Posts tagged ‘Oral History’

December 15, 2016

Another ‘BADA Voices’ oral history interview

We’ve been busy this last month with our Oral History interviews with members of the antique trade – and the latest in our continuing series of ‘BADA Voices’ was with one of the leading members of the Antique English Furniture trade, Robin Kern, of Hotspur Limited.  We would like to thank Robin, and Chris Coles, our Lead Volunteer for the Antique Dealers Research project, for undertaking the interview. Print

And continued thanks to BADA for their support!

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Robin and Brian Kern, of Hotspur Limited, standing next to the famous black lacquer secretaire, made by Thomas Chippendale for Harewood House in the 1770s (now at Temple Newsam House, Leeds). Photograph courtesy of Robin Kern, 1999.

The business of Hotspur began in 1924 in Buckingham Palace Road, London, established by Frederick Kern, before moving to Frith Street in Soho, London just before the Second World War, then Streatham Lodge, Twickenham during the War, and finally to Lowndes Street, London from 1951.  The business was continued by Robin Kern’s father, Rob Kern, before Robin and his brother Brian joined the firm in 1957 and 1963 respectively.

Our interview with Robin adds critical mass to the wide range of complementary oral history interviews we have already completed – including those with Jerome Phillips, of Phillips of Hitchin, who was, as Robin tells us in his own interview, a key travelling companion during their formative years in the antique trade in the 1950s and 1960s.

We have move oral history interviews planned for 2017, so do keep an eye on developments.

Mark

 

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November 23, 2016

New ‘BADA Voices’ Oral History Interview – Georgina Gough, of R.A. Lee

Our latest in the series of ‘BADA Voices’ Print Oral History interviews took place last month, and in the chair was Georgina Gough, daughter of the world-famous antique dealer Ronald A. Lee (d.2000).

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Georgina Gough. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough, 2016.

In this fascinating interview, Georgina tells us about the history of the family business, which started in the 1920s with her grandfather, Henry Morton Lee, a former hairdresser to King Edward VII, who opened an antique shop in Kingston-on-Thames.  By 1931 the business expanded and was renamed as H.M. Lee & Sons – and one gets a sense of the high quality antique furniture sold by H.M. Lee in this photograph of the stand of H.M. Lee at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in the 1930s. Fine quality late 17th and early 18th century English furniture was at the height of taste during the second quarter of the 20th century.

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Stand of H.M. Lee & Sons at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair during the 1930s. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough.

Georgina’s uncle, Morton Henry Lee (‘Uncle Mo’, as Georgina tells us in the interview) joined his brother, Henry, during the early 1930s, and by the late 1930s Ronald Lee, Henry’s son, had joined the family business. ‘Uncle Mo’ eventually opened a separate antique shop in Chichester, specializing in French furniture – something that H.M. Lee was less interested in. And by 1949 Ronald A. Lee had established his own antique business at 1 The Terrace, Richmond Hill, Twickenham (where Georgina was born) – here again, is a photograph illustrating the high quality stock that was synonymous with the Lee family of antique dealers.

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The stand of R.A. Lee at The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair – c.1950. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough.

As many of you will know, Ronald Lee was a leading expert on English clocks, and indeed was the author of what still remains a key reference work on Knibb clocks – The Knibb Family of Clockmakers (1964). During the interview Georgina provides some fascinating insights into the antique trade during the period after WWII, as well as her personal memories of her father and other well known dealers at the time such as Roger Bluett, Ronnie Lock and Bob Williams.  Georgina also reminds us that as well as working with her father, she also worked for a number of other leading antique dealers a various points during her career in the antique trade, including the silver specialist Brand Inglis, and at one of the other leading English furniture specialists, Stair & Company – a firm that, like the Lee family of dealers, had roots back into the early decades of the 20th century.

As with all our Oral History interviews, we hope to make our interview with Georgina available on the project websites as soon as we are able.

Mark

 

September 25, 2016

BADA Voices Interviews

Our project to capture the reflections and memories of antique dealers and people involved in the British Antique trade is one of the central research themes in the Antique Dealer project.  And thanks to the British Antique Dealers’ Association, who have very kindly given the project financial support, we are able to continue the oral history interviews – do check out the Oral History pages in the project website for more information of the support from the BADA and the new interviews that we have undertaken as part of the ‘BADA Voices’ initiative, see – Antique Dealer Project Oral History

PrintOf the two most recent interviews we have completed, one focused on the history of the BADA itself, in our interview with Mark Dodgson, Secretary General of the BADA.  The other interview, with the former antique dealer, agent, Forensic Appraiser and Expert Witness, Nicholas Somers, allowed us to capture some of Nicholas’ memories of the history of that most famous of antique furniture dealers, M. Harris & Sons, amongst many other things.

 

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Mark Dodgson, Sec Gen of the BADA. Photo courtesy of the BADA.

Mark Dodgson started at the BADA in 1989, as an assistant to the then Secretary General, Elaine Dean, before succeeding Elaine as Secretary General in 2008.

In this engaging interview Mark tells us about the history of the BADA – which was founded in 1918, and has the exciting prospect of their centenary celebrations coming up in 2018. Mark outlined the wide range of activities and projects that the BADA have been involved with over the years – as many of you will know, the BADA was initially founded by members of the antique trade in 1918 to lobby Government as a response to the proposed introduction of the so-called ‘luxury tax’, and the organisation has continued that tradition.  The BADA has been a central player in many of the most high-profile issues affecting the antique trade, from the introduction of Valued Added Tax and ‘margin scheme’ in the 1970s, the (still contentious) issue of the introduction of auction sales buyers premium in the 1970s, to the lively debates surrounding the restrictions on the sales of elephant ivory – currently animating (excuse the pun!) the art world at present.

Mark also talked about his role as Secretary of the Art Trade Liaisons Committee (The British Art Market Federation), and the history of the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair (founded in 1934 as an initiative by some key BADA members), as well as the more recent BADA Fair (established in 1991) and the BADA relationship with, and support for, the conservation courses at West Dean College. With the centenary of the BADA coming up in 2018, I’m sure the interview will be a valuable resource in those celebrations.

Our other interview in the BADA Voices series was with the retired antique dealer, agent, auctioneer, and Expert Witness, Nicholas Somers.

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Nicholas Somers, at his home in London. Photo Antique Dealer project, University of Leeds, 2016.

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Richard Grose, 8 Exhibition Road, London, c.1950.

Nicholas, currently the Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners (he has also been collecting treen for decades!) and has over 50 years experience of the antique trade.  Nicholas started his career in the world of antiques with the dealer Paul Smith (a BADA member) in 1965, before moving to work for Richard Grose at Exhibition Road in London.

In 1967 Nicholas left Richard Grose and became one of the sales team at the world-famous antique furniture dealers M. Harris & Sons, staying with Harris until 1971, when he set up his own antiques business in Worcester  – ‘Somers at the Sign of the Chair’.

Nicolas had some fascinating memories of working at Moss Harris – with some wonderfully evocative descriptions of the showrooms – the business was already contracting somewhat when Nicholas joined Robert Harris in 1967, and, as Nicholas tells us, the showrooms had been reduced by half, but it still had 80 rooms packed with museum-quality English furniture and objects when he joined the firm. Here is the gallery of Moss Harris, in New Oxford Street, London, in the early 1920s, soon after Moss Harris had taken over the firm of D.L. Isaacs, who established the business in 1868.

M Harris 40 54 New Oxford Street Feb 1921 Conn

M. Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street, London, c.1924.

Nicholas has an exceptionally wide ranging experience of the antique and art world, having been part of the management buy-out at the auctioneers Bearnes in Torquay, from the then parent company Sotheby’s, in 1981, and as a ‘forensic appraiser’  and Expert Witness in legal disputes in the art world.

Both interviews make rich contributions to the growing archive of antique trade interviews that we are assembling as part of the Antique dealer project.

Mark

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

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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

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.

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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.

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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…)

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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

 

 

May 15, 2016

New Oral History Interview – Jonathan Harris, of Phillips & Harris

The latest in our series of Oral History Interviews with members of the Antique Trade was recorded last week. Our interviewee was the well-known antique dealer Jonathan Harris, formerly of Phillips & Harris, of Kensington Church Street, London. In an absolutely fascinating interview, full of personal reflections on his life as an antique dealer, Jonathan told us about how he started in the trade in the mid 1960s, following a brief spell at the auctioneers Christie’s, before he entered into partnership with Henry Phillips in Kensington, London in 1967.

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Jonathan Harris, at his London home. May 2016.

Jonathan’s eclectic interest in antique objects shaped the acquisitions for the business of Phillips & Harris – the shop in Kensington Church Street was always full of an amazing mixture of spectacular objects, from 16th century sculpture, to early 20th century furniture.  An example of Jonathan’s taste for the historically significant, and the visually stunning, is the centre table designed by the architect William Burges in c.1867, for Burges’ own home in Buckingham Street, London.

Jonathan sold the table to Lotherton Hall, part of Leeds Museums & Galleries, in 1971 (a similar table in is the collections at Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum).

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Table, designed by William Burges, c.1867. Sold by Phillips & Harris to Leeds Museums & Galleries in 1971.

During the interview with Jonathan we had the pleasure of taking a brief tour of some of the objects that he had collected over the years; it was fascinating to hear what had interested Jonathan about the objects and why he had acquired them – Jonathan belongs to that great tradition of antiquarian collecting, where the discrete history of the objects is a rich catalyst for the deeper traditions of story-telling, and served to remind me of the importance of the ‘oral history’ research as a key part of the broader Antique Dealer project research activities.

As with all of our Oral Histories, our interview with Jonathan will soon be made available via the Antique Dealer project websites.

Mark

 

May 2, 2016

3 New Oral History Interviews – plus ONE goes LIVE!

Following the very positive comments from the conference delegates about our oral history interviews, we have now had time to update the Oral History Interview pages on the Antique Dealer project website – see Antique Dealers Website

Our updates include three recent interviews -first, we interviewed Andrew Jenkins, of Avon Antiques, Bradford-on-Avon.  Andrew came up to Leeds to see us, and we unusually conducted the interview in our offices at the University of Leeds.  Avon Antiques was established by Andrew in 1963; in a fascinating interview Andrew gave us his reflections on his considerable experience of over 50 years in the antique trade.

Andrew and Vibeke Jenkins, Avon Antiques.

Andrew and Vibeke Jenkins, Avon Antiques.

Our next interviewee was Tim Corfield, formerly of Corfield of Lymington, Hampshire, which was established by Tim’s father in 1966.  Tim told us about his life in the antique trade and of his work as an art and antiques agent through his new business of Corfield Morris Limited.

Tim Corfield, of CorfieldMorris. Photograph courtesy of Tim Corfield.

Tim Corfield, of Corfield Morris Ltd. Photograph courtesy of Tim Corfield.

And our third interviewee as part of our recent activities was with Dominic Jellinek.  Dominic, as some of your will know, worked at the world-renowned Chinese Works of Art dealers Bluett & Sons, London.  Dominic started with Bluett & Son in 1978, and stayed with them until they business eventually closed in the mid 1990s.

Dominic Jellinek, of Bluett & Sons, pictured with the Bluett archive.

Dominic Jellinek, of Bluett & Sons, pictured with the Bluett archive.

Dominic gave us a thoroughly detailed account of the history of Bluett, based on his extensive knowledge of the Bluett archive, as well as his many memories of the antique trade in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

As usual, all of these interviews will be available to hear, once we have edited them and formatted them, so do keep your eye on the project websites.

ONE piece of GREAT NEWS, is that we have (thanks to the brilliant work of Matt Robson and Peter Edwards at the University) edited and formatted our interview with Jerome Phillips, of the famous dealership Phillips of Hitchin……the first of MANY!….do take a look at the ORAL HISTORY pages on the project website and have a listen…!

Mark

March 6, 2016

New Oral History Interview – Stockspring Antiques

Our latest Oral History Interview was with Felicity Marno and Antonia Agnew from Stockspring Antiques, in Kensington Church Street, London. Stockspring Antiques will be very familiar to ceramics collectors and dealers and have been in Kensington Church Street since 1987.

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Stockspring Antiques, London. Image copyright BADA.org.

In an absolutely fascinating and engaging interview, Felicity and Antonia told us about how they started in the antique trade in the early 1980s; they both began with stalls/stands at well-known antique trade locations – Felicity at Grays Antique Centre, London, and Antonia began her dealing from a stall at Portobello Road market, before going into partnership in 1987 as Stockspring Antiques.  As antique ceramics dealers they have 36 years of trading experience and our interview captured much of this rich history.

Here’s Felicity (on the left) with Antonia (right) in their shop in Kensington.

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Felicity Marno and Antonia Agnew, Stockspring Antiques. Image courtesy of Stockspring Antiques. Copyright Stockspring Antiques 2015.

During the interview Felicity & Antonia told us about the serendipitous nature of the naming of the business as ‘Stockspring’ – a legacy of the name of the previous business at their address in Kensington Church Street – and, as Felicity mischievously suggested, also a result of her frugal Scottish ancestry – and so ‘Stockspring’ was born.

Amongst some of their other fascinating reflections of the changing landscape of the antique trade in more recent times was the rapid change in the American Decorator market around the year 2000. This market, as many of you will know, expanded enormously during the late 1970s and into the 1980s – Felicity told us a story of a group of American dealers from Atlanta, Georgia, chartering a Jumbo jet to come to Britian in the 1980s, and filling it with stock! – but by the late 1990s the American decorator market had shifted to the more minimalist and ‘contemporary’ look that still has effects on the ‘traditional’ antique market to this day.

We also heard about the development of Kensington Church Street as a key location for the antique ceramic trade – so much so that, as Antonia told us, the street became known as ‘Crock Alley’.  Indeed, many of the famous names in the antique ceramic trade were located in the Street; Graham & Oxley, Hoff Antiques, Jean Sewell, Klaber & Klaber, Jonathan Horne…..

As with all our Oral History Interviews, once we have got around to editing the interview with Felicity & Antonia it will be uploaded to the project websites for everyone to enjoy.

Mark

 

 

January 25, 2016

New Oral History Interview – Andrew Jenkins

January has been a little bit quiet on the blogging front – I’ve been away on holiday to the USA, but back on the case now. Before I went away we continued with the oral history interviews – and our latest subject was Andrew Jenkins, of Avon Antiques.

Andrew established Avon Antiques in 1963, and remained in the same premises at Market Street, Bradford-on-Avon until his recent (semi-) retirement – I don’t think antique dealers actually retire! Here is Andrew, with his wife Vibeke, in a recent photograph.

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Andrew & Vibeke Jenkins, of Avon Antiques. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Jenkins, 2015.

In this fascinating interview Andrew told us about his beginnings in the antique trade, working for the well-known antique dealer David Tron, in King’s Road, London, before setting up his business, with the help of a small loan from his father, in Bradford-on-Avon in 1963.  Andrew also told us about the changes in fashion for antiques in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, as well the development of his business, and his dealings in the mid 1960s with the San Francisco antique dealer Chuck Williams  – who soon after turned his business skills to establish the American multi-store home and interior decoration stores, Williams-Sonoma.  The interview also includes Andrew’s reflections on his activities at various antique fairs – Andrew, for example, played a major role in the establishment of the West of England Antiques Fair in 1976.

As with all of our other oral history interviews, our interview with Andrew will be made available via the project websites in the very near future.

Mark

December 12, 2015

New Oral History Interview – Simon Spero

Our lead volunteer, Chris Coles, interviewed the antique ceramics specialist dealer Simon Spero in London the other week – thank you both to Simon and to Chris for taking the time to do the interview!

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Simon Spero’s shop, London, c.2010. Image, wikicommons.

Here’s Simon’s shop in London (above) – the interview gives us a fascinating insight into the world of the specialist dealer.  During the interview Simon told us that he’s always been a collector, from his earliest age, and his dealing activities are clearly networked into personal conversations with collectors – he eschews the internet, for example.  Many of you will also know Simon as an author, and his published books on 18th century English ceramic factories are regarded as key reference works for collectors.

The interview includes Simon’s reflections on his first shop (in Kentish Town, London) and his recollections on influential dealers in ceramics such as Reg Andrade in Plymouth, and Robert Williams from Winifred Williams (London), as well as some of the major ceramics collectors he has sold to over the years.  It’s an amazingly detailed account of the world of the ceramic specialist dealer-scholar-collector and will be of considerable interest to those interested in the history of the antiques trade.

And, like all of the other interviews we are undertaking as part of the Antique Dealers research project, a version of the interview will be available via the project websites in the coming months.

Mark

 

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