Archive for May, 2015

May 31, 2015

Antique Dealers Project presented at BADA Regional Meeting

I forgot to mention, due to the increased activities on the oral history interviews front, that we were very kindly invited by The British Antique Dealers’ Association to give a presentation about the various initiatives of the AHRC Antique Dealers Project at the BADA Northern Regional Meeting of BADA in Yorkshire on Friday 15th May.

Mark Dodgson, the BADA Secretary General, has been following the project with considerable interest – and indeed has been very supportive, he even provided us with a copy of BADA catalogue of the Art Treasures Exhibition (1932), which has been a valuable resource for our ongoing research into the history of the British Antiques Trade. We were also very warmly received by members of the BADA meeting, which included Tony & Mary Lumb (with whom we have already undertaken a fascinating oral history interview – thanks again Tony & Mary!); present were also Louise Phillips (of Elaine Phillips Antiques); Holly Johnson & Benjamin Aardewerk (of Holly Johnson Antiques); Simon Myers (of the old established dealers R.N. Myers & Son); Philip Carrol; Paul Beedham (of Paul Beedham Antiques); Helen Sutcliffe (Sutcliffe Galleries); and Chairman of the Council, Michael Cohen (together with his wife Ewa, of Cohen & Cohen Antiques).

After a fabulous lunch, I presented a short(ish) presentation, outlining the project and it’s objectives, and demonstrated the (still in development, but very soon to be launched…really…within weeks now!) interactive project website.

It was great to have such a keen interest in the project from members of the trade, and the premier trade body – thank you for the lunch, and for your ears!


May 29, 2015

Oral History Interviews continue…..

Our Oral History interviews with members of the antique trade are gathering pace – besides the notices of recently completed interviews (see previous blog posts), we’ve also undertaken two further interviews in the last weeks – One with Philip Astley-Jones, who, amongst other things, formerly worked with the famous dealer Roger Warner, in Burford – for those that know these things, as well as those that don’t, The Regional Furniture Society published ‘Roger Warner: memoirs of a twentieth century antique dealer’ in 2003 (RFJ, Volume XVII, 2003). Our other was with Leon Sassoon, of the well-known antique carpets and rugs dealers C. John

Our interview with Philip Astley-Jones was undertaken by our research fellow Lizzy Jamieson – Philip gave us some absolutely fascinating memories of his time with Roger Warner in his shop in Burford, Oxfordshire.

Philip Astley-Jones photo

Philip Astley-Jones, 2015. Photograph EJ (Antique Dealers Project, Leeds University).

Philip started with Roger Warner in 1965, and he gave us amazingly vivid descriptions of the day-to-day life in the shop, and the buying activities of Roger. As you may know, Roger Warner was famous for his acquisitions of the historic and the curious, and in the interview we heard of buying objects from great Country Houses such as Chastleton, in Oxfordshire – (now a National Trust House). Philip regaled us with lots of fascinating stories of other buying trips – including the amazing story of how Roger found the original Capability Brown map of Moccas Court, rolled up in a long tin canister on top of a bookcase at the house.

Philip left Roger Warner in 1976, moving to Los Angeles, then Amsterdam, before returning to London and taking over the well-known antique restorers, Hatfields.  In a wide ranging interview, Philip also reflected on the potential future for the antique trade – it’s a lovely interview, full of detail, and you will soon be able to listen to it via our project websites – so do keep an eye on developments.


Our other interview was undertaken by one of our most active project volunteer researchers, Chris Coles. Chris interviewed Leon Sassoon, of the specialist textiles and antique carpets and rugs dealer C. John who are now trading in South Audley Street, Mayfair, London.

Leon Sassoon

Leon Sassoon

In an absolutely fascinating interview Leon told us about the beginnings of the firm of C. John, which was started by Leon’s uncle in Oxford in 1933; see below for a photograph of the premises at 36 High Street, Oxford in the 1930s. Their shop in Oxford was eventually closed in 1976, to allow concentration on their shop in London.

C John rugs

C. John, 36 High Street, Oxford, 1930s. Photograph copyright C. John .

The business of C. John is world famous for antique carpets and rugs of course, but it was intriguing to hear that when the firm was initially set up by Mr John he was just as interested in antique furniture as he was in antique carpets – indeed, this interior photograph of the Oxford shop from 1945 illustrates the stock of furniture then held by C. John – as well as the firm’s well-known interest in carpets, tapestries and rugs.

C John Oxford 1945

C. John, interior of shop in Oxford, 1945. Image from ‘Antiques Yearbook’ 1945.

Leon also told us about his memories of the antique carpet trade since he started with his uncle in the late 1960s; during his time in the business many great carpet and textile dealers have gone – Mayorcas, Arditti, Vigo Galleries, Sternberg, Benardout, all great names in the history of the antique trade, are no longer with us. Indeed, C. John, along with S. Frances (est 1909) as Leon said, are the last of the great tapestry and antique carpet dealers. Leon tempered that by emphasizing that a new generation of carpet and textiles dealers have also emerged over the last years…so it’s not all doom and gloom!

In our interview, Leon also reflected on the changing landscape of the antique trade, and on his relationships with some major collectors of carpets, and with museums, over the last 50 years. The interview is a fascinating insight into a very specialist area of the antique trade, and we ‘re sure our interview with Leon will be a fantastic addition to the range of antique dealer interviews we are assembling as a result of the AHRC Antique Dealer project.



May 25, 2015

Even more oral history interviews

Martin Beazor 2015

Martin Beazor, 2015. Photo MW (Antique Dealers Project).

One of our latest oral history interviews with members of the British antique trade is with Martin Beazor, of John Beazor Antiques in Cambridge. Martin is the third generation of his family to run the antique business, which was established in Great Yarmouth in 1875.

Beazor antiques Hall Quay great yarmouth

John Beazor Antiques, Hall Quay, Great Yarmouth, c.1900. Photograph courtesy of Martin Beazor. Copyright Martin Beazor.

In a very wide-ranging interview (lasting 2 hours!) Martin told us about the start of the firm, by his great-grandfather John Martin Beazor, in a shop at Hall Quay in Great Yarmouth – the shop is on the left-hand side of the photograph (c.1900) looking up Hall Quay – apparently King Edward VII was once a visitor.

The Beazor family may have started in the carriage trade, before moving on to become antique dealers; they are one of a small number of dealers still trading that were established in the 19th century. Martin’s grandfather, John Beazor continued the business, moving to their current location in Regent Street, Cambridge in 1940 – taking with them, so Martin recalls, a very smart 18th century grand entrance door salvaged from a merchant’s house in Great Yarmouth.

Martin also showed us a rare interior photograph of the Beazor antique shop in Great Yarmouth….a fascinating illustration of the taste for antiques in c.1910.

John Beazor antiques great yarmouth c.1910

John Beazor Antiques – interior of Great Yarmouth shop, c.1910. Courtesy of Martin Beazor. Copyright Martin Beazor.

And here is John Beazor, Martin’s grandfather –

John Beazor martins grandfather

John Beazor, Martin Beazor’s grandfather. Photograph courtesy of Martin Beazor. Copyright Martin Beazor.

Martin had very fond memories of working with his father, Keith Beazor, during the 1970s and 1980s – Martin joined the firm in 1973, when he was in his early 20s – including a fascinating anecdote about how his father managed to acquire an important ‘Hepplewhite’ partner’s desk from another dealer, which was eventually sold by Keith Beazor to Asprey in London.

The interview with Martin also includes reflections on the changing structure and practices of the antique trade over the past 40 years, and recollections on several well known dealers. As with all of the interviews we are undertaking as part of the research project, the interview with Martin will be available via the project websites.


May 24, 2015

More Oral History Interviews

Our oral history interviews are gathering pace – we’ve completed 4 more interviews in the last few weeks….and we’ll post details of all of the interviews in the next few days…but in the meantime, one of our latest interviews was with Christopher Claxton Stevens, late of the leading dealers in Antique English Furniture, Norman Adams, of Hans Road in London. Christopher was interviewed by our Research Fellow, Lizzy Jamieson.

Christopher Claxton Stevens photo 1

Christopher Claxton Stevens. Photograph courtesy of Christopher Claxton Stevens.

Christopher joined Norman Adams Antiques in 1981, after beginning his career at Christie’s – and joined Stewart Whittington in running the business, which was then, unusually, a trust, following the death of Norman Adams in 1979.  Norman Adams (established in 1923) was well known for his ‘eye’ for colour and the patina of antique furniture, and this concentration on the aesthetic, over the privileging of provenance or history of antique furniture, placed Norman Adams in a particular tradition of dealers – and it was pleasing to hear that this particular tradition was continued by Christopher and Stuart.

Our interview with Christopher provided a personal insight into the history of the firm and included a fascinating range of first person perspectives on the business, including Christopher’s role in the sale of the famous ‘Murray Cabinet’ to Temple Newsam House, Leeds, in 1986 – the Murray Cabinet had already been through the hands of Norman Adams in 1950, when it was sold by Adams to the collector Arthur Ball; it was then re-purchased by the firm following the death of Ball and was subsequently sold by the firm to Temple Newsam House – here is the magnificent cabinet, still on display in Leeds:


The Murray Cabinet, Temple Newsam House. Courtesy of Leeds Museums & Galleries.

Our interview with Christopher is part of a fascinating series of interviews with antique dealers, all of which will soon be available via the project websites – so do watch this space for updates!


May 3, 2015

Oral Histories making progress – interview with Andrew Burne

The oral history research strand in the Antique Dealers research project continues to make progress – we still have a HUGE list of people to talk to though!

In January, Chris Coles, one of our most active and supportive volunteer researchers, undertook an oral history interview recording with Andrew Burne, of the antique glass specialists W.G.T. Burne (Antique Glass) Limited. W.G.T. Burne are based in London, and were established by Andrew’s father in 1936.

Andrew Burne

Andrew Burne, of W.G.T. Burne (Antique Glass) Limited. Photo courtesy of Andrew Burne.

In a wide-ranging interview, Andrew told us about the early history of W.G.T. Burne – his father initially worked for the well-known specialist glass dealer, and author, Arthur Churchill, before setting up on his own in 1936. Andrew also shared his memories of other specialist glass dealers, including Delomosne and Maureen Thompson. There were also fascinating stories about buying trips taken with his father, and the early morning starts to buy in the antique markets at Bermondsey and Portobello in London….as well as an occasion when the actor and singer Dean Martin came into the shop. W.G.T. Burne sold many things to major collectors and museums, and also sold chandeliers to The White House, and Buckingham Palace.

Amongst the ‘good finds’ that Andrew remembered was one of a set of early 18th century glass chandeliers, originally from Lincoln Assembly Rooms, which were bought from an auction at Christie’s South Kensington – the chandelier is now in the collections of Saint Louis Art Museum, in the USA. In the interview, Andrew recalled that the chandelier was sold by W.G.T. Burne to Hotspur, but it seems that the eventual dealer who sold the object to Saint Louis Art Museum (in 1993) was H. Blairman & Sons (see provenance information on the chandelier on the Saint Louis Art Museum Collections online).  Here’s a photograph of the chandelier from the museum website – and it’s a spectacular thing!

lincoln assembly room chandelier

Glass Chandelier, c.1740, from Lincoln Assembly Rooms. Saint Louis Art Museum. Funds given by Mr and Mrs Joseph Pulitzer and museum purchase, 1993. Image from Saint Louis Art Museum website.

An edited version of the oral history interview with Andrew (and all of the oral history interviews) will be available soon via the Antique Dealer project website.


May 2, 2015

New member of the Project Advisory Board

We are very pleased to welcome Yvonne Hardman, the new Head of Collections and Programmes at Leeds Museums & Galleries, to the Antique Dealer project Advisory Board.  Yvonne has recently, and very generously, stepped into the Advisory Board vacancy left by our friend and colleague Camilla Nichol, the former Head of Collections at Leeds Museums & Galleries (Camila, as you may know, left Leeds Museums to take up a position in Cambridge).

yvonne hardman

Yvonne Hardman, Head of Collections and Programmes at Leeds Museums and galleries

Yvonne’s role at Leeds Museums is to manage the team of curators, registrars, conservators, community engagement and digital media staff – so quite a job!….the Advisory Board role, by comparison, will be a doddle!

Until March 2015 Yvonne was the Art Gallery Officer at Touchstones Rochdale, where she had been for ten years, and prior to this she held posts at the Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport and the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool. From 2003-2009 she was on the board of directors at Manchester Craft & Design Centre and has been an Artistic and Quality Assessor for Arts Council England since 2009. She brings a wealth of museum-related experience to the Advisory Board, and we very much look forward to formally welcoming Yvonne to the project at future meetings.


Home Subjects

a working group dedicated to the display of art in the private interior, c. 1715-1914

The Period Room: Museum, Material, Experience

An International Conference hosted by The Bowes Museum and The University of Leeds

H. Blairman & Sons Ltd

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 19th & 20th centuries

Museum Studies Now?

'Museum Studies Now?' is an event which aims to discuss and debate museum and heritage studies education provision.

The Burlington Magazine Index Blog

art writing * art works * art market

East India Company at Home, 1757-1857

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 19th & 20th centuries