Final Day in ‘Action Week’ on Phillips of Hitchin archives

‘Action Week’ at the Brotherton Library Special Collections came to a close on Friday – it was an exhausting, but very productive week of cleaning and cataloguing – and thank you again to everyone that helped out with the Phillips of Hitchin archives – to the team at Brotherton Special Collections – Sharon, Francis, Tim and Joanne, (and everyone else!); and to the volunteers in the archives Helen, Matt and Riza, and our Antique Dealer project volunteers, Heather, Pauline, Sue and Yiwen – it was such a great team effort!…. here’s four of the happy volunteers (see also pictures of the volunteers in previous blog posts) –

archive action week

Action Week volunteers – L-R, Yiwen, Pauline, Heather & Sue.

There’s still an awful lot of cleaning and cataloguing to do, but we made great progress on the Phillips of Hitchin archives – and made some new discoveries…the archive is certainly beginning to reveal the rich potential that we always knew it had. And from the huge variety of materials (sales ledgers, day-books, photograph albums, correspondence files, etc etc) some fascinating stories are emerging.

One of  the tasks we undertook was the cleaning and cataloguing of some of the scores of small (6 inch high) ‘photograph albums’; they appear to date from the early 20th century, and contain a huge variety of black & white photographs of antiques – the condition of the albums is mostly fair, but many of them need a little bit of care and attention; see below for an image of the cover of one of the albums –

photo album c1910

Photograph Album, c.1900, Phillips of Hitchin archives MS/1999/4/1. Photograph courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

They contain fascinating images of the type of stock that Phillips of Hitchin traded in during  the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and there are some interesting objects – such as this late 17th century armchair, seemingly still with it’s original upholstery, but with a fascinating repair-job to the feet, which appears to have been added in the late 18th or early 19th century?

PoH MS1999.4.1.15

Photo Album, Phillips of Hitchin archives, MS1999/4/1/15. Photograph courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections.

The pencil annotation below the photograph states ‘Sold’, but I wonder how long the chair retained it’s subsequent, practical, additions…and how long before it had a much more historically ‘sympathetic’ repair – if I’m honest, I quite like the old repair, it is, after all, a testimony to the history of the object.

Within the Phillips of Hitchin archives, as one would expect, there are thousands of transactions with hundreds of other antique dealers – including the most high-profile dealers at the time – as well as all the major collectors and museums one could think of……..the archive also contains a wide range of photographs of the interior displays at Phillips of Hitchin. The especially interesting images are those taken during the late 19th and early 20th centuries – including this amazing image of the ‘Corner of the English China Room’ (c.1900), showing a wide range of antique ceramics, including some (now) seemingly exceptionally rare things!

PoH English Ceramics room MS1999.4.1.17

Phillips of Hitchin archives, photo of ‘Corner of English China Room’. MS1999/4/1/17. Photograph courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections.

As I say, there is an exceptionally rich potential for further research into the Phillips of Hitchin archives – and, as followers to the Antique Dealer Research Project will know, we also have an oral history interview with Jerome Phillips, the 3rd generation of the family business, and donator of the archive to the Brotherton Library Special Collections; if you would like to hear about the history of the firm from the person that really knows about it do have a listen to the interview Here’s a link to the interview –

Interview with Jerome Phillips

We are continuing to clean and catalogue the Phillips of Hitchin archives in the coming months, and will post information on any interesting discoveries, so do keep your eye on the Research Blog.

Mark

 

 

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