Posts tagged ‘Phillips of Hitchin’

June 25, 2018

Antique Dealers from the 1920s – Ropley of London

Archive material relating the the history of antique dealing in Britain continues to come to the University of Leeds – this time whilst it may be only a very small amount of photographic material, (some 40 black and white photographs relating to the London based antique dealer ‘Ropley’), it is nonetheless a fascinating set of photographs that provide further insights into the cultural history of the antique trade; they also complement the extensive photographic archive material in the Phillips of Hitchin, M. Turpin and Roger Warner archives already at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at University of Leeds.

At present we don’t know that much about the dealer ‘Ropley’ but in the 1920s they were trading at 35 Duke Street, Manchester Square, and at 19 Mount Street, London (see www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk). Here’s an old advertisement by Ropley, undated, but probably from c.1920?

Ropley, advertisement, c.1920.

‘Antique incised lacquer cabinet’, Ropley Antique Dealers, c.1920.

Just like Phillips of Hitchin, and many other antique dealers during the opening decades of the twentieth century, Ropley sold a wide range of antiques and also supplied fabrics – Phillips of Hitchin, for example, as earlier posts on the antique dealers blog have indicated, produced and supplied reproductions of historic textiles (see blog posts for July and August 2017). The set of Ropley photographs date from the period c.1910-1920, and were taken by the firm of Sydney Newbery, of Brixton; many of the photographs have pencil annotations on the back, with several marked ‘Ropley’ in pen in the top left and right-hand corners.

This photograph of a Chinese lacquer cabinet on stand is annotated on the back ‘Antique incised lacquer cabinet on gilt stand; height with stand 4ft 1in, width 2ft 1in’, and is inscribed ‘Ropley’ in the top left-hand corner of the back of the photograph.

And the pair of eighteenth-century hall chairs, shown in the next photograph, are described on the back of the photograph as ‘Pair of antique Queen Anne mahogany hall chairs with decorated coat of arms in the backs. Over 100 years old. 3ft 1in x 1ft 2in.’ They were available for the price of 13 guineas at the time (one guinea was equal to 1 pound plus 1 shilling; 1 pound contained 20 shillings).

‘Pair of Antique Hall Chairs’, Ropley Antique Dealers, c.1920.

We now know of course that the hall chairs do not date from the period of ‘Queen Anne’ (i.e. the opening decades of the eighteenth century), but perhaps we can excuse Ropley in their error.  Other photographs in the small amount of Ropley material illustrate the range of ‘antiques’ that a dealer such as Ropley sold in the period; including (left), ‘a pair of pole screens with wood panels on dull green ground..£19 the pair.’ together with an ‘Antique Mahogany Workbox on stand…£21 10 Shillings.’  And (right) a selection of eighteenth-century torcheres (there are no annotations are on the back of the photograph of the torcheres, other than what appear to be stock numbers of the objects – it would be fantastic if the Ropley stock books still existed).

‘Pole Screens and Workbox’, Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

Torcheres, Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Chippendale’ furniture was one of the most desirable antique furniture during the 1920s (as it is today of course), and the photographs from Ropley also include examples of the ‘Chinese Chippendale’ furniture, which was extremely popular at the time.

‘Chippendale fret table’, Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

‘Antique Mahogany Chippendale side table..’ Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

The ‘Chippendale fret table’ is annotated on the back of the photograph, ‘A Fine Old Chippendale fret table, 3ft 7 and a half inches long, 19 and a half inches wide, 24 inches high’ and was priced at £50.10 shillings – quite a price at the time.

Verso of the ‘Chippendale fret table’ photograph. Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

Other annotations on the back of the photographs indicate that they were to be used in advertisements by Ropley – the pencil inscriptions suggest the size of the image in the advert (3 and 3 eighths inches wide) and have instructions to the publisher to edit the image ‘Background Away’.

Finally, a few of the photographs also indicate if the objects had been sold; with annotations in red ink on the front of the photographs, and similar annotations on the back of the photographs – the chair (below) had been sold to ‘E.J. Stirling Esq.’

Stock of Antique Furniture from Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

 

And the tables in the photograph below, had been sold to ‘Miss Wood, Ontario, Canada’ – an indication of the significance of the transatlantic antiques trade in the period.

Antique tables, from Ropley Antiques, c.1920.

 

This small archive of dealer photographs offer further fascinating insights into trade practices in the 1920s and will be a very useful resource in the continued study of the history of the antique trade in Britain.

Mark

 

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June 14, 2018

Antique Dealer Exhibitions & new material in the Phillips of Hitchin archives

As followers of the Antique Dealer blog will be aware, one aspect of the continued development of the Antique Dealer research project has been an investigation into the emergence and role of themed exhibitions staged by antique dealers over the course of the 20th century.  Indeed, as a platform for dissemination of information on antiques and as a mechanism for the marketing of antiques, these exhibitions very usefully draw attention to the deep synergies between structures of knowledge and the art market.  Dealers have regularly organised selling exhibitions of course – the famous ‘Summer Exhibitions’ held by the leading New Bond Street dealership Frank Partridge & Sons from the 1950s to the 1980s, were opportunities to showcase new stock and for the swish private preview parties for the exhibitions, which were significant events in the social calendar.  Such exhibitions were attended by the most influential collectors, museum curators, interior decorators and antique dealers.   But what is of particular interest to the research project are the more scholarly, thematic exhibitions that antique dealers have staged over the years. These exhibitions, which remain a regular part of the current practices of antique dealing at the top of the antique trade, demonstrate the discrete, focused and scholarly contributions that many antique dealers have made to the knowledge of antiques – such exhibitions have often been accompanied by museum-type catalogues composed by antique dealers who are acknowledged as leading specialists in their field.

We are very fortunate that in the recent additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archive (again very generously sent up to us in Leeds by Jerome Phillips, who found the extra material whilst tidying up some stores – thank you again Jerome!) we now have a range of material that illustrates the detailed planning and execution of a range of ground-breaking exhibitions held by Phillips of Hitchin during the 1970s and 1980s.  Jerome organised these immensely influential selling exhibitions on specific furniture types – a model, unsurprisingly, that was also being adopted in public museums such as Temple Newsam in Leeds at the time (see, for example the exhibitions on ‘School Furniture’ organised by the furniture history scholar Christopher Gilbert at Temple Newsam in 1978 and a similar exhibition at Temple Newsam on ‘Common Furniture’ in 1982).

The Phillips of Hitchin exhibitions in June 1981 and June 1984 (certainly staged to coincide with the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair held each June in London) are key examples of these types of antique dealer exhibitions.  In 1981 the exhibition on ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ was a scholarly project, with antique furniture placed in rooms to mirror the social use of the objects at the time they were made – rather like a ‘period room’ setting that was also so popular in museums at the time.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ June 1981. Photograph Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Here’s another room at The Manor House, Phillips of Hitchin’s shop, with the assembly of some furniture suggestive of a more rustic dining space. The exhibition had a fully illustrated catalogue – Jerome remains a leading scholar on antique furniture and wrote many essays on the subject that appeared in publications such as Antique Collector; it’s also worth mentioning that in 1978 Jerome composed the new Introduction to the reprint of R.W. Symonds Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks (first published in 1940).

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ June 1981. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Phillips of Hitchin’s exhibitions on dining furniture might be considered as relatively conventional, and of course they were more than just museum-type scholarly projects and also offered the opportunity for potential buyers to imagine new schemes for their dining rooms.   Jerome’s next exhibition, in June 1984, was of a type that was more ground-breaking, for the antique trade at least (as I mentioned, museums such as Temple Newsam were already organising exhibitions focused on specialist furniture types in the 1970s).  The ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ exhibition in 1984 involved considerable primary research and was again accompanied by a catalogue with a discursive essay on the historical development of travelling and campaigning furniture.

Phillips of Hitchin catalogue for Exhibition of Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850.

 

The Travelling and Campaigning Furniture exhibition was obviously more specialist in nature, as I imagine was the audience for the exhibition – specialist collectors of ‘metamorphic’ furniture and museum curators perhaps? But the exhibition itself was a considerable success, according to the detail in the Phillips of Hitchin archives on the exhibition.  Indeed, reading the archive one cannot but admire the research and the time and effort that went into the planning and delivery of these exhibitions.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The new parts of the Phillips of Hitchin archive contains numerous photographs of the actual exhibitions, together with correspondence and supplementary detail on the planning of the exhibitions themselves – it’s a wealth of material that helps us to understand the objectives and complex nature of these scholarly and selling events.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

One further thing, and something that also demonstrates the richness of the archives that Jerome so generously donated to Leeds University, is that Jerome also saved the object labels from the exhibition! …..and here’s just one of a number of those labels from an object from the ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ exhibition.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984, object label. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

There’s more to say about the significance of these scholarly selling exhibitions organised by dealers such as Phillips of Hitchin and we are fortunate to have such archive material to help us to continue to explore and analyse the cultural history of the British antique trade.

Mark

 

March 30, 2018

Additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archives

A couple of weeks ago our Phillips of Hitchin archive had some very significant additions. Thanks to the support and generosity of Simon Phillips and Thomas Lange at Ronald Phillips antiques, London, who very kindly sent, via their driver and courier, a very large number of archive boxes full of photographs, glass-plate negatives and associated marketing ephemera that Jerome Phillips, of the antique dealer firm of Phillips of Hitchin, had deposited with them in London.

The new additions to the PoH archive include 15 large archive boxes of glass-plate negatives and 17 smaller archive boxes with similar contents.  Both sets of glass-plate negatives appear to date from the 1920s-1950s and comprise PoH images of stock, plus glass-plate negatives of photographs of some other well-known antique dealer firms, including Hotspur, Ronald Lee, Stuart & Turner, Mallett and Frank Partridge.  There are also some glass-plate negatives related to the antique furniture collector and author R.W. Symonds – perhaps for the publication of Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks (1940), which was republished in 1986 with an Introduction by Jerome Phillips.

Boxes of glass-plate negatives, part of the PoH archive. University of Leeds.

There is also one fascinating box of glass-plate negatives labelled ‘Arundel Paintings, 1912’ – which seems to relate to the famous Arundel Society (founded in 1849, for the dissemination of artworks via their reproductions).  As well as these extensive sets of glass-plate negatives there are also 49 blue plastic albums packed with photographs of the antique furniture stock of PoH (dating c.1920s-1970s) organised by object type – ‘chairs’, ‘desks’, ‘tables’ etc; and a box of loose photographs dating from the very beginnings of PoH c.1900.

 

PoH photograph albums. Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The photographs in the albums clearly illustrate the exceptionally high quality of antique furniture that passed through the hands of PoH – as the examples of the ‘chairs’ album of photographs, and the ‘commodes’ album demonstrate.

PoH archive, ‘Commodes’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

 

PoH ‘Chairs’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Amongst the photograph albums are two albums dedicated to the PoH stands at the world-famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair; with photos of the PoH stands from the early 1950s up to the 1970s.  The photographs illustrate the changing methods of display adopted by PoH over the period – it’s interesting to note that PoH had also, from the earliest days of the business, produced reproduction wallpapers and textiles, and the PoH stands at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair always appeared to have been decorated with PoH reproduction wallpapers.

Here is the Phillips of Hitchin stand at Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in 1951.

PoH stand at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, 1951. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

PoH photo archive ‘ A rare old carved oak Vestry chair with marquetrie panel in back’, ‘circa 1650’. PoH archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Perhaps the most fascinating photographs in the archive are those dating from the very earliest days of the PoH business, when the antique shop was then run by the founder of the firm Frederick W. Phillips, the grandfather of Jerome Phillips who so generously donated his family business archive to Leeds University. These early photographs, dating from c.1900-1910 are dominated by examples of oak, walnut and mahogany furniture, which was so fashionable in the early 20th century.

The ‘rare old carved oak Vestry chair..’ shown here, is inscribed on the back of the photograph in a contemporary hand, ‘this we have reproduced’ – a further demonstration of the breath and depth of the business of F.W. Phillips (as it was then) in the period around 1900.  Indeed, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts on the antique dealer firm, F.W. Phillips was not only an ‘antique dealer’, but was also a complete home furnisher and interior decorator – he would also, if you so desired, build you an ‘ancient house’, (using recycled ancient materials) so fashionable in the period around the First World War.

Other interesting photographs in the recent additions to the PoH archive include this ‘carved mahogany settee, c.1760.’

PoH archives, ‘a carved mahogany settee, c.1760, upholstered in crimson damask’. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The back of the photograph has the inscription ‘carved mahogany settee…’ and also the price – ‘£95.0.0.’, which was quite a sum in c.1900.

We are so grateful to Simon Phillips of Ronald Phillips Antiques for so generously paying for the transport of this large corpus of PoH archive material – they are a great addition to the PoH archive we already have at the University of Leeds and the addition of the photographs will allow us to match up the stock books that we already have with these fascinating images of the enormous variety of antiques that PoH sold over more than 100 years.

Mark

 

 

January 27, 2018

Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map Website

It’s been a while since we updated everyone on the continuing development of the Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map Website. The website, as we hope you will know, is being constantly updated with new dealerships, by our fantastic group of data input volunteers, and the project team of course – see www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk

There are now more than 4,100 dealers in the website, trading over the period 1900 to 2000 – and as you can see from the screen-shot below, there are a number of interesting clusters of dealerships emerging. The long ‘bar’ at the bottom of the screen-shot is the ‘slider bar’ that you can move backwards and forwards with the computer cursor on the actual website itself to change the parameters of the dates that the map illustrates – the picture below had been set at dates between 1900 and 2000 when the screen-shot was taken.

Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map Website – UK and European based dealers 1900-2000.

For the actual webpage click – www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk

Of course, the Map of Britain is still far from complete, and we need to add many more dealerships before we can start to analyse the data and begin to get a clearer picture of the changing geography of the British Antiques Trade over the course of 100 years…but there are some fascinating developments illustrated in the Map so far.

The Map website also allows you to focus in closer, to see how the antique dealerships are located at lower levels of the map – right down to street level. You can also take a look at the patterns of dealerships in particular locations at particular periods in the 20th century.  The screen-grab below, for example, shows the patterns of dealerships in the South of Britain in the period 1900 to 1940.

Antique Dealers Project Interactive Map Website. South of Britain 1900-1940.

For the actual webpage click – www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk

The map also has quite a lot of specific biographical data associated with various antique dealerships – these are also constantly updated as new data is added by the teams of volunteers.  Below is an example of a street-level section of the Map, focused on London with the date parameters of 1900-1935.  The red dot on the map is the location of the dealer Robert Partridge, in New Bond Street, with the information on the antique dealer R.W. Partridge opened up on the left side of the screen.

Antique Dealer Interactive Map – R.W Partridge data opened up.

For the actual webpage click – www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk and R.W. Partridge

The information in the Interactive Map on the 1,000s of antiques dealers already added, includes their various locations in the UK, and elsewhere if they had branches in other countries (such as the USA for example), and also includes images of the exteriors and interiors of the shops (if we have them) at various points in their history.

Here’s the screen-shot from the entry for Phillips of Hitchin, the well-known dealership that was established in 1884.

Antique Dealers Project Interactive Map. Phillips of Hitchin page.

For the actual webpage click www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/Phillips of Hitchin

As you can see, above, the data on each dealership includes locations, trading names of the firm, people associated with the firm, various trade memberships, various ‘classifications’ (these are from the Trade Directories and etc) and also how the dealers described themselves (in their publicity) at various times.  Eventually we also hope to build the sections of the website that will track the objects bought and sold by the various dealers….but at present we are concentrating on filling the map with the locations of antique dealers over the 100 year period that the Map focuses on.

We hope that this brief overview of the on-going status of the Antique Dealer Project Interactive Map will encourage you to take a look at the Map website, and see what you can discover.  And do keep your eye on the developments!

Mark

August 25, 2017

UGRLS Trip to the British Library

As part of my UGRLS project, I’ve been researching purchases made by Charlotte Shaw, the wife of George Bernard Shaw, which led me to take a research trip to the British Library in London. Through my work with the stock books held in the Brotherton Library Special Collections I came across a number of purchases made by a person named Shaw, thus the research trip was to corroborate these findings by locating these purchases in the diaries and chequebook stubs of Charlotte. I was aided greatly in this endeavour by Alice McEwan from Shaw’s Corner, a National Trust property I’ll be visiting shortly to gain a deeper insight into the Shaw’s.

I had neither been to the British Library before, nor undertaken a research trip before, so I found the two days I spent there greatly beneficial in developing my research skills and introducing me to one of the most valuable resources an historian can access. Perhaps the most striking thing I encountered upon my first visit was the King’s Library, which is impossible to miss and personally, I found it amazing that such a range of material is stored in one place. Especially when one considers the material stored within this, such as some of the earliest examples of the printing press and rare copies of the Bible. I have included some photographs I took on my visit below, which to me help to convey the size and scale of the British Library.

British Library Exterior

Photograph of the exterior of the British Library

King's Library

Photograph of the King’s Library within the British Library

 

Whilst the quantity of references Alice and I found was far less than we had anticipated, I still found the trip to be successful to myself in other ways. For example, through reading Charlotte’s diaries and chequebook stubs I gained a further insight into her tastes for interior decorating. This allowed me to remove the purchase of some pink carpet from my research on purchases made by a Shaw in the Phillips of Hitchin stock books, as it seemed highly unlikely this was bought by Charlotte. Furthermore, we discovered another item for me to research further through discovering a reference to chair covers. Within Shaw’s corner, there is a chair cover and several pieces of fabric in the Nonesuch pattern offered by Phillips (see photograph below), which led us to believe there is the possibility that these items of fabric were purchased from Phillips of Hitchin. This will require further research on my behalf, as I have encountered a reference to the sale of the Nonesuch pattern previously. There is also the possibility that the purchaser of said fabric was not noted down, making the task that Charlotte purchased this from Phillips slightly more difficult.

 

Nonsuch

Photograph of the Nonesuch pattern offered by Phillips of Hitchin.

 

I also found the fact that we failed to find more references in Charlotte’s documents to Phillips to be helpful, as it was the first time I have encountered this issue. Research can often lead to disappointment, when the documents you are looking for may no longer exist or you encounter evidence that mostly contradicts your theory, and so learning how to manage this and create new solutions is a valuable skill to learn. I also found it highly beneficial to learn how to utilise the British Library before I begin more in-depth research as part of my degree, and the insights I gained from Alice regarding post-graduate study were incredibly valuable. To that end, I am greatly looking forward to visiting Shaw’s Corner to learn more about both the items within the house and the Shaw’s themselves, as well as continuing my research in the Phillips of Hitchin archives to locate the sale of several items of furniture and the Nonesuch fabric.

 

Liv

 

 

 

 

July 2, 2017

New Phillips of Hitchin archive material – recording a trip to New York in c.1920 by Amyas Phillips

Thanks to Jerome Phillips, of Phillips of Hitchin Antiques, we have some new additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.  Jerome found a few more boxes of archive material and files of business records during a recent clear-up at Manor House in Hitchin – it was quite a bit of material actually….as this stack of lever-arch files suggests!..

New PoH archive material, ready to catalogue!

The new material comprises 21 lever-arch files of business records, a folder with new information on the restoration to the historic clock at Durham Cathedral (a project undertaken by Phillips of Hitchin in 1936), and  boxes of photographs and associated ephemera;  we’d like to thank Jerome Phillips again for these very generous donations to the PoH archives held at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Whilst making an initial assessment of the material we came across a little notebook, detailing, it seems, a trip to New York in the period around 1920.

Phillips of Hitchin archive, notebook, c.1920; with teaspoon for scale. Photograph, Antique Dealer Project, University of Leeds 2017.

The notebook is a small pocket-size booklet, measuring just 5 inches (125mm) long by 3.5 inches (90mm) wide, and is packed with notes about meetings with individuals, aide memoires, and some beautiful little drawings on things that the person who composed the notebook had seen in New York.  It provides a fascinating insight into the activities of an antique dealer in the opening decades of the 20th century.

Page of drawings of details of antique furniture. PoH notebook, c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Page of a drawing of a carved figure?, with annotations on colours. PoH archive notebook, c.1920 uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds, 2017.

 

The notebook appears to date from c.1920 (it is undated) and (so Jerome informs us) would have been composed by Aymas Phillips (Jerome’s father) who joined the business in 1910.  Amyas’s brother, Hugh Phillips took over the business of Phillips of Hitchin following the death of his father Frederick W. Phillips in 1910; F.W. Phillips was the founder the firm in 1884; Hugh Phillips retired in 1935.

Amyas would have been very young man in 1910, and was called back from his studies at Oxford to help run the business following the death of his father. Hugh must have had great confidence in the young Amyas in sending him to New York, given that notebook mentions meetings with some very well connected individuals.

The notebook itself is a commercially produced ‘Sketch Book’, ‘Series 30’, by the art materials suppliers Windsor & Newton, and cost 1/- (one shilling). Each page remaining in the notebook (there were originally 24 pages, with 22 surviving in whole or part) has annotations and/or drawings, with details of ‘Travelling Expenses’, a hand written list of dollar/pound currency exchange rates, and various notes on places to visit, people to see and things purchased etc.

The notebook begins with a note suggesting that Amyas was to begin his travels to New York on the ‘Aquitania’, on ‘4th Dec.’ – ‘sails 1pm, Embark 12 noon’; with another note mentioning that a ‘special train leaves Waterloo 10.10am’ – it seems that Amyas had also reserved a First Class, Smoking, train cabin.

PoH Archives, notebook c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. 2017

The opening page gives us a first clue to the earliest date for the notebook; the famous ocean liner Aquitania had a maiden voyage to New York on 30th May 1914, making only 3 further round trips before being requisitioned in Spring 1915, during the early stages of World War I.  Aquitania returned to service as a passenger liner in June 1919, and this, together with several other clues in the notebook point towards a date of c.1920 for the annotations.  One further clue to its date is that Amyas notes a visit to The American Art Association at 6 East 23rd Street;  the AAA was established in 1884 as an art gallery and auction house at the address given in the notebook, moving to the corner of Madison & 56th Street in 1922. Amyas also notes that he would be returning to England on either the Baltic (launched 1904) or the Olympic (maiden voyage 1911) – so he was travelling in some style!

The page illustrated above also indicates that Amyas stayed at the Hotel McAlpin in New York (in a room costing 3 Dollars, ‘without bathroom attached’) – the McAlpin was at the time the largest hotel in the world, having been completed in 1912 and designed by the architect F. Mills Andrews (1867-1948). Other well-known venues are mentioned in the annotations – The Belasco Theatre (opened in 1907 as the Stuyvesant Theatre, and renamed the Belasco in 1910) and the famous bookstore Brentano’s (opened in New York in 1853); and various museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper Union Museum (as it was called then…now known at the Cooper Hewitt Museum (renamed in 1968).

Amongst the most fascinating pages is this page detailing a visit to Paul Revere’s House in Boston, (which had opened as a museum in 1908 and remains one of the earliest Historic House Museums in the USA).

PoH Archive, notebook c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. 2017.

The annotation reads – ‘Colonial Wallpaper from Paul Revere’s house, Boston. Inset – old London churches by Wren. Repeat about 3ft high.’ The note is perhaps suggesting that the design would be a good model for the reproduction of a wallpaper (or a fabric?), which was something that the firm of Phillips of Hitchin were well-known for in the period; they were, in effect, Interior Decorators, as well as antique dealers, as were many other antique dealer firms in the period (see earlier blog posts on Thornton for example).  The annotation also demonstrates the keen and attentive eye of Amyas; the drawing is, as one might expect, an accurate illustration of the view encountered by the compiler of the notebook at Paul Revere’s House – here’s a colour postcard from c.1909 of the interior of the house captured in the drawing in the notebook.

Postcard, 1909, ‘Paul Revere’s House’. Wikicommons.

Jerome tells us that he remembers when he was young that his father’s house in Bedfordshire had replica wallpaper based on the wallpaper at Paul Revere’s House!

Other pages in the notebook record meetings, or potential meetings, with several antique dealers, including ‘Stair & Andrew’ (the business was established in London in 1911, and opened a branch in New York by 1914); Vernay (established in New York in 1906, and at the address recorded in the notebook (10 East 45th Street) by 1914); and the interior decorators and antique dealers’ Lenygons.

There are also several annotations recording meetings with some very well-connected individuals – Amyas jots down a lunch meeting with ‘Mrs Hazel Goepper’ of 859 7th Avenue, on ‘Thurs 6th at 12.30’, and other pages have names of other New York socialites – ‘Mrs Lionel Stahl’ for example.

One annotation records a note about ‘Mrs A Van R. Barnewall’ of ‘3 East 47th Street’ (see below).

PoH Archive, notebook c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. 2017.

The note reads – ‘Mrs A  Van R. Barnewall 3 East 47th St. (came to Hitchin with the Days) best flow(?) shop (hasn’t been to Europe 15 years) Specialist French and (?) furniture…’. Mrs Barnewall was a well-known interior decorator in the period; she wrote an essay on ‘A Modern Bathroom’ published by House & Garden ‘Book of Interiors’ in 1920. Given the kind of business operated by Frederick Phillips and his sons Hugh and Amyas in the early decades of the 20th century it’s perhaps not surprising that they are making contact with leading American interior decorators at the time. We have yet to discover who the ‘Days’ were?…(and thank you to Karen Sayers at the BLSC for helping to decipher the annotations!)

The notebook is a rare survival, recording the day to day business of a leading firm of antique dealers and their relationships with some key protagonists in the USA during the key moment of the American ‘Gilded Age’. This tiny notebook, and all the other fascinating Antique Dealer material donated to the Brotherton Library Special Collections, will provide a rich vein of research, and will soon be available for researchers and scholars.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 26, 2017

Antique Dealers Archives Grant Success!

We are very pleased indeed to announce that the Phillips of Hitchin archives, held at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds, have been awarded a prestigious National Manuscript Conservation Trust Grant. The NMCT awarded us £8,000 to conserve parts of the archive, which was one of only 10 major grants awarded by the NMCT this year.  The award was supported by a generous donation from the John S. Cohen Grant fund, and is a testament to the historical and cultural significance of the Phillips of Hitchin archives, the research potential and significance of Antique Dealer archives more generally (and the fabulous holdings at the Brotherton Library), and the expertise of the archive team at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Phillips of Hitchin Archive, ‘Daybook’ 1890-1892. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

As part of the application for the Grant we composed a ‘Statement of Significance’ for the PoH archives – and here it is, in full –

‘The Phillips of Hitchin archive (PoH) (dating 1882-2005) is an exceptionally rare survival of a senior-level antique dealer archive. It is extremely unusual for such archives to survive, as they have often been deliberately destroyed due to the highly sensitive nature of the information that they contain (prices/values of artworks and antiques, restoration and provenance information). This makes the PoH archive a unique resource for future researchers. PoH were one of the most important and influential antique dealers in the UK and sold many thousands of objects to many major national museums, both in the UK and internationally. The client lists of PoH include virtually every well-known collector and personality of the day, from members of the British Royal family to influential American collectors such as Judge Irwin Untermeyer.  The richness of the PoH archive is without parallel in its comprehensiveness and contains not only stock books, sales ledgers and copy invoices but also includes extensive client correspondence material relating to the acquisition and sale of artworks.  This completeness allows for much more fine-grained research and makes the archive an essential resource for both provenance research and the expanding field of art market study.’

This grant, together with our recent success in the University of Leeds Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship scheme (the Laidlaw scholarship) and which allowed Liv Powell, our Laidlaw Scholar, to work with us on the Phillips of Hitchin archives, means that we can press on with the conservation and research on the PoH archives.  We hope that the rich potential of the archives will soon be made available scholars and researchers. There’s still a lot of work to do…as you can see!……

Packets of archive papers, Phillips of Hitchin archive, in situ at Hitchin prior to removal to Leeds. Photo copyright Antique Dealer project, University of Leeds 2015.

….but we are delighted that the National Manuscript Conservation Trust  have recognised the importance of Phillips of Hitchin Archives.

Mark

Phillips of Hitchin Archive, advertisement, c.1920. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

 

April 30, 2017

UGRLS Scholarship Scheme

Following Liv Powell’s (our UGRLS, Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship, Scholar) blog post a couple of weeks ago we thought we would tell you a little more about the UGRLS Scheme. Liv will be working with us on the antique dealers research project and the antique dealer archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections over the next 2 years, and we are very pleased indeed to have such an enthusiastic student!

The Laidlaw Scholarship scheme has been developed with very generous support from Lord Laidlaw, the businessman and philanthropist, who was educated at the University of Leeds.  Lord Laidlaw first developed the UGRLS scheme at the University of St. Andrews, and has now rolled out a programme of UGRLS at many more universities, including of course at the University of Leeds. Our Project ‘Objects Trajectories: Archives, Objects, Museums, in the Phillips of Hitchin & Roger Warner Archives’ was one of only SIX projects that were successful in the competitive funding round this year at the University of Leeds – so we are very pleased to have this extra support toward the future development of the Antique Dealers research project.

Liv will be working for 6 weeks each summer over the next 2 years, undertaking research on the Phillips of Hitchin and the Roger Warner archives, as well as working with Tim Proctor, Head of Engagement at the Brotherton Library Special Collections, on cataloguing and conservation and cleaning projects for the Phillips of Hitchin archives. We have lots of exciting plans for Liv – we hope, for example, that she will become a regular blogger on the Antique Dealers research blog, and she will be working with us on a number of developments for the dissemination of the research undertaken so far, and on some exciting projects on antique dealer exhibitions. Liv is also very skilled with Social Media (much more so that I am!), and has some great ideas for our digital media profiles…so watch this space!

Welcome to the team Liv!

Mark

 

 

April 6, 2017

‘Here it is Now!’ – Phillips of Hitchin in the UK, USA and Australia.

As readers of the Antique Dealer research blog will know, we have recently posted more ‘Where is it Now?’ objects, illustrating images from some of the early 20th century photograph stock albums in the Phillips of Hitchin archive, now at the Brotherton Library Special Collections. We thought you would be interested, and amused perhaps, to hear about a kind of reverse of the ‘Where is it Now?’ theme (a kind of ‘Here it is Now!’) – i.e. the catalyst for this blog post was not an illustration of an object in the PoH archive, attempting to set up a link from the archive to the outside world, but rather a photograph of an object in a public museum, that links back to the archive. Indeed, the photograph generated an investigation of other museum collections, which has further demonstrated the international significance of the Phillips of Hitchin archive.

Anyway, the PoH archive was generously donated to the Brotherton Library Special Collections by Jerome Phillips, the 3rd generation of antique dealers associated with the business that has always been located at The Manor House, Hitchin since it was established in 1884. Jerome retired in 2014, and as many of you will know, is still in regular contact with us at the university; we often update him on the progress with his family business archive – Jerome is, after all, a living extension to the archive!

Jerome emailed us recently following an update from us on the archive, and mentioned that his wife, Barbara, was in Australia, and had been to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and whilst there she spotted a pair of chairs that Phillips of Hitchin had sold to the (then) Victoria State Gallery, Melbourne, in 1961.  Here is Barbara’s photograph of the chairs in situ (you can also spot Barbara reflected in the 18th century mirror!).

Pair of Houghton Hall chairs at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Photograph courtesy of Barbara Phillips, 2017.

Houghton Hall chair, Temple Newsam House, Leeds. Photo c.1960, courtesy of Temple Newsam House, Leeds.

The chairs are related to a set of chairs at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, a very large suite of furniture, including 2 settees, made by Richard Roberts in the period c.1720; the chairs were acquired by the Gallery of Victoria through the Felton Bequest in 1961, through Phillips of Hitchin (see here for a link to the museum catalogue entry).

The pair of chairs now in Australia came from a set of six chairs acquired by Phillips of Hitchin in 1960; Jerome tells us that he thinks his father bought the 6 chairs at auction (not direct from Houghton Hall).  PoH then sold the chairs to four different museums in 1960 and 1961. One chair from the set was sold to Temple Newsam House, Leeds in June 1960, for the sum of £275.00, and described, in the PoH archive invoice as ‘a walnut and parcel gilt chair ensuite with chairs at Houghton Hall’. The chair in the first B&W photograph is the Temple Newsam House example, photographed in c.1960.

Another single chair was sold to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in the same year.

Houghton Hall chair, Victoria & Albert Museum. Photograph c.1960. Copyright V&A Museum.

It seems quite strange perhaps that one of the pair of chairs were split up into single objects, rather than being retained as a pair (or indeed retaining the set of 6 chairs together), but the rationale, in the 1960s, was to distribute key examples of objects across as many museums as possible in order to allow more distributed access – this kind of materiality of things was a dominant idea in a period when object-based study was a key element in the structures of knowledge.

It’s interesting to note that the more recent acquisition by the V&A of the remaining large suite of furniture to which these 6 chairs relate, as part of the 2002 Acceptance in Lieu Scheme for the Inheritance Tax Settlement of the Cholmondeley Estate, has stipulated that the remaining suite of furniture remains in situ at Houghton Hall.

Chair in situ at Houghton Hall, Norfolk. Photograph copyright V&A Museum.

The last pair of chairs from the set of 6 acquired by Phillips of Hitchin were sold by the dealers in 1960 to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, through the Harris Brisbane Dick Fund. Here is a link to the online catalogue for the chairs.

‘Houghton Hall’ chair, c.1720. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photograph, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017.

And so, in this little example of the acquisition and distribution of this suite of Antique Furniture we can see not only the significant role of the antique dealer in the dissemination of objects across three Continents…..but also the shifting significance of the notion of historical context, cultural heritage, and museum collecting policies in the last 50 years or so.  And with that, the growing sense of the significance of the Phillips of Hitchin archive now held at the University of Leeds.

Mark

April 3, 2017

‘Where is it Now?’ – more objects to find

Following the success of the finding of the first of our ‘Where is it Now?’ objects from the Phillips of Hitchin archives, (we found the delftware plate in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, as you will know), we have posted 6 more photographs of objects to find.  You can see the photographs and the archive detail associated with them on the ‘Where is it Now?’ pages on the Centre for the Study of the Art & Antiques Market – click here

Thanks especially to Peter Edwards, Faculty IT support at the University of Leeds for helping to create extra ‘Where is it Now?’ pages! The new objects are, we hope, relatively easy to identify, if they still exist of course – they may have been destroyed?  The photographs all date from the early 20th century, and the attributions in the archive may have been revised in the intervening years….but the objects are still fascinating illustrations of the taste for antiques in the period prior to World War I.

Do check out the ‘Where is it Now?’ pages and if you know where the objects are at present, do email us – antiquedealers@leeds.ac.uk

Mark

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