Archive for September, 2015

September 29, 2015

Oral History Interviews – Harry Apter

Our Oral History interviews continue apace – we recently interviewed Harry Apter, of Apter-Fredericks, the Antique English Furniture Dealers in Fulham Road, London. In a very engaging interview, Harry told us about when he joined the firm of Apter-Fredericks aged 18 and how his father, Bernard Apter, taught him about antique furniture.

Harry Apter Photo

Harry Apter, of Apter-Fredericks, London. Photograph copyright Antique Dealer project, University of Leeds.

Harry also described the significance of Fulham Road as part of the London antique 18th century furniture trade – indeed with so many antique furniture shops in one street it was known as the ‘Brown Mile’ (after ‘Brown Furniture’….the, now rather disparaging, term for 18th century mahogany furniture). Harry also told us about the buying trips he made to Yorkshire and the West Country, of his work on the Vetting Committee at Masterpiece Fair, and his reflections on the future of the antique trade.

Thank you again to Harry for taking the time to talk to the project team.


September 13, 2015

Antique Dealing in Scotland – Rosehaugh auction 1954

I’m on holiday in Scotland, but still thinking about ‘Antique Dealers’! – we are staying in  small cottage, a converted ‘powerhouse’ c.1900 which was formerly part of the enormous late 19th century house ‘Rosehaugh’, on the Black Isle, near Avoch – anyway whilst whiling away the hours in this beautiful place, I came across a little booklet in the cottage on the history of Rosehaugh (Rosehaugh, a house of its time, John Mills, Hilda Hesling, Magdalene MacLean and Kathleen MacLean, 1996). And antique dealers appear quite prominently in the story of the house – inevitably I would suggest!

The ‘big house’ no longer exists, it was extensively remodelled and extended in the 1890s by the architect William Flockhart, and was demolished in 1959.

Rosehaugh House remodelling by W Flockhart 1883

William Flockhart’s presentation drawing for the proposed remodelling of Rosehuagh, 1893. Image copyright Avoch Heritage Association.


the demolition 1959 view from west

The demolition of Rosehaugh, 1959. Image copyright Avoch HA.

Both during the assembly and dismantling of Rosehaugh, prominent antique dealers played their role; during the construction of the house, J J Duveen supplied much of the historic panelling to the rooms, including this (seemingly) 18th century boiserie for the Drawing Room.

drawing room Duveen

The Drawing Room, Rosehaugh, c.1900. Panelling supplied by Duveen. Image copyright Avoch HA.

It’s probably no coincidence that William Flockhart, the architect of the remodelling at Rosehaugh, also designed the interiors of the New Bond Street showroom of Duveen. And according to the Rosehaugh booklet, Duveen also supplied some Boucher tapestries for the Drawing Room.

The dispersal auction sale also involved the antique trade; the auction was organised and conducted Thomas Love & Sons, Perth, the well-known antique dealers, house furnishers and, obviously, auctioneers, and took place in 1954. Love’s had consigned most of the more valuable contents to sale in London before conducting the auction on site at Rosehaugh – Love & Sons had been established in 1869, as auctioneers and general house furnishers, but also had a large antiques department as part of their business (the business closed in 2009).

the sale 1954 Tho Love and sons

The auction sale at Rosehaugh, 1954. Image copyright Avoch HA.

At the auction sale, which took place over 8 days in late August and early September 1954, a number of antique dealers made significant purchases. A dealer named John Beadle, from Hounslow, London, bought the French panelling that had been supplied by Duveen, paying £400 for the room and lighting fitments. Another object sold, although not known if it was bought by the trade, was a rare Sevres porcelain and ormolu mounted clock by ‘Kinable’ (lot 572, sold with a pair of pastel burners, for £310).

sale cat French clock by Kinable lot 572

Lot 572 in the Rosehaugh auction sale of 1954. ‘A clock by Kinable’. Image copyright Avoch HA.

Dieudonne Kinable (active c.1780-1825) was one of the most prominent clockmakers in Paris in the period, and examples of this ‘lyre’ model of Sevres clock are in several major museum collections, including the V&A, The Royal Collections, The Louvre and The Walters Art Museum in the USA.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting, if as I say perhaps inevitable, that the antique trade played such a central role in both the assembly and dispersal of what must have been a very significant collection of antiques.






September 2, 2015

The changing geography of the antique trade 1976-2000

Further to our summer competition on the top ten locations for antique shops in Britain in 1976, we thought it would be useful draw from the research into the antique shops of 1976 and do a comparison with the year 2000 – we do this in order to highlight again the academic objectives of the research project and draw further attention to some of the significant changes in the ecology of the antique trade over that period.

As many of you you already know, the British antique trade underwent a significant transformation around the time of the millennium – this was also one of the catalysts for the development of this particular research project – and a large number of antique dealers withdrew from the market or changed their patterns of activity during the last 15 years or so. The catalysts for this transformation are wide ranging and complex, driven as there were by rapid developments in technology, shifts in social behaviour, as well as changes in notions such as ‘expertise’ and the knowledge of objects of value – ‘expertise’ has been both decentered and recalibrated in the last 20 or so years.  Moreover, one of the key drivers for the rapid change in ‘taste’ in the last 20 years also appears to have been a more abstract shift towards the contemporary – the extraordinary rise in the market for contemporary art is just one of a number of symptoms of this shift. In the market for ‘antiques’ we have seen a significant decline in the interest for things such as antique furniture, alongside the increased interest in modern/contemporary and designer furniture and objects. This shift in value systems is of course a consequence of extremely complex social, cultural and political phenomena, and there is no space here to even begin to address the frameworks for these rapid changes – suffice to say that the antique trade has changed significantly over the last 15-20 years – and part of the objectives of the current research project is to investigate this shift.

Anyway, one of the pieces of evidence of the recent changes in the cultural geography of the trade is the shifting patterns and concentrations of antique shops in Britain – and you thought that our summer competition was just a piece of frivolous whimsy! And so we thought a comparison between 1976 and 2000 would be an interesting thing to do; and here are some of the results….they make very interesting reading (we are doing more analysis of this data of course!)

1976-2000 Antique locations – the TOP TEN as they were in the competition:

Brighton (96 dealers in 1976; 46 dealers in 2000) – down 48%

Bournemouth (61 dealers in 1976; 22 dealers in 2000) – down 64%

Bath (51 dealers in 1976; 54 dealers in 2000) – up 6%

Bristol (50 dealers in 1976; 24 dealers in 2000) – down 52%

Manchester (37 dealers in 1976; 21 dealers in 2000) – down 43%

Nottingham (36 dealers in 1976; 13 dealers in 2000) – down 64%

Chester (36 dealers in 1976; 22 dealers in 2000) – down 39%

Harrogate (35 dealers in 1976; 25 dealers in 2000) – down 29%

Sheffield (32 dealers in 1976; 16 dealers in 2000) – down 50%

Birmingham (32 dealers in 1976; 21 dealers in 2000) – down 34%

York (30 dealers in 1976; 10 dealers in 2000) – down 67%

Leeds (30 dealers in 1976; 9 dealers in 2000) – down 70%

Glasgow (30 dealers in 1976; 20 dealers in 2000) – down 33%

Oxford (29 dealers in 1976; 7 dealers in 2000) – down 76%

Windsor (29 dealers in 1976; 19 dealers in 2000) – down 34%

And London – (1233 dealers in 1976; 766 dealers in 2000) – down 38%

The figures themselves are somewhat of a blunt instrument, but they do point towards a significant change in the geography of the antique trade over that period. And beneath these figures are some further significant shifts and changes – an increase in ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ objects can already be detected in the data for example.

As you can see, all of the top ten locations, apart from Bath, decreased significantly over the last 24 years of the 20th century.  The small increase in the number of dealers in Bath is mirrored in the increase in activity in locations such as Stow-on-the-Wold (1976 -11 dealers; 2000 – 30 dealers) and in other well-known antique centres such as Tetbury (10 dealers in 1976; 26 dealers in 2000), Cheltenham (21 dealers in 1976; 36 dealers in 2000) and Lewes (8 dealers in 1976; 21 dealers in 2000). But these relatively small increases in activity do not mask the rapid decline in the number of antique shops more generally – and this is a trend we are looking into further.

FYI – one of the most intriguing statistics for the concentrations of dealers was at the County level -now of course there are various explanations for the concentrations of antique dealers in a county area – not least of which would be the size of the county itself (and, as we know, county boundaries are always changing too, so comparisons are not always like-for-like).  But guess which county had the most antique dealers in 1976?…, it’s not Surrey (198), or Kent (228), or East Sussex (helped by Brighton, which had overall 215)….

Guessed yet?

It was Lancashire!…Yes, Lancashire…who’d have thought it (not me anyway!) – it had 240 dealers in 1976.

Now how many do you think it had in 2000?….


I detect a North-South shift here….and this is very intriguing indeed – the social/cultural demography of the antique trade could be a fascinating barometer of the wider social demography of Britain?


Home Subjects

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

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

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art writing * art works * art market

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