In the Footsteps of Roger Warner

As some of the followers to the project blog will know, part of the growing legacy of the AHRC Antique Dealer project has been the donation of several highly significant antique dealer archives to the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds. The archive of the well-known antique dealer Roger Warner (1913-2008) is part of this growing corpus of antique dealer material coming to Leeds – all part of a broader research initiative focused on the histories of the art and antique markets, and under the auspices of our new Centre for the Study of the Art & Antiques Market. We have exciting plans for research activities based in the new Centre in the coming months and years so do keep an eye on the Centre!

Anyway, Roger Warner – I was in Burford to oversee the collection of the first part of the Roger Warner archive – which in an extraordinarily generous act has been donated to the University of Leeds by Roger’s family, Sue Ashton, Deborah Warner and Simon Warner – we cannot thank Sue, Deborah, Simon, and Sue’s husband, Hugo, enough for their generosity and for their enthusiastic support to this ever expanding project on the history of the antique trade.

Roger Warner ran his antique shop for almost 50 years, from 1936 to 1985, and was, as many of you will know, an iconic antique dealer (perhaps one of the most emblematic antiques dealers of the 20th century) – indeed, his autobiography ‘Roger Warner, Memoirs of a Twentieth Century Antique Dealer‘ was published by the Regional Furniture Society in 2003.

The archive will be an absolutely amazing resource and, once we have it all conserved and catalogued, will be available for future researchers, scholars and those interested in this highly significant part of social and cultural life.  The Warner archive is a fascinating and exceptionally detailed history of an antique dealer;  Warner was certainly an antiquary by inclination, recording minute details of the everyday business of a dealer – he even kept a record of the footfall in his shop each year!….His ‘Annual Review and Policy Reports’ produced every year, continuously from 1951-1985, (together with two earlier annual reviews for 1947 and 1949), are fascinating personal reflections on the previous year’s trading, with commentaries on the changing markets conditions, details of auctions visited, observations on other dealers, information on significant objects bought & sold, and summaries of business accounts – they will be a key resource for anyone studying the history of the antique trade in the 20th century.

To give you a flavour of the richness of the archive, and to draw attention to its potential significance, I’ve traced just one object in the archive from its acquisition by Warner to its eventual new home at Temple Newsam House, in Leeds. The object in question is the now famous Four-poster painted bed, made to commemorate the marriage of Francis and Anne Hall, 1724.

painted bed TN

Four-poster painted bed, 1724. Temple Newsam House, Leeds. Image by kind permission of Leeds Museums & Galleries. Copyright Leeds Museums & Galleries.

The bed was acquired by Temple Newsam House (Leeds Museums & Galleries) in 1979, following a grant from the Art Fund of £2,500, for £13,000 from the London antique dealers Jellinek & Sampson, then trading in Knightsbridge.  The Warner archive records that had he sold the bed to Jellinek & Sampson on 4th November 1978 for £2,500.

The Warner archive also records the acquisition of the bed in the stock book for 1977-78 on 4th January 1977, from ‘George Carr, Lilac Hse, Kirkbride’ (Cumbria), for the sum of £850 (see image). Warner also notes, in his annual review for 1978, ‘purchase and removal early in the new year Of painted oak Tester Bed from Kirkbride, Cumbria, the bed never having been moved since its erection in room in 1724.’ (see image).

RW stock book 1978

Roger Warner Archive. Stockbook 1977-78. The Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds, currently uncatalogued. Photograph AHRC Antique Dealers project. Copyright University of Leeds 2016.

RW review

Roger Warner Archive. ‘Annual Review 1978’. The Brotherton Library Special Collections University of Leeds, currently uncatalogued item. Photograph AHRC Antique Dealers Project. Copyright University of Leeds 2016.

These fascinating insights into the provenance of just one of the 70,500 objects that Roger Warner sold illustrate the rich potential of antique dealer archives, not just for provenance research, but also for the insights that they can reveal into the social and cultural practices of the, still as yet, unexplored history of the antique trade.

But whilst I was in Burford collecting the Warner archive I also had an opportunity to ‘walk in the footsteps’ of this extraordinary dealer – thanks to Sue Ashton, Roger’s daughter, and to Nicky, who with her partner Tim now owns Roger Warner’s shop, I was taken on a journey through the spaces of Roger’s old shop.

rw shop burford

Roger Warner antique shop, High Street, Burford. Warner traded here from 1936 until his retirement in 1985.

It was fascinating and illuminating to hear Sue reminisce about the activities that took place in the various rooms – the shop had been, after all, Sue’s home for much of her life. The interior spaces had changed over the years of course, but not substantially, and Sue recalled many happy memories of her father in the shop and home. I got a sense of how Warner had used the spaces of the shop through Sue’s recollections….and also got a sense of how he had furnished the private spaces of the house/shop through some of the photographs in the Warner archive – here is Roger’s bedroom, as it was in the 1980s.

rw bedroom

Roger Warner’s bedroom, High Street, Burford, undated photograph, but early c.1980s. Roger Warner archive, The Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, currently uncatalogued item. Photograph AHRC Antique Dealer project. Copyright University of Leeds 2016.

The tour of the shop was an extraordinary personal experience, and will be invaluable in navigating the richness of the Warner archive now at the University. Thank you Sue, and Nicky, for taking the time to walk in the footsteps of Roger Warner.

Oh and for those that never met Roger – and I regret I never did – we have, thanks to the Web, some recordings of Roger Warner from the TV show ‘Going for a Song’ – this was an early precursor to the hugely popular (and still going) Antiques Roadshow. Anyway, here is Roger Warner in a 1971 episode of ‘Going for a Song’ (with that other former doyen of the world of antiques, Arthur Negus).

Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yblWjTU7Vek

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn5GAmLoWdo

Mark

 

 

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