and complex nature of these scholarly and selling events.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

One further thing, and something that also demonstrates the richness of the archives that Jerome so generously donated to Leeds University, is that Jerome also saved the object labels from the exhibition! …..and here’s just one of a number of those labels from an object from the ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ exhibition.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984, object label. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

There’s more to say about the significance of these scholarly selling exhibitions organised by dealers such as Phillips of Hitchin and we are fortunate to have such archive material to help us to continue to explore and analyse the cultural history of the British antique trade.



April 28, 2018

New Oral History Interview – David Fileman of Fileman Antiques

Thanks to Chris Coles, our Project Lead Volunteer, we have a new addition to our growing corpus of Oral History Interviews – we are now at number 38!  Our latest addition is an absolutely fascinating interview with David Fileman, a 3rd generation dealer of the specialist antique glass dealers Fileman Antiques, Steyning in Sussex.  We really appreciate Chris and David taking the time to record this interview and of course we are so grateful to the BADA for their invaluable support in enabling us to continue with the oral history research theme in the Antique Dealer research project.

The business of Fileman was established in Brighton in the late 19th century by Morris Fileman, an electrical engineer and sometime pawnbroker – Morris is perhaps most famous for work to electrify Brighton Pier in the early 20th century.  The business was continued by David’s father John Fileman (d.1962) after he returned from War service in World War I; John developed the business into one of the leading antique glass specialists in the UK, supplying well-known antique glass dealers such as Arthur Churchill, Cecil Davis and W.G.T. (Tommy)Burne.

John Fileman Antiques, Brighton, antique fair stand, c.1960s. Photograph copyright Fileman Antiques.

Our interview with David again illustrates the complex over-lapping practices in the history of the British Antique Trade, illustrated here in a business that started in electrical engineering, developing, through the evolving interests of members of the business, into a leading specialist antique dealer and one who supplied many of the world’s most important antique dealers, including Jeremy Ltd, Mallett, Partridge, and Hotspur, with antique glass, lighting and spectacular antique chandeliers – a tradition that continues today, as their recent stand at the LAPADA Fair (2016) demonstrates.

Fileman – stand at LAPADA Fair 2016. Photograph copyright Fileman Antiques.

We will update the Oral History pages on the Antique Dealer Research project website in the next few days – but thanks again to David and Chris for such a brilliant interview.


March 30, 2018

Additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archives

A couple of weeks ago our Phillips of Hitchin archive had some very significant additions. Thanks to the support and generosity of Simon Phillips and Thomas Lange at Ronald Phillips antiques, London, who very kindly sent, via their driver and courier, a very large number of archive boxes full of photographs, glass-plate negatives and associated marketing ephemera that Jerome Phillips, of the antique dealer firm of Phillips of Hitchin, had deposited with them in London.

The new additions to the PoH archive include 15 large archive boxes of glass-plate negatives and 17 smaller archive boxes with similar contents.  Both sets of glass-plate negatives appear to date from the 1920s-1950s and comprise PoH images of stock, plus glass-plate negatives of photographs of some other well-known antique dealer firms, including Hotspur, Ronald Lee, Stuart & Turner, Mallett and Frank Partridge.  There are also some glass-plate negatives related to the antique furniture collector and author R.W. Symonds – perhaps for the publication of Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks (1940), which was republished in 1986 with an Introduction by Jerome Phillips.

Boxes of glass-plate negatives, part of the PoH archive. University of Leeds.

There is also one fascinating box of glass-plate negatives labelled ‘Arundel Paintings, 1912’ – which seems to relate to the famous Arundel Society (founded in 1849, for the dissemination of artworks via their reproductions).  As well as these extensive sets of glass-plate negatives there are also 49 blue plastic albums packed with photographs of the antique furniture stock of PoH (dating c.1920s-1970s) organised by object type – ‘chairs’, ‘desks’, ‘tables’ etc; and a box of loose photographs dating from the very beginnings of PoH c.1900.


PoH photograph albums. Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The photographs in the albums clearly illustrate the exceptionally high quality of antique furniture that passed through the hands of PoH – as the examples of the ‘chairs’ album of photographs, and the ‘commodes’ album demonstrate.

PoH archive, ‘Commodes’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.


PoH ‘Chairs’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Amongst the photograph albums are two albums dedicated to the PoH stands at the world-famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair; with photos of the PoH stands from the early 1950s up to the 1970s.  The photographs illustrate the changing methods of display adopted by PoH over the period – it’s interesting to note that PoH had also, from the earliest days of the business, produced reproduction wallpapers and textiles, and the PoH stands at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair always appeared to have been decorated with PoH reproduction wallpapers.

Here is the Phillips of Hitchin stand at Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in 1951.

PoH stand at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, 1951. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

PoH photo archive ‘ A rare old carved oak Vestry chair with marquetrie panel in back’, ‘circa 1650’. PoH archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Perhaps the most fascinating photographs in the archive are those dating from the very earliest days of the PoH business, when the antique shop was then run by the founder of the firm Frederick W. Phillips, the grandfather of Jerome Phillips who so generously donated his family business archive to Leeds University. These early photographs, dating from c.1900-1910 are dominated by examples of oak, walnut and mahogany furniture, which was so fashionable in the early 20th century.

The ‘rare old carved oak Vestry chair..’ shown here, is inscribed on the back of the photograph in a contemporary hand, ‘this we have reproduced’ – a further demonstration of the breath and depth of the business of F.W. Phillips (as it was then) in the period around 1900.  Indeed, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts on the antique dealer firm, F.W. Phillips was not only an ‘antique dealer’, but was also a complete home furnisher and interior decorator – he would also, if you so desired, build you an ‘ancient house’, (using recycled ancient materials) so fashionable in the period around the First World War.

Other interesting photographs in the recent additions to the PoH archive include this ‘carved mahogany settee, c.1760.’

PoH archives, ‘a carved mahogany settee, c.1760, upholstered in crimson damask’. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The back of the photograph has the inscription ‘carved mahogany settee…’ and also the price – ‘£95.0.0.’, which was quite a sum in c.1900.

We are so grateful to Simon Phillips of Ronald Phillips Antiques for so generously paying for the transport of this large corpus of PoH archive material – they are a great addition to the PoH archive we already have at the University of Leeds and the addition of the photographs will allow us to match up the stock books that we already have with these fascinating images of the enormous variety of antiques that PoH sold over more than 100 years.




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!


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