Posts tagged ‘Phillips of Hitchin’

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

 

 

 

 

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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

March 6, 2017

‘Where is it Now?’ – we found the first one!

Thanks to Simon Spier, one of our Centre for the Study of the Art & Antiques Market PhD students, we have found the first of the ‘Where is it Now?’ objects. The object in question is a ‘Lambeth’ Delftware plate, dated 1717, with the initials ‘W D C’ painted on the top rim.

ms1999-4-1-52-plaque

Delftware plate, dated 1717. Phillips of Hitchin Archive MS1999/4/1/52. Photograph courtesy of the Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds, 2017.

The plate was in the stock of the antique dealers Phillips of Hitchin in c.1900, shown above in one of the photograph albums of stock that are part of the Phillips archive at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

We have discovered that the delftware plate is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA. The plate is currently part of the Met Museum’s collections of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts – here’s a link to the Met Museum collections online for the PLATE 

And here’s the plate itself, in full, glorious colour! The plate is on display in Gallery 710 in the Met Museum if you want to go and see it for yourself.

delftware-plate-1717

Lambeth delftware plate, dated 1717, diameter 9 inches.. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 12.279.9 Rogers Fund, 1913. Photograph copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum acquired the plate in 1913 (via the Rogers Fund), through the well-known antique dealer Frederick Rathbone (1837-1919). Rathbone was, by 1913, trading at 20 Alfred Place, South Kensington, London, and would have been in his mid 70s when he sold the plate to the Met Museum. He was an acknowledged expert on antique ceramics, especially on Wedgwood and ‘Old English Pottery’; he was famous for helping to assemble the collections of William Hesketh Lever (1851-1925) 1st Viscount Leverhulme, and the extensive collections of 18th century Wedgwood ceramics assembled by Lord Tweedmouth (1820-1894).

It’s not known when, for how much, or to whom, Phillips of Hitchin sold the plate – it may have been sold direct to Rathbone, we have yet to discover that information, but it will be buried in the extensive archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.  What we do know is that Phillips bought the plate from the collection of the well-known collector W.H. Booth of Ipswich in Suffolk sometime around 1900.

Anyway, we are pleased at least to have found the first of the ‘Where is it Now?’ objects, and to have provided a little more provenance information to the delftware plate in the collections at the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Mark

 

February 6, 2017

Thornton-Smith Antiques – ‘The Georgian House’.

thornton-smith-cover

‘The Georgian House’ – W.& E. Thornton-Smith. c.1910.

Following the very kind donation of antique dealer ephemera by Tim Turner at Sworders Auctioneers we thought we should compose a fuller account of our investigations of the catalogue of the antique dealers W.& E. Thornton-Smith.

phillips-of-hitchin-1920

Phillips of Hitchin, ‘The Georgian House’, catalogue, c.1920.

The catalogue is a type that was produced by many antique dealers during the early 20th century.  A key comparison is the catalogue produced by Amyas Phillips, of the firm of Phillips of Hitchin, who also produced a catalogue of stock titled ‘The Georgian House’ (this one c.1920).  The Thornton-Smith’s catalogue appears to date from c.1910, given the suggested information on the back of the catalogue (i.e. that Thornton-Smith had ‘New Premises’ at 11 Soho Square, London); they appeared to have moved to 11 Soho Square in c.1910.

thornton-smith-verso

Thornton-Smith catalogue, c.1910.

It must have been quite an extensive business; they state that they had ‘one of the largest stocks of English Antique Furniture in the country’ (but then, many dealers also suggested that at the time, and since). If we are to believe the information in the catalogue, they had 40 four-post beds in stock, all on show ‘in an historic Georgian House, decorated in the manner of that period.’

thornton-smith-cat

Thornton-Smith catalogue, c.1910.

thornton-smith-cat-2

Thornton-Smith catalogue, c.1910.

The catalogue also contains an extensive number of black & white photographs illustrating the range of stock held by Thornton-Smith in the period.

Walter George Thornton-Smith (d.1963) established his antique dealing business in c.1906, with Earnest Thornton-Smith. Like many antique furniture businesses at the time, Thornton-Smith also provided a full interior decoration service for their clients.  Indeed, such was the reputation of Thronton-Smith as decorators that they started the careers of two of the most well-known interior designers of the 20th century – Syrie Maugham (1879-1955), wife of the writer W. Somerset Maugham, and interior decorator par excellence during the 1920s and 1930s (famous for her interior schemes made entirely with shades of white) began her training with Walter Thornton-Smith in the early 1920s, before setting up ‘Syrie Limited’ at 85 Baker Street, London in 1922.  It seems that Thornton-Smith was introduced to Syrie when he was commissioned to decorate her home at York Terrace; she was at the time recovering from her recently failed marriage to the Industrialist Henry Wellcome (1853-1936).

The other key interior decorator associated with Thornton-Smith was John Fowler (1906-1977), of Colefax & Fowler, who briefly trained at Thornton-Smith in the late 1920s.

Thornton-Smith was a highly successful businessman and, like many dealers and collectors of antiques at the time, he also took a keen interest in ‘ancient buildings’. He developed a number of historic architectural projects, often recreating ‘historic homes’ by recycling architectural elements from demolished buildings.  One of the earliest of his projects was the dismantling and re-siting of a 16th century half-timbered building ‘Kingston Hill’, near Woodbridge in Suffolk (it’s not known where he re-sited the building?).  His major project however was Shoppenhangers Manor, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

shoppenhangers-manor

Shoppenhangers Manor, Maidenhead, as seen in c.1950. Photograph from Apollo Magazine, August 1956.

Thornton-Smith bought the site of the original manor house at Shoppenhangers (the site had already been cleared of the remains of the original manor) in 1914 and set about recreating a 16th century manor house on the foundations of the original house.  The project seems to have taken 4 years to complete, and was assembled, recreated, using an astonishing range of architectural elements, from a wide geographical area, and made available through a variety of opportunities and events.  Painted glass from Selby Abbey, for example, made available following the major fire at Selby Abbey in 1906, was installed in the ‘Long Room’ at Shoppenhangers; there were ceilings from an ‘ancient inn at Banbury’, and panelling from an ‘old house’ at Faversham, as well as that ‘removed from a Venetian Palace’. Other materials apparently came from West Wycombe Park and from ‘an ancient house in Spain’.  One of the most important rooms in Shoppenhangers Manor, the ‘drawing room’ was lined with panelling from Billingbear Park, Wokingham.

shoppenhangers-manor-int

Shoppenhangers Manor, the drawing room. Photograph from Apollo Magazine, August 1956.

It’s not actually clear how Thornton-Smith acquired the panelling from Billingbear Park – given that the house was still occupied until a devastating fire in 1924 (some 6 years after Thornton-Smith supposedly completed his house), but it may be that Billingbear Park was refurbished/remodelled sometime in the 1910s, or that Thornton-Smith acquired the panelling in 1924 and continued to construct his ‘new-old’ house? If you are interested in reading more about Thornton-Smith’s project at Shoppenhangers, it was the subject of a short essay by Horace Shipp, in Apollo Magazine in August 1956, pp.41-45 – ‘A Home and it’s Treasures, Shoppenhangers Manor and the Collection of Walter Thornton Smith’.  After Thornton-Smith died, Shoppenhangers Manor was sold to the Esso Petroleum Company in 1965, when there was also an auction sale of the contents; it was converted into an hotel in the late 1960s, and was eventually demolished in 2007.

Which brings us back to the Phillips of Hitchin ‘The Georgian House’ catalogue.  The antique dealers Frederick W. Phillips and Amyas Phillips have been the subject of earlier blog posts in the antique dealers blog (see Phillips of Hitchin posts), but one of the interesting aspects about the Phillips family business is also their architectural projects, which are in direct correlation with those of Walter Thornton-Smith (they must have known each other I’m sure!).  Phillips’ major project (one of many, that also included the dismantling and sale of the London home of Sir Isaac Newton in the 1910s) was the reconstruction of Baliffscourt in Sussex.

bailiffscourt-hotel-spa-exterior-photo

Baliffscourt, West Sussex. Wikicommons.

Amyas Phillips was engaged by Lord Moyne in 1927 to recreate a late Medieval manor house, and, like Thornton-Smith, he began assembling the ‘ancient manor house’ by scouring the country for historic architectural elements, creating a house that is a poem of romantic architectural fragments.

Whatever the real stories behind the provenance of the architectural elements that eventually made their way to these ‘new-old’ homes, these architectural projects illustrate the significance of the key roles that the antique trade played in these romantic recreations of the past, providing the perfect back-drop for the assemblage of antique furniture and objects that the dealers also supplied.

Mark

December 17, 2016

‘Where is it Now?’

As part of developing the rich potential of the wide variety of Antique Dealer archives that we now have at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds we have developed a ‘Where is it Now?’ project. The project aims to reconnect some of the objects in the archives with their current owners, if they still exist in public museums or private collections anywhere.  We are choosing objects that are relatively easy to identify, and objects that we believe are (still) of some historical significance.

The photographs of the objects will be initially from the Phillips of Hitchin archive photograph albums, which appear to date from c.1900.  Phillips of Hitchin were established in 1882 at the Manor House, Hitchin, and remained there for over 120 years. The business sold antique objects to museums and collectors from all over the world, so we are hoping that some of the objects will speak of their travels!

The first of the ‘Where is it Now?’ objects is this Lambeth (London) delftware plate, dated 1717, and with the initials ‘C W D’ painted on it. If you know where it is now do let us know by emailing antiquedealers@leeds.ac.uk

ms1999-4-1-52-plaque

Lambeth delftware plate, 1717. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, MS1999/4/1/52. Photograph courtesy Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds, 2016.

Happy Hunting!

Mark

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!

robin-and-brian-kern-1999

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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