Archive for July, 2016

July 25, 2016

‘BADA Voices’ Oral History Interview – John Bly

Print We did our 2nd in the new ‘BADA Voices’ Oral History interviews last week – this time in the interviewees’ chair was John Bly, of John Bly Antiques. John Bly Antiques was established by 1891, but the business itself has roots into the early 19th century, begun by John’s Great-Grand father William Bly, in Tring, Hertfordshire.  John’s grandfather, also called John Bly, operated as a cabinet-maker, house furnisher and dealer in antique furniture at 22 High Street, Tring by the early 1890s – and here’s an early photograph of the shop of ‘J.Bly’ at 22 High Street in 1907.

John Bly 22 High St Tring 1907

J. Bly, 22 High Street, Tring, 1907. Photograph from John Bly.

In a wonderfully engaging and fascinating interview, John tells us of the history of the Bly businesses, and of how he started in the antique trade over 50 years ago! John left school to work at Sotheby’s in Bond Street, London, where he was employed in the Silver Department, marking up lots for sale; he left Sotheby’s at the age of 19 to work for his father, Frank Bly, in 1960, and continues to run the business, with his son James, from locations in Tring and in the Kings Road, London.

john bly 2016

John Bly, in London, 2016.

John’s infectious enthusiasm for the antique trade is evident in the conversation – he tells us of his first job, driving the Northampton-based antique dealer Jack Roberts’ around auctions and dealerships in the early 1960s; and of the importance of his two ‘mentors’, Michael Brett (then of Broadway, Worcestershire) and the Nat Ayer, of Bath and London – who was, so we learn, the son of the famous songwriter Nat D. Ayer (1887-1952) – writer of, amongst other songs, ‘If you were the only girl in the world…’ (1916)

John also tells us of his life as a T.V. personality – he is famous, as many of you will know, as one of the experts on the BBC ‘Antiques Roadshow’ – but he began his career as T.V. antiques expert as long ago as 1969/1970 on a show for Thames Television called ‘Looking at Antiques….’, before moving on to a programme in the mid 1970s called ‘Heirlooms’.  He has been on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ since the 2nd series, in 1980.

John’s father, Frank Bly, is perhaps most well-known for the sale of the famous ‘Kimbolton Cabinet’ to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1949. John rehearses the fascinating tale of the acquisition, and eventual sale of the cabinet to the V&A, during the interview – it is, by now, quite a well-known story, but John’s regaling of how the cabinet was loaded on to the flat-bed truck, and covered in a tarpaulin sheet, is still worth hearing again.

 

kimbolton

The Kimbolton Cabinet, c.1775. Photograph, copyright the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

John obvious positive energy comes across strongly in the interview, as he talks about the changes to the antique trade in the past few years, and the prospects for the future of ‘antiques’.  And as with all our other interviews, our interview with John will, once edited, be made available via the Antique Dealer project websites – keep you eye of the sites for updates.

Mark

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July 9, 2016

First of the ‘BADA Voices’ oral history interviews – Peter Francis Cheek

We did our first in the ‘BADA Voices’ oral history interviews the other week. As you may have heard, or read in the Antiques Trade Gazette, the British Antiques Dealers’ Association have very generously sponsored the capture of a series of new oral history interviews, as a discrete extension to the Oral History research for the Antique Dealers project. Thank you again to the BADA for this generous support. Print

The first in the new series of ‘BADA Voices’ was with Peter Francis Cheek, formerly of ‘Peter Francis Antiques’.  Peter is now 94 years of age, and it was a fantastic opportunity to capture his reflections on more than 60 years in the antique trade.

Peter Cheek 2016

Peter Francis Cheek, at his London home, in 2016.

Peter started his life as an antiques dealer in 1949, following service in the army in World War II, after training as a carpenter in the late 1930s, and working for his father in his father’s second-hand and antique furniture business (his father’s business was called W. Johnson, after the previous owner of the firm) in the period 1947-1949. His father, interestingly, had been a Foreman for the firm of Howard & Sons, before setting up on his own in the late 1920s.

In this very engaging interview, Peter reflects on the changes to the antiques trade, and his experiences on the vetting committees at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair during the 1980s, and as a member of the review committee for the export of antiques for the BADA during 1972-2000. And here is Peter’s stand at the 1984 Grosvenor House Antiques Fair.

Peter Francis stand GH 1984

Peter Francis’ Stand at Grosvenor House 1984. Courtesy of Peter Cheek.

Peter’s first shop was in Bowes Park, North London, before he purchased his father’s shop in Winchmore Hill (North London) – and as many of you will know, Peter Francis were located in Beauchamp Place, SW3 for 25 years, from 1954 until 1979, when Peter moved the business to 26 Museum Street, the former home of the equally well-known antique dealers, ‘Cameo Corner’ – indeed, it’s quite curious, although obviously understandable, how many antique dealers move into premises formerly occupied by other dealers – Peter’s shop in Beauchamp Place, for example, was also the former shop of the dealer Josephine Grahame-Ballin, who also had a shop in St. Albans.

Peter had many fond memories of life in the antiques trade, including the time when the actor Robert Lindsay (himself now portraying an Antique Dealer called ‘Mr Bull’ in the TV comedy ‘Bull in a China Shop’!) attended the opening of the Grosvenor House Antiques fair in 1985, and was photographed sitting in an antique Invalid’s Chair on Peter’s stand – (Robert Lindsay was dressed as a character from the musical ‘Me and My Girl’, in which he was then starring…)

Peter C and R Lyndsay 1985

Peter Francis, with Robert Lindsay at the GH Antiques Fair 1985. Copyright untraced. Courtesy of Peter Cheek.

As with all of our Oral History interviews, including these new ‘BADA Voices’ extensions, our interview with Peter Cheek will appear on the Antique dealer Research project website in due course.

Mark

 

 

The Period Room: Museum, Material, Experience

An International Conference hosted by The Bowes Museum and The University of Leeds

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art writing * art works * art market

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A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 20th century