Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

November 23, 2019

Year of the Dealer In Conversation event at Lady Lever Art Gallery

The first of our THREE In Conversation events as part of the AHRC funded ‘Year of the Dealer’ project (2019-2020) was held at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, near Liverpool on Thursday 21st November -there are TWO further In Conversation events; one at Temple Newsam, Leeds on Thursday 23rd April 2020; and a final In Conversation at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, on Thursday 7th May 2020.

The In Conversation events are themed around an on-going, public-facing conversation on the historical and contemporary relationships between the art market and museums and the wider research project to investigate the history of antique dealing in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries – a subject explored in the original AHRC funded project ‘Antique Dealers: the British Antique Trade in the 20th century, a cultural geography’ (2013-2016) and the various research initiatives and projects that both underpinned and have been subsequently developed from, this fascinating and previously very little studied area of British cultural life – you can of course follow all the projects associated with this strand of research in our new project website ‘Antique Dealers’ at the University of Leeds.

Our In Conversation at the Lady Lever Art Gallery was focused on the collecting activities of William Hesketh Lever (1851-1925), the founder of the Lady Lever Art Gallery – with a theme of collecting and the art market ‘Then & Now’ – the market for decorative art (or Antiques as one might also call them) in the late 19th and early 20th century and the market for decorative art/antiques today. We had a very distinguished panel of experts for the In Conversation – from right to left in the photograph below are Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries and Collections Care at National Museums, Liverpool; Robin Emmerson, curator emeritus, Lady Lever Art Gallery; Colin Simpson, Principal Museums Officer, Wirral Museums; Prof Nick Pearce, Professor of Art History at Glasgow University; Peter Woods, antique dealer and collector and me – Mark Westgarth, University of Leeds.  We also had an excellent and packed audience of interested and interesting people – including lots of people from the local area and with associations with the Lady Lever Art Gallery – but it was good to see people from much further afield too – some had travelled all the way from London and the South East of England! Thank you to everyone on the Panel and everyone who attended for making the event such a success!

In Conversation at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, 21st November 2019.

The discussion and debate was lively and informative, with each of the participants on the Panel offering reflections on the art market, collecting and museums from historical and contemporary perspectives (from various ‘stakeholders’ if you like – museum professionals, academics, and professional antique dealers and collectors) .  There were also some great questions from the assembled audience.  I don’t think we exhausted the theme at all (certainly not in the relatively short time we had for the ‘In Conversation’) – indeed, its just as well we have many more events and activities as part of the ‘Year of the Dealer’ project!

It was great to see the project had so engaged the participants, and bodes well for future events.  I’d like to thank everyone at the Lady Lever Art Gallery – Sandra Penketh, Alyson Pollard, Dave Moffat – and the events team at Lady Lever – Joel, Caroline, Nina and Kimmi – and all the support staff, for all of their help with the development and delivery of the In Conversation.  And of course the Year of the Dealer project team, Eleanor, Vanessa, Simon and Gemma, for all their hard work too.

Do keep a look out for future events as part of the ‘Year of the Dealer’ project each of the In Conversation events are free to attend (bookings will open soon for the Temple Newsam and V&A Museum events) – we also have a wine reception for each on the In Conversations (if you needed any further incentive to come along of course!).  We hope to see you at Temple Newsam and at the V&A Museum next year.  Do keep you eye on the events pages on the Year of the Dealer project website.


October 31, 2019

Year of the Dealer – Opening Event 21st November 2019

The first event as part of the year-long AHRC-funded ‘Follow-on’ ‘Impact and Engagement’ project ‘SOLD! The Year of the Dealer: antique dealers, art markets and museums’ takes place at the Lady Lever Art Gallery on THURSDAY 21st November at 6.00pm until 8.00pm.  The event is FREE – and we also have a free wine reception at 6.00pm – everyone is welcome and you can book your place online at either the Lady Lever Art Gallery website or the YoD Website at the University of Leeds.  Here are the links:

YoD In Conversation Lady Lever Art Gallery bookings.

YoD In Converstaion YoD project website bookings.

The YoD project seeks to disseminate the rich seam of research on the history of the antique trade through a series of public engagement events, activities and public museum heritage trails. The collaborating partners are The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, The National Museum, Scotland, Edinburgh, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Temple Newsam, Leeds, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and Preston Park Museum, Stockton. We also have as cultural partners, The Witham Community Arts Centre, Barnard Castle, and The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds; together with one of the world’s leading antique dealers, H. Blairman & Sons, London. The project aims to draw attention to the relationships between the art market and public museums and to share expertise, experience and perspectives among stakeholders.  It aims to increase public engagement with the significance of the history of the antique trade in British cultural life.

Our event at the Lady Lever Art Gallery is an ‘In Conversation’ event, which brings together museum curators, academics and art and antique dealers with expert knowledge of the collections at the Lady Lever Art Gallery to discuss and debate the theme of ‘Collecting, Then & Now’. We have brought together an expert panel, including, Professor Nick Pearce, Glasgow University, Robin Emmerson, former curator at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Sandra Penketh, Director of Galleries, Liverpool, Colin Simpson, Curator, Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Peter Wood, Antique Dealer & Collector, and Dr Mark Westgarth, University of Leeds.

The questions to be addressed in the ‘In Conversation’ are based on the premise that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries William Hesketh Lever, later 1st Lord Leverhulme, assembled vast collections of antique furniture, decorative objects and paintings, some of which formed the Lady Lever Art Gallery 1922, dedicated to his late wife Elizabeth, but how and what did Lever collect in the early twentieth century?….and if assembling his collections today, what would Lever acquire?…..and what was kind of art market did Lever encounter in the early twentieth century and what kind of art market would Lever encounter today?

We hope it will be a lively and interesting discussion – and of course there is plenty of time to ask questions during the final section of the In Conversation.  Do come along, have a glass of wine and listen to what we hope will be a fascinating debate.

The scehudule for the event is:

6.00pm – Welcome, with wine reception

6.30pm – In Conversation

7.20pm – Questions from audience

8.00pm – Close

Hope to see you at the Lady Lever Art Gallery on 21st November; and do look out for future events in the Year of the Dealer project over the coming months.  Keep your eye on the Year of the Dealer project website – Year of the Dealer at





September 11, 2019

Antique Dealer catalogues

Thanks to our friend and colleague, Chris Jussel, formerly of the antique dealers Vernay & Jussel, in the USA, our archive of historic antique dealers catalogues continues to increase.  Chris very generously send us, all the way from America, a small cache of dealer catalogues from his collection. The catalogues are mostly undated, but appear to be mainly from the mid 1980s, and were produced by a number of well-known antique dealers, some of whom are no longer with us.

Amongst the catalogues are examples produced by the firm of Thorpe & Foster in c.1980-1985, who were trading in Dorking in Surrey in the 1980s; Thorpe & Foster were well-known as ‘specialists in antique walnut furniture’ and advertised extensively in the 1980s.  They appear to have incorporated Hampshires of Dorking and the fine art dealership ‘Dorking Fine Arts’ in the late 1980s. Their shop in Dorking was appropriately located in an historic house – in this case a Georgian House, and such business premises had been a favourite setting for antique dealers since the early 1900s.

Thorpe & Foster catalogue, c.1985.

Some of the catalogues, probably dating from the late 1980s, appear to foreground Hampshires of Dorking as the main business, rather than Thorpe & Foster. It’s not known when the business of Thorpe & Foster was established, nor when the business joined with Hampshires of Dorking, but one of the Thorpe & Foster catalogues, evidently from the early 1980s, indicates that Thorpe & Foster were trading at 49 West Street, Dorking, and by the mid 1980s, when they had incorporated Hampshires of Dorking, the business extended from 48 to 52 West Street.

The Hampshires of Dorking catalogues suggest that the antique furniture on sale was displayed in ‘period room’ settings in the 1980s.

Hampshires of Dorking, catalogue 1980s.

Other antique dealer catalogues in the cache sent to us by Chris Jussel include examples produced by the dealer Brian Fielden, again dating from the 1980s and who was trading from New Cavendish Street, London at the time.

Brian Fielden antiques, catalogue 1980s.

And catalogues, also dating from the 1980s, from the well-known English antique furniture dealers Apter-Fredericks, who are still trading in the Fulham Road in London – Fulham Road was known by many in the antique trade as ‘the brown mile’ because the large number of antique furniture dealers that settled in Fulham Road during the 1970s and 1980s.

There are also a small selection of dated catalogues (dating from 1981, 1982 and 1983) produced by the firm of W.R. Harvey & Co (Antiques) Ltd., (then trading from Chalk Farm Road in North London; the firm is also still trading, now in Corn Street, Witney in Oxfordshire); and a 1980s catalogue produced by Edward A. Nowell Antiques, the well-known dealer in Wells in Somerset.

Edward A Nowell Antiques, catalogue, 1980s.

The antique dealer catalogues are a very valuable resource for the antique dealers research project – they illustrate the kinds of antiques that were most fashionable in the period and also indicate the changing marketing techniques and practices of the antique trade – or at least some key sectors of the antiques trade. These 1980s antique dealer catalogues are highly polished publications, produced as part of sophisticated advertising to promote the businesses.

The practice of antique dealers producing catalogues of their stock has a long history. Indeed, some of the earliest antique dealer catalogues were produced in the 1820s – the dealer Horatio Rodd, who was trading in Great Newport Street in London during the 1820s to 1840s, seems to have regularly produced printed and illustrated catalogues of his stock, two of which (dating from 1824 and 1842) survive in the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum (shelfmark G.31.H and shelfmark II.RC.L.32) – they were both also on display at the recent SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story at the Bowes Museum.

And as previous blog posts have demonstrated, many antique dealers, both in London and in the provinces, continued to produce catalogues of their stock throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (see, for example, recent blog posts on W.F Greenwood & Sons). Some of the most well-known examples are the late 19th and early 20th century catalogues produced by the Nottingham antique dealer Samuel Richards.

Catalogue of stock produced by Samuel Richards of Nottingham, 1890s.

Richards’ catalogues were posted to collectors on a regular basis, apparently every month, from the 1880s until the start of World War I. The S. Richards’ catalogues illustrate the very wide range of antiques and curiosities that a leading dealer sold in the period, from a ‘Fine Chippendale Armchair’ and a ‘Queen Anne Dressing Mirror’ to a pair of ‘Rare Silk work Pictures’ and an ‘Early Worcester Cup and Saucer’. Examples of Richards’ catalogues survive at the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum and in the extensive collections of antique dealer archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

The latest cache of antique dealer catalogues that Chris Jussel has so generously donated to the antique dealers’ research project will provide future researchers will valuable information of the ways in which leading antiques dealers of the 1980s marketed their stock of antiques.


August 19, 2019

New Oral History project, ‘LAPADA Voices’, with Melvin & Shiela Haughey

Our ‘Oral History’ interviews project is continuing to add promiment antique dealers to the growing oral history archives as part of the Antique Dealers research project – thanks to LAPADA, The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers, we have started a new strand of the Oral History interviews, called ‘LAPADA Voices’. These new interviews will be with past and present LAPADA members; and we hope to interview some ‘young blood’, as well as our usual theme of well established and senior members of the antiques trade in Britain.

We intend to undertake at least another 5 interviews as part of this initiative – and we’d like to thank Freya Simms, CEO of LAPADA, and the whole team at LAPADA for this very generous funding support for the new LAPADA Voices.

Our first in this new series is with long time LAPADA member Haughey Antiques, of Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria.

Melvin & Shiela Haughey of Haughey Antiques, Kirkby Stephen. Photograph, Antique Dealers Project, University of Leeds 2019.

Melvin & Shiela Haughey established their well-known antique business in 1969. Melvin initially began his career as antique dealer working for his father’s antique shop in the early 1960s, before taking over the business in 1969.  Melvin’s father, Michael J. Haughey, opened his antique and second-hand furniture business in Kirkby Stephen in 1947; the Haughley family had business operations in the town since 1919.

In this hugely engaging and informative interview, Melvin tells us that he initially wanted to be a jockey and racehorse trainer; he started working at the stables of Ryan Price in Sussex, the famous trainer of the Grand National winner Kilmore, which won the ‘National’ in 1962, before working in his father’s antique business.  In the interview, Melvin and Shiela, who married in 1971, reflect on the changing tastes for antique furniture and of Melvin’s regular buying trips to Scotland.  He used to call and buy from many high profile Scottish antique dealers such as Alexander’s in Barclay Street, Glasgow and from Bill Beaton in Perth.

Like many antique dealers in the 1970s, Haughey Antiques initially operated as a wholesaler of antiques, supplying dealers from the South of England. Kirkby Stephen was also on a regular route for many international antique dealers; Dutch dealers, for example, made regular buying trips once a week in the 1970s.  Melvin also recounts the extraordinary tale of how he bought a rare 18th century Irish mahogany sidetable, which he acquired in England and sold to an Irish buyer, only to discover that the pair to the table was already in that private collection back in Ireland.   Mevlin also tells us of his memories of many well-known antique dealers from across the UK.

Melvin and Shiela continue to trade in Kirkby Stephen, and this year (2019) celebrate 50 years in the business.

Our interview with Melvin and Shiela is now part of the rich series of antique dealer interviews at the Antique Dealer Research project archive at the University of Leeds.

Thank you again to LAPADA for all their help and support to the research project.


July 6, 2019

Year of the Dealer – Antiques Trade Gazette

Thank you to Frances Allitt and the team at the Antiques Trade Gazette (ATG) for the news piece on the launch of the SOLD! The Year of the Dealer project. Frances composed a short promotional piece in the ATG this week – See – ATG Year of the Dealer. We have been busy in planning meetings the last few weeks, at the V&A Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Temple Newsam and at the University of Leeds, settling on final dates for some of the planned events and activities – you can follow updates on the Year of the Dealer project website – Click Here.

In the coming weeks we are planning further project meetings with the rest of the project partners. There’s still a lot of work to do, but the Year of the Dealer is beginning to take shape and the final lists of the 20 objects that will form each of the proposed curated ‘dealer trails’ through the galleries at the 7 major museum partners are coming together.  We can give you an exclusive preview of just one of the 20 key objects identified for the ‘Year of the Dealer’ antique dealer trail for Temple Newsam in Leeds –

Library Table, c.1770, by Thomas Chippendale; formerly at Harewood House, near Leeds, now at Temple Newsam, Leeds. Photograph courtesy of Leeds Museums & Galleries

And here it is –  the famous Library Table made by Thomas Chippendale, c.1770 for Harewood House, near Leeds.  The ‘Year of the Dealer’ trail will obviously mention Chippendale in the story about the Library Table but the main focus of the trails will be the stories about the antique dealers that lie behind the acquisition of the objects by the museums.  For the Harewood Library Table the story we will be foregrounding is how it was acquired by Temple Newsam through the antique dealers’ H. Blairman & Sons in July 1965.   The Library Table was purchased by the antique dealer George Levy, Director of H. Blairman & Sons, at Christie’s auction sale of artworks from Lord Harewood’s estate in London on 1st July 1965 (the table was lot 57).  Blairman’s were established in 1884 and George Levy had joined the business in 1949 – here’s the H. Blairman & Sons stand at the famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, London, in June 1950, the year after George Levy joined the business.

H. Blairman & Sons stand at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair 1950. Photograph courtesy of H. Blairman & Sons.

The 1965 auction sale of the Harewood Library Table generated a great deal of interest at the time – one anonymous reporter writing in Tatler 30th June 1965, the day before the auction, wrote, ‘There is little doubt that such an item will cause a lively stir in the saleroom and I shall be surprised if it does not eventually reach five figures.’  Martin Levy (the son of George Levy), and who remains the owner and director of H. Blairman & Sons, recalls that his father persuaded the group of Yorkshire businessmen who had agreed to support the acquisition of the Harewood table for Leeds Museums & Galleries, that he should bid the agreed limit of 40,000 guineas ‘plus one’ at the Christie’s auction – this was to ensure that if Blairman entered the bidding on the ‘wrong foot’ so to speak – i.e. if they entered the bidding at say 20,000 guineas and their maximum bid was 40,000 guineas, they may end up with a bid at 39,000 guineas, with the opposition having the bid of 40,000 guineas…so a bid of ‘plus one’ would potentially secure the object – indeed, George Levy’s suggestion proved prescient, as the final and successful auction bid was 41,000 guineas!

41,000 guineas (a guinea is £1 + 1 shilling) equated to £43,050 in 1965 and was at the time acknowledged as a world record price for a piece of English furniture. This was indeed an enormous sum for a piece of antique furniture; the equivalent value today would be about £2,450,000 (see Measuring  It’s always difficult to work out relative values of course, and the notion of a ‘world record price’ is no less complex – Gerald Reitlinger (The Economics of Taste, volume 3, 1963 and which was obviously published slightly before the auction sale of the Harewood Library Table) cites several ‘world record’ prices for English furniture – (Reitlinger’s data is derived from artworks circulating on the auction market of course…we don’t know about any values from private treaty sales…).  Reitlinger cites 10,000 guineas (£10,605) in at an auction in 1928, paid for a Queen Anne console table with matching mirror and torcheres (what is often called a ‘trio’), and sold from the collections of Earl Howe, as the world record auction price for English furniture in the 1920s; although Reitlinger also notes the sale, in 1921, of one of the famous ‘Raynham Commodes’, (also attributed to Chippendale) which made £3,900 (equating to £1,721,000 today).

According to Reitlinger the ‘world record’ of £10,605 of 1928 stood until 1961 when he recorded that one of the famous ‘Rainham Commodes’  was sold in New York for £25,000 – I’m not so sure about this?…According to the newspaper reports at the time (30th June 1961) the piece that sold for £25,000 in New York was, and I quote, ‘an Adam-Chippendale satinwood and mahogany marquetry serpentine-front commode in the French taste.  A masterpiece of design probably executed by Chippendale himself.’  The ‘Rainham Commode’ is, as many of you will know, a mahogany commode (sans marquetry) – here’s a couple of illustrations of ‘Rainham/Raynham’ model commodes – left is an 18th century mahogany commode, described as ‘possibly supplied to…Raynham Hall, Norfolk’ and which was sold at Christie’s New York in 1998 (for c. $1,500,000).  And on the right is an acknowledged ‘Raynham Hall’ commode – this one is now at the Philadelphia Art Museum in the USA, and was acquired in 1941 having been in the collections of both H.H. Mulliner (1861-1924) and William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951).

18th century commode, sold at Christie’s New York 1998. Photograph copyright Christie’s New York.
18th century commode, from Raynham Hall, Norfolk. Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA. Purchased with the John D. McIllhenny Fund, 1941. Photograph copyright Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The history of the ‘Rainham’ and ‘Raynham’ commodes is also complicated by the fact that the well-known collector of English furniture, H. H. Mulliner, purchased Rainham Hall, which is in Essex, in 1920 as a suitable home for his extraordinary collection of antique English furniture; Mulliner’s collection is said to have included a commode from Raynham Hall, Norfolk  – so maybe there is more unravelling to do on these ‘Raynham’ and ‘Rainham’ commodes?

The Norfolk Raynham Commode was actually made much more famous in the popular television series’ Tales of the Unexpected (1979), in a version of Roald Dahl’s short story ‘Parson’s Pleasure‘ (1959). In the TV version, in which John Gielgud plays the crooked antique dealer ‘Cyril Boggis’, Mr Boggis stumbles across a piece of Chippendale furniture in an old farmhouse – and the model for the piece of Chippendale furniture is the ‘Raynham Commode’ – you can just see the commode, painted white, in this film still from the episode of Tales of the Unexpected.

Still from ‘Parson’s Pleasure’ in Tales of the Unexpected (1979).

Roald Dahl was a very keen collector of antique furniture himself, and specifically mentions the Raynham commode in his short story – as Dahl writes; ‘He knew, as does every other dealer in Europe and America, that among the most celebrated and coveted examples of eighteenth-century English furniture in existence are the three famous pieces known as ‘The Chippendale Commodes’….coming out of Raynham Hall, Norfolk.’ (Parson’s Pleasure, in Kiss, Kiss, p.78).

But anyway, besides this fascinating interweaving of fact and fiction in the history of the Raynham Commodes, what we hope that the Year of the Dealer trails will draw attention to is the complex relationships between cultural value and economic value.  Indeed, if we take the Measuring calculations for these auction sale values of English furniture we can see that the notion of a ‘World Record price’ is a notoriously difficult thing to nail down.  For example, the economic value of the Queen Anne ‘trio’ sold in 1928 of 10,000 guineas (£10,605) was the equivalent of c.£5,000,000; and the ‘Rainham Commode’ sold in 1961 for £25,000 (if indeed it was the ‘Rainham Commode) was the equivalent of just £1,881,000.  So technically the Queen Anne ‘trio’ sold in 1928 still holds the ‘world record’ for a piece of English furniture sold at auction, even surpassing the auction sale of the Harewood Library Table in 1965 (equivalent of £2,450,000).

But then again, there’s more to ‘World Records’ that merely economic calculations; they are complex cultural and social signifiers that both transcend and complexify the blunt instrument of economic value.


June 26, 2019

Year of the Dealer starts!

We are very excited to announce that the ‘Year of the Dealer’ project has officially started – the new project website is being constructed (thanks to Peter Edwards in University of Leeds, Arts, Humanities & Cultures Faculty IT team) – you can see the new website here – Year of the Dealer website 

The ‘Year of the Dealer’ project is a collaboration between the University of Leeds, the University of Southampton, 7 major national and regional museums (The Victoria & Albert Museum, The National Museum, Scotland, The Ashmolean Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Bowes Museum, Temple Newsam, Preston Park Museum and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery), together with a regional community theatre (The Witham, Barnard Castle) and one of the UK’s leading antique dealing businesses (H. Blairman & Sons). The project runs from 1st June 2019 until 31st May 2020 and is an ‘Impact and Engagement’ project funded (£100,000) by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Over the next 12 months  the Year of the Dealer will be organizing a series of events, activities and museum object trails, using the research arising from the AHRC funded (£231,592) research project ‘Antique Dealers: the British Antique Trade in the 20th century’ AH/K0029371/1 (2013-2016).

C. Charles, New Bond Street shop interior, c.1903. Photograph, Connoisseur 1903.

Through these events and activities the project aims to draw attention to the relationships between the art market and public museums and to share expertise, experience and perspectives among stakeholders and to increase public engagement with the significance of the history of the antique trade in British cultural life.

The Year of the Dealer will reveal new and previously marginalised stories of world-renowned and familiar museum objects through the co-production of a series of 7 museum ‘hidden history’ trails; each trail will have a curated selection of up to 20 museum objects foregrounding the history of antique dealers in the biography of the museum object.  So, for example, at The Bowes Museum, we will be drawing renewed attention to some of the museum objects by telling the story about the antique dealers who sold the object to the museum – this rare pair of gilded bronze lamps, made by William Collins in 1823………..

One of a pair of gilded bronze lamps at The Bowes Museum. Photograph, antique dealers project 2018.

…………………..will be reinterpreted through the Year of the Dealer trail in the museum as a pair of lamps sold to the Bowes Museum in 1960 by Stanley J. Pratt, a leading antique dealer then trading in ultra-fashionable Mount Street, London.  How Pratt acquired the lamps and how they ended up at The Bowes Museum will be key elements in the ‘story’ about the objects. Stanley Pratt came from a well-known family of antique dealers dating back into the 19th century; indeed the Pratt family of dealers were established, according to their own publicity, in 1860, and so sold the lamps to The Bowes Museum in their centenary year!

Advertisement by Stanley J. Pratt illustrating the pair of gilded bronze lamps. Connoisseur, June 1960.

Besides the 7 museum trails, the project will also stage 4 art market themed knowledge exchange workshops and 3 public engagement ‘In Conversation’ events, hosted by the partner museums. The workshops will consider the relationships between the art market and public museums, drawing in historical and contemporary perspectives and will also consider the challenges and future opportunities for the relationships between museums and the art market.  The ‘In Conversation’ events invite key art market professionals, museum professionals, academics and commentators to discuss and debate the subject of the art market and public museums – all the events will be free, thanks to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding.

Other activities as part of the Year of the Dealer project include museum front of house staff and volunteer training workshops at each of the 7 partner museums to ensure that the project research and objectives are disseminated and cascaded to the front-line interface with the public.

We will also be re-staging the play ‘Quinney’s (1914) at the Witham Theatre, Barnard Castle, and are organizing an associated workshop, ‘Dealing with Authenticity’ at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.

Poster for Quinney’s production at Birmingham Theatre, 1920.

‘Quinney’s’ is the story of the fictional antique dealer Joseph Quinney. The play and the workshop aim to critically engage the general public with the central role that ‘authenticity’ has played in the art market, and to explore and critique the trope of the antique dealer as a problematic character, often associated with fakes and forgeries and the ‘love of money’. The workshop will be interdisciplinary in scope, drawing on theatre and performance studies and material culture studies as well as the history of antique dealers.

As you can see, there are plans for a very rich series of events, activities and collaborations over the course of the Year of the Dealer project – but we have a great team to help deliver the project – my colleague from University of Southampton, Dr Eleanor Quince, and Vanessa Jones, our project administrator, and my colleagues at the University of Leeds, Professor Jonathan Pitches and Dr George Rodosthenous, and of course all of the curators and staff at the all 10 collaborating partners and a small team of PhD research students to help keep the project on track!……it’s no doubt going to be exhausting, but we hope it will also be a really engaging project…and one that will have real Impact!

We hope to see you at some of the events – we already have some events fixed in the project calendar…so do keep an eye on the project website and the antique dealers research blog.


June 23, 2019

New Antique Dealer Archive Material – Stair & Andrew (Stair & Co)

Thanks to the generosity of Robert Luck, a former Director of the antique dealership of Stair & Company, we have another cache of antique dealer material for the project archive. Robert passed on a selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues (see below) of various dates, from the 1950s to the 1980s; some of the catalogues retain annotations of prices and stock codes – which make fascinating reading in terms of the changing sale values of antique furniture.

A selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues for the Antique Dealers Research Project.

The catalogues are a very useful resource for the project, and illustrate the changing practices, and changing taste, of one of the leading dealers in antique English furniture and works of art.  Stair and Company was established in 1911 as Stair & Andrew, at first in London and then in 1914 in New York; the business was founded by Arthur Stair, who trained as an architect, and Valentine Andrew.  The partners met at the furniture manufacturer Waring & Gillow, before working at the decorating firm, Crawford & Co in New York and then setting up business together in 1911.

The business became Stair & Co after the Second World War, and from 1952 was owned by Jules C. Stein, (of MCA, Music Corporation of America).  In 1968 the business acquired the antique dealership, R.L. Harrington (formerly Christy’s of Kent), then also, like Stair & Co., trading in Mount Street, London; this allowed Stair to operate from 2 interrelated shops (120 & 125 Mount Street) in one of the most important locations in London for antiques at the time.

Stair & Co., 125 Mount Street, London, 1970. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

Stair & Co 120 Mount Street, London 1970 – formerly the shop of R.L. Harrington. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

In 1980 the business was again bought by an American businessman, this time by David Murdoch, the Los Angeles based financier and owner of Pacific Holdings Corporation – both Stein and Murdoch were serious collectors of antique English furniture.

The Stair & Co catalogues are fascinating, as I say, but more importantly Robert also passed some rare survivals from the business archive of Stair & Co., including a copy of the first business account books from the Stair & Andrew Limited business.

Stair & Andrew Limited, Signed Accounts book c.1912-1937. Stair & Co archive.

The account book shows the balance sheet and profits of the Stair & Andrew business from April 1912 (when the business made sales of £8445 and 6 shillings and 3 pence), until June 1937 (when the business made sales of £25,071 and 5 shillings and 1 pence). The accounts are an amazing survival and give a unique insight into the working practices and profit and loss accounts of one of the world’s most important antique dealers of the 20th century.

But perhaps more significantly Robert also passed a large collection of the client cards from Stair & Co – these are truly fascinating and an amazing resource for the antique dealers research project.  The cards appear to date from the 1950s up to the 1980s, and record the changing addresses and the changing family members involved in the business, as well as recording changing members of staff, and details of when people left particular firms, or had died.  This information is particularly useful for the data in the antique dealers research project interact map website.

Stair & Co., client card – Stair & Co., archive.

Here’s just one of the client cards – this one recording the information on fellow antique dealers Norman Adams Ltd, then trading in Hans Road; the verso of the cards also record the purchases made from Stair & Co by the particular client – here’s the verso of the Norman Adams Limited card, listing purchases from 1964 to 1968 – it’s a great pity that the actual stock books of Stair & Co no longer survive – Robert Luck believes that they were destroyed when the business closed in 2004.

Stair & Co., client card for H.C. Baxter & Sons, verso recording purchases. Stair & Co archive.

The client cards may need sensitive handling in the archive, given the nature of the personal information that they contain, and will probably be need to be partially embargoed for a number of years.  But even so, the Stair & Co archive material that Robert Luck has so kindly donated to the Antique Dealers Research project archives is an amazingly generous gesture and will be a major resource for future researchers.


May 25, 2019

W. F. Greenwood & Sons, York

Recent additions to the growing corpus of antique dealer ephemera for the research project includes this rare pamphlet published by the antique dealers W.F. Greenwood & Sons, titled, ‘The Tudor House, Stonegate, York, a brief description of an interesting remain of domestic life and architecture dating back to the middle ages’.

The Tudor House, published by W.F. Greenwood & Sons, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The pamphlet is undated, but probably dates from c.1905-1910 (one of the illustrations included in the pamphlet is dated 1904).  It seems to have been produced to highlight the recent acquisition by W.F. Greenwood of their new premises, ‘The Tudor House’ in Stonegate, York, and was part of publicity for their antiques business of course.  Greenwood were one of the oldest established ‘antique dealers’ in Britain – according to their own publicity of the early 1900s, the business was established in York in 1829; they began as furniture manufacturers rather than as antique dealers, but certainly by the 1850s there are records of the firm was selling antique furniture – it was very common for furniture makers to transition their business practices from making furniture to retailing antique furniture during the course of the 19th century.  Walter Francis Greenwood began the business in York, which by the 1880s had branches in Scarborough of the East Coast of Yorkshire; they also opened a branches in Harrogate, Yorkshire by 1910 and even had a branch in Clifford Street, London and at New Bond Street, London for a short time in the early 20th century.

The pamphlet recounts the history of ‘The Tudor House’, with a history of the house and a description of the interiors, which were at the time stocked with antiques by Greenwood. The images here show (right) ‘The Tudor House’ as it was in c.1813 and (left) a recent photograph of the same shop at 33 Stonegate (as it is now numbered) of 2018.

The early 19th century engraving of the ‘Tudor House’ is from The Antiquities of York (1813) by the antiquary H. Cave. The decorative pargetting (moulded plasterwork) on the front of the building was removed in the late 19th century, and the windows and the shop front itself have obviously been remodelled, but the building structure remains mostly the same as it was when it was constructed in the 17th century – according to Historic England the building is believed to date from early 17th century, despite a spurious date of ‘1489’ carved on the second-floor bressumer (the beam that traverses the front of the building) – the spurious date was obviously one of the reasons for the house being called ‘The Tudor House’ at some stage in its life.



Greenwood’s other shop in York at the time was at 24 Stonegate, and which became a very well-known antique shop in the city. Here’s a photograph of their Stonegate shop in c.1905. Indeed, the shop itself still exists in Stonegate – although it’s now occupied by the women’s fashion store ‘Jigsaw’ – and the shop still has a photograph of Queen Mary visiting Greenwood’s antique shop in the 1930s in a small glazed frame fixed to the shopfront.

W.F. Greenwood & Sons, 23 Stonegate, York, c.1910. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research project, University of Leeds.

Greenwood’s shop at 24 Stonegate was regularly visited by Queen Mary (1867-1953) during the 1920s and 1930s.  Amusingly, on one occasion in September 1927, Queen Mary and The Princess Mary (who had married the Earl of Harewood in 1922 and was living at nearby Harewood House, near Leeds) visited Greenwood & Sons on a Wednesday afternoon, not realising that Wednesday was half-day closing for the shop.  The Evening Telegraph reported that ‘they found the door closed against them and were unable to gain admission’; ‘in response to their knocks, an assistant, Miss Hogarty, appeared and admitted the party.’ The report continued….’Miss Hogarty was considerably surprised, but the Queen soon put her at her ease by apologising for having disturbed her half-holiday.’  In the meantime the assistants sent for Mr Greenwood, who was at his house, ‘mowing his tennis lawn.’  Queen Mary, it was stated, ‘bought two Spode tea services, some Rockingham china, and some old silver’.  Queen Mary was allegedly notorious for encouraging gifts from antique dealers – or rather there are many stories suggesting that the Queen would often say, ‘Oh what a lovely thing’ when looking around antique shops…..and obviously the objects were often packed off to the Palace without charge.  I’m not sure how true these many stories are, but the newspaper reports on this occasion clearly state that the Queen ‘bought’ the objects from Greenwood & Sons.

Anyway, what is fascinating about the ‘Tudor House’ pamphlet is how it demonstrates the close alignment of the practices of antique dealing and the evolving notions of heritage, and heritage interpretation, in the period around 1900.  For further examples of this phenomenon see previous posts on the Antique Dealer Research Blog (February 2017) on the antique dealers’ Phillips of Hitchin and the construction of Baliffscourt, Sussex in the 1920s, and the post (February 2017) on the antique dealers’ Walter Thornton-Smith and their work on Schoppenhangers Manor near Maidenhead, in the 1910s.

The W.F. Greenwood pamphlet is obviously a promotion for the business, but interestingly it presents itself as a philanthropic project; as the text in the pamphlet states, ‘Instead of using the house as showrooms and storerooms for some of their valuable stock of antiques, it’s present owners, W.F. Greenwood & Sons Ltd., have restored it with all the exactitude and care which their experience as dealers in antiques have enabled them to give.’ – ‘the object of Messrs. Greenwood is to use their shops and showrooms, No.23a and 24, Stonegate, for selling, and here to give their customers and visitors an idea of the beauty of the old houses and furniture’, but of course, as the writer continued, ‘Visitors can purchase the articles on view’.

The pamphlet includes some fascinating photographs of the interiors of ‘The Tudor House’.  The displays were arranged as a series of ‘Period Rooms’, which was becoming a discrete marketing and display technique amongst antique furniture dealers during the 1910s and 1920s, and such historical recreations were also becoming more popular in the displays in public museums at the same time.  The ‘Tudor House’, for example, had an ‘Elizabethan Panelled Living Room’ (shown below), furnished with antiques from the period.

The Elizabethan Panelled Living Room, in The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

And a ‘Jacobean Bedroom’, with a rare bedstead of the period:

The Jacobean Bedroom, The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antiques Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

As well as a ‘Georgian Panelled Dining Room’, again with appropriate antique furniture and other objects:

Georgian Panelled Dining Room, The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The foregrounding of heritage interpretation, heritage education and heritage tourism are all evident throughout the text in the pamphlet, but its commercial imperatives were also implicitly, and explicitly, present – the pamphlet contains 4 advertisements of W.F. Greenwood & Sons in the final pages and it was, of course, published by Greenwood & Sons.  The educational/marketing technique of displaying antiques in ‘period room’ settings would also enable those interested in buying antiques to see how they could display them in appropriate settings in their own homes, and such ‘interior design’ practices for domestic interiors were becoming ever more popular in the opening decades of the 20th century.


May 6, 2019

The Generosity of Dealers!

The Antique Dealers Research Project has over the years had amazing support from many members of the antiques trade, both in Britain and from the USA.  We’ve had, of course, some very significant donations of antique dealer archives to the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds.  And donations of a wide range of antique dealer ephemera, including an array of historical antique dealer catalogues, some exceptionally rare.  More recently Robin Kern, of Hotspur Limited, the well-known dealers in 18th century English Furniture, has given us a very large number of copies of the book published in 2004 to acknowledge and celebrate 80 years in the history of Hotspur – Hotspur, Eighty Years of Antiques Dealing, which was compiled by Sir Nicholas Goodison and Robin Kern.  It is a sumptuous volume, in it’s own slipcase, and was published in a limited edition of 2,000 copies – it is still available in many specialist bookshops.

Hotspur, Eighty Years of Antiques Dealing (2004).


Copies of Hotspur, Eighty Years of Antiques Dealing (2004), donated by Robin Kern 2019.


Hotspur were established in 1924 by Frederick Kern at Buckingham Palace Road in London, before relocating to Frith Street, Soho Square in London, and then Streatham Lodge, Richmond in Surrey, before finally settling in Lowndes Street in the 1950s.  They became one of the leading specialist dealers in English 18th century furniture, supplying influential collectors and museums all over the world.

Hotspur, Frith Street gallery, 1936. Photograph, Connoisseur, 1936.

Robin’s generous donation of the copies of the Hotspur book will be put to good use – we plan, for example, to give copies of the book as a ‘prize’ for the best student essays on the new 3rd year undergraduate module at the university, titled ‘Antique Dealers: the market for decorative art from curiosities to retro’ – I think I’m right in saying that this is the only academic module devoted to the history of antique dealing anywhere in a university context?

We have already started to distribute copies of the book as thank you gifts to those that have helped support the Antique Dealers Research Project and the SOLD! exhibition at The Bowes Museum and have also donated copies to The Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds and to the research libraries at The Bowes Museum and The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool.  As the Antique Dealers Research Project continues to develop such volumes will become even more essential for students and researchers.

The book is a fitting tribute to the students, volunteers and supporters of the Antique Dealers Research Project and we are so grateful to Robin for so generously donating the copies of the Hotspur book to the project.


April 23, 2019

Jerome Phillips and Mark Westgarth ‘In Conversation’ at Bowes Museum

This coming Saturday, 27th April, we are running an ‘In Conversation’ event at The Bowes Museum as part of the activities around the SOLD! exhibition – the exhibition closes on 5th May, so still time to see it.

The ‘In Conversation’ is a FREE event, it starts at 2.15pm and will last about an hour or so – you need to book a place though, which you can do at by clicking this link 

Phillips of Hitchin shop, Hitchin, c.1905. Digital copy of glass-plate negative courtesy of the V&A Museum.


Phillips of Hitchin were established in 1884 and remained as a family business until Jerome Phillips, the grandson of Frederick W. Phillips the founder of the business, retired in 2016. I’ll be ‘In Conversation’ with Jerome at the event at The Bowes Museum this Saturday, talking about Jerome’s life as one of the countries leading antique dealers, and about the history of his business, Phillips of Hitchin.

Hope to see you on Saturday at The Bowes Museum!








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