Posts tagged ‘Thornton Smith’

February 6, 2017

Thornton-Smith Antiques – ‘The Georgian House’.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.’

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Thornton-Smith catalogue, c.1910.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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February 5, 2017

Further generous help!

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Catalogues of antique dealer material, from the 1950s and 1960s.

Our very generous Antique Dealer project supporters continue to send us antique dealer ephemera – thanks again to Tim Turner at Sworders Auctioneers  and to Jacqueline and her son George, for passing on another parcel of ephemera – these resources are crucial for the continuing developments in the research for the Antique Dealers project. The material that Tim passed to us included a selection of Antique Fair catalogues from the 1950s and 1960s, and two very interesting antique dealer sales catalogues. One of the catalogues was from the well-known dealer Margery Dean, of Wivenhoe in Essex – the catalogue is undated but appears to be from the late 1950s?

The other catalogue was a much more interesting, and much rarer, example, produced by the dealers W. & E. Thornton-Smith, and dating from c.1910.

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W. & E. Thornton-Smith catalogue, c.1910.

Indeed, the Thornton-Smith catalogue deserves a separate, and fuller, blog entry, and I’ll compose that shortly.  Once again we have to thank our generous supporters at Sworders Auctioneers…thank you Tim and all…your contributions have again been most welcome, as we continue to build what we hope will become the National Centre for the Study of the Antique Trade here at the University of Leeds.

Do watch out for the forthcoming Thornton-Smith blog entry…

Mark

 

 

November 28, 2015

Yet more on ‘Quinneys’

Following some earlier blog posts on ‘Quinney’ and the dealer Thomas Rohan (see blog posts December 31st 2014; December 6th 2014; July 27th 2014), I recently came across some more information associated with this fascinating conflation of fact and fiction – as you’ll know, the real antique dealer Thomas Rohan (trading in Bournemouth and Southampton in the period 1903-1937) was the basis for the famous fictional antique dealer ‘Joe Quinney’ in the novel by Horace Vachell (published 1914) – see our interactive research project map site for the entry on Rohan:

www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/dealerships/34852

Anyway, recently in a couple of antiquarian book dealers I found two further pieces of ephemera associated with the play ‘Quinneys’ (1915) and the novel ‘Quinneys’ (1914). Firstly, I found a rare copy of the playbill for the first staging of the play ‘Quinneys’ on April 20th 1915, at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London – see cover picture:

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Playbill, ‘Quinneys’, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1915. Image copyright, AHRC Antique Dealers Project, 2015.

And secondly a copy of the published script of the play (a later copy, probably from the 1950s?) –

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‘Quinneys’, play script (1915) – 1950s edition. Image copyright AHRC Antique Dealers project 2015.

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Henry Ainley (1879-1945), British Actor. Image Wikicommons.

The playbill lists the actors in the play – ‘Joe Quinney’ the eponymous antique dealer, was played by the well-known Shakespearian actor Henry Ainley (1879-1945) (see above); incidentally he also played ‘Quinney’ in the 1919 film version of the play…and interesting (as far as we are concerned) Ainley was born in Morley, Leeds, West Yorkshire!. Quinney’s wife, Susan, was played by the British film actress Syndey Fairbrother (1872-1941).

What is also interesting, for the antique dealers project, is that a number of (then) high profile London antique dealers and interior decorators supplied the antique furniture for the play. The dealers listed in the playbill were the interior decorators ‘Thornton Smith Limited, 31 Soho Square’; antique dealers ‘Keeble Limited, 10 Carlisle Street’, ‘Parkenthorpe, Ebury Street’, and ‘Spillmans, St. Martin’s Lane’, who are all listed as supplying the ‘furniture’ and acknowledged for their ‘expert advice in this regard’.

The project interactive map website, at present, includes entries for ‘Keeble’ – and trading at 10 Carlisle Street, indeed we even have an image of the interior of their shop, dated 1927.

Keeble Carlisle House Carlisle Street London Oct 1927 Conn The Oak Room at Carlisle House

Keeble (1914) Ltd, Carlisle Street, ‘Oak Room’, 1927.

Parkenthorpe were trading at the time at 79 Ebury Street, as ‘dealers in antiquities’ – see again our project interactive map.

We can get a sense of the attention to authentic detail in the room settings for the play ‘Quinneys’ from the stage directions in the play script; the play opens in ‘The Sanctuary in Quinney’s house in Soho Square’ (one can note here that there is an extra layer of authenticity here, as the antique dealers Thornton Smith, in real life, also had premises in Soho Square)…and the stage directions continue:

‘The rise of the curtain discloses a beautiful room, filled with rare and costly furniture, prints in colour, miniatures and tapestry. Obviously the room belongs to a collector who is a connoisseur….between the windows is a magnificent Chinese lacquer cabinet, standing on a Charles II gilded and carved stand. On the cabinet is a Kang He mirror-black bottle about twenty inches high. An Adam’s mantelpiece, with dog grate, in which logs are burning….an incised lacquer screen, with a gilded Carolean chair in front of it. Upon the mantelpiece are a set of five blue-and-white jars, Oriental china of the eighteenth century. An old Aubusson carpet is on the parquet floor…..there is not much furniture, but it is of the finest Chippendale period….’

The description suggests a display of all of the most fashionable antiques of the period…the ‘Kang He mirror-black bottle’ was of the, then, hugely expensive, so-called famille-noir Chinese ceramics, collected by major figures such as Lord Lever during the opening decades of the 20th century.

Quinney/Rohan is certainly becoming a fascinating case-study of the evolving social and cultural identity of the antique dealer!

Mark

 

 

 

 

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