Oral History Interviews continue…..

Our Oral History interviews with members of the antique trade are gathering pace – besides the notices of recently completed interviews (see previous blog posts), we’ve also undertaken two further interviews in the last weeks – One with Philip Astley-Jones, who, amongst other things, formerly worked with the famous dealer Roger Warner, in Burford – for those that know these things, as well as those that don’t, The Regional Furniture Society published ‘Roger Warner: memoirs of a twentieth century antique dealer’ in 2003 (RFJ, Volume XVII, 2003). Our other was with Leon Sassoon, of the well-known antique carpets and rugs dealers C. John

Our interview with Philip Astley-Jones was undertaken by our research fellow Lizzy Jamieson – Philip gave us some absolutely fascinating memories of his time with Roger Warner in his shop in Burford, Oxfordshire.

Philip Astley-Jones photo

Philip Astley-Jones, 2015. Photograph EJ (Antique Dealers Project, Leeds University).

Philip started with Roger Warner in 1965, and he gave us amazingly vivid descriptions of the day-to-day life in the shop, and the buying activities of Roger. As you may know, Roger Warner was famous for his acquisitions of the historic and the curious, and in the interview we heard of buying objects from great Country Houses such as Chastleton, in Oxfordshire – (now a National Trust House). Philip regaled us with lots of fascinating stories of other buying trips – including the amazing story of how Roger found the original Capability Brown map of Moccas Court, rolled up in a long tin canister on top of a bookcase at the house.

Philip left Roger Warner in 1976, moving to Los Angeles, then Amsterdam, before returning to London and taking over the well-known antique restorers, Hatfields.  In a wide ranging interview, Philip also reflected on the potential future for the antique trade – it’s a lovely interview, full of detail, and you will soon be able to listen to it via our project websites – so do keep an eye on developments.

 

Our other interview was undertaken by one of our most active project volunteer researchers, Chris Coles. Chris interviewed Leon Sassoon, of the specialist textiles and antique carpets and rugs dealer C. John who are now trading in South Audley Street, Mayfair, London.

Leon Sassoon

Leon Sassoon

In an absolutely fascinating interview Leon told us about the beginnings of the firm of C. John, which was started by Leon’s uncle in Oxford in 1933; see below for a photograph of the premises at 36 High Street, Oxford in the 1930s. Their shop in Oxford was eventually closed in 1976, to allow concentration on their shop in London.

C John rugs

C. John, 36 High Street, Oxford, 1930s. Photograph copyright C. John .

The business of C. John is world famous for antique carpets and rugs of course, but it was intriguing to hear that when the firm was initially set up by Mr John he was just as interested in antique furniture as he was in antique carpets – indeed, this interior photograph of the Oxford shop from 1945 illustrates the stock of furniture then held by C. John – as well as the firm’s well-known interest in carpets, tapestries and rugs.

C John Oxford 1945

C. John, interior of shop in Oxford, 1945. Image from ‘Antiques Yearbook’ 1945.

Leon also told us about his memories of the antique carpet trade since he started with his uncle in the late 1960s; during his time in the business many great carpet and textile dealers have gone – Mayorcas, Arditti, Vigo Galleries, Sternberg, Benardout, all great names in the history of the antique trade, are no longer with us. Indeed, C. John, along with S. Frances (est 1909) as Leon said, are the last of the great tapestry and antique carpet dealers. Leon tempered that by emphasizing that a new generation of carpet and textiles dealers have also emerged over the last years…so it’s not all doom and gloom!

In our interview, Leon also reflected on the changing landscape of the antique trade, and on his relationships with some major collectors of carpets, and with museums, over the last 50 years. The interview is a fascinating insight into a very specialist area of the antique trade, and we ‘re sure our interview with Leon will be a fantastic addition to the range of antique dealer interviews we are assembling as a result of the AHRC Antique Dealer project.

Mark.

 

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