Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

May 30, 2023

More on Samuel Richards: a Nottingham antique dealer 1890s-1920s

Readers of the Antique Dealers’ blog will be aware that we have previously posted a couple blog entries on the antique dealer Samuel Richards (1859-1927) (see blog posts November 2018 & June 2014). Richards is well-known for producing charming and detailed lithographed catalogues of his stock of antiques, which he issued monthly (with a few exceptions) from the early 1890s until the period around the First World War. Richards’ catalogues are quite rare – there are a few copies at the Victoria & Albert Museum Art Library in London, bound together in a couple of volumes. We also have a small number of bound copies in the John Evan Bedford Library of Furniture History at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds, thanks to the very generous bequest of the late John Bedford (1941-2019). The Brotherton Special Collections also has a couple more bound copies of Richards catalogues, very generously bought at auction (in Nottingham no less) in 2018 and donated by our friend and keen supporter of the antique dealer research project, Simon Myers, of the antique dealer R.N. Myers & Sons of Gargrave in North Yorkshire (thank you again Simon).

Samuel Richards, Nottingham, Catalogue of Stock, May 20th, 1896. Photograph, Antique Dealers’ Research Project, University of Leeds.

Richards drew the illustrations in the catalogues himself, producing them monthly and sending them out to collectors all over the UK – although Richards quite often felt the need to apologise for missing a month (due to sheer volume of work, he says) in some of the monthly catalogues.

Samuel Richards, Nottingham, catalogue of stock of antiques, April 1912. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Whilst such lithographed catalogues produced by antique dealers were not unique to Richards (see blog post of the catalogues produced by A. W. & F. Little, of Bristol, in the same period – Blog Post February 2022), Richards seems to have been particularly prolific.

As a result of these fascinating catalogues, we have been doing more research on Samuel Richards over the past few months and have discovered new information about his activities an antique dealer in the period 1890s to 1920s. Richards was born in Nottingham in 1859, and died in Loughborough in 1927. He appears to have run his antique dealing business in Nottingham, but lived most of his life in Loughborough. The Census (1901) records Richards aged 42, a ‘dealer in antiquities’ (as antiques were often called at the time), living at 1 Park Street, Loughborough, with his wife Maud (aged 38), his son Arthur (aged 9), and daughters Winifred (aged 5) and Nora (aged 4), together with a servant, Fanny (aged 16). Richards appears to have owned or rented another property in Herrick Road in Loughborough at the same time. Richards antique shops were located in Nottingham, at 77 Houndgate and at The Old Friary, Friary Lane – he seems to have operated from both premises from the 1890s until his retirement from business in c.1919 – his son Arthur (1891-1976) appears to have worked with his father in the antique shops from about 1908, perhaps until his father’s retirement in c.1919. Richards shop at 77 Houndgate was crammed full of antiques (see photograph from 1892, below) typical of the material he illustrated in his monthly catalogues.

Samuel Richards antique shop, 77 Houndgate, Nottingham, 1892. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

You can just make out the exterior appearance of Richards’ Houndgate antique shop in the title page of some of his catalogues – see below).

Samuel Richards, catalogue of stock of antiques, 1891. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.

And as mentioned in the previous blog post in June 2014, the building that housed Richards’ Houndgate antique shop still exists (see below).

Building that housed Samuel Richards antique shop, photographed in 2014. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Richards’ other shop, The Old Friary in Friary Lane, Nottingham, was a much more famous building. He appears to have rented The Old Friary from the early 1890s until c.1919.  The Old Friary was a 17th century building, rebuilt as part of a much earlier series of buildings that were part of Whitefriars Priory (built c.1276). 

The Old Friary, Nottingham, c.1927, just shortly prior to its demolition. Image courtesy of Getty Images as part of the Year of the Dealer project 2023.

The Old Friary was also partly rebuilt in the 16th century and more famous for its associations with Dorothy Vernon (1544-1584) of Haddon Hall fame; Vernon is supposed to have lived at the Old Friary with her husband John Manners (1534-1611).  In 1902 Charles Major published his famous romance novel ‘Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall’ which may have increased traffic to Richards’ shop. Certainly, such historic associations would have been of interest to an antiquary such as Richards and to his customers.  The Old Friary was demolished in 1927. You can also just make out a photograph of The Old Friary in the title page of some of his catalogues of stock of antiques (see below).

Samuel Richards, catalogue of stock of antiques, February 1894. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.

We also have some exciting news about Samuel Richards – he is the focus of one of our Year of the Dealer Project digital trails (see Year of the Dealer Project) – at the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight, near Liverpool. Richards sold a large amount of ‘antique straw-work’ objects to Sir William Lever in 1915, one specimen of which we have included in the Year of the Dealer trail at the Lady Lever (see below). So, keep your eye out for the official launch of the Year of the Dealer trails this summer.


Early 19th century Straw-work box. French. Sold by Samuel Richards to William Lever in 1915. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.
April 30, 2023

F.G. & C. Collins Antiques 1907-2006

This month’s blog post is one of our occasional series of invited contributors to the Antique Dealer Research Blog. We have a really fascinating blog on the history of the well-known antique dealers F.G. & C. Collins, of Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire, composed by Anne Atton, the grand-daughter of one of the founders of the business. We are very grateful to Anne for sharing her memories and research with the antique dealer research project – Thank You Anne!


Hi, my name is Anne Atton and I live in Wheathampstead, a rural village in Hertfordshire where my family ran a provincial antiques business. I retired as a Chartered Surveyor in 2020, having worked in both private and public sectors for 35 years. I have a keen interest in social history and my retirement has given me the opportunity to get involved in projects for the Wheathampstead History Society. I’m proud to share the story of my family’s antique business and I hope you enjoy learning about them as much as I did.

In this blog post, I reflect on 99 years of Collins Antiques, a successful antique dealership based in Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire. Starting in 1907, the business traded for 99 years, employing three generations, closing in 2006. The business evolved from selling second-hand furniture in a pub yard to the successful operation of two established retails stores selling 18th and 19th century antique furniture, together with an extensive restoration workshop.

F.G. Collins, pub yard, Railway Hotel, Wheathampstead, c.1910. Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.

F. G. & C. Collins was founded by my great uncle Fred Collins and grandfather Charlie Collins, who were brothers from rural Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire. Frederick Collins was a talented cabinetmaker having completed his apprenticeship with the celebrated furniture business established by Sir Blundell Maple.

Charlie Collins, date unknown. Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.

Charlie entered into partnership with his brother Fred in 1911, repairing and selling furniture from a small yard behind the Railway Hotel in Wheathampstead, before moving the business to 12 High Street, Wheathampstead (see photograph BELOW) . When money was tight, the brothers acted as cabbies, hiring horses from Tattershalls, the well-known auctioneers of horses. During the First World War their sisters looked after the business. After the War the brothers returned safely home to Wheathampstead from Europe and the Middle East, taking up the running of the business again.

F.G. & C. Collins, 12 High Street, Wheathampstead, c.1912. Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.

In 1926, Fred Collins bought 54 High Street, Wheathampstead, which consisted of a cottage and a small site next door; after which, Fred paid £12 for a Winter Garden from a demolished local country house, which was re-erected on the High Street site in 1931, creating the F.G. & C. Collins antique shop (see photograph BELOW).

54 High Street, Wheathampstead, in c.1926 (above) and in c.1931 (below) following the creation of F.G. & C. Collins’ antique shop. Photographs courtesy of Anne Atton.

Business invoices from the 1920s show show the diversity of the business – they acted as carpet-fitters, upholsterers and furniture removers. Collins had some illustrious customers at the time, including the playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). In 1926 Charlie employed a cabinet-maker, who later retired aged 80. Work on each item of furniture was recorded in a scribbling diary bought from Boots (the Chemist), a practice that continued right up to the close of the business in 2006.

In 1930, Fred Collins rented outbuildings from the Town Farm, opposite the shop. These were later used for the storage of furniture of wealthy customers protecting their valuables during the London Blitz during the Second World War.

F.G. Collins, Town Farm, Wheathampstead, storage area (date unknown). Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.

Fred Collins sadly died in 1936, leaving the shop at 54 High Street to his brother, Charlie and the other shop at 12 High Street to his widow, Olive Collins. In 1937 Charlie had the shop decorated for the Royal Coronation of King George VI, and with an array of furniture presented for sale on the pavement outside the shop (see photograph BELOW).

Collins Antiques, decorated for the Coronation of King George VI, 1937. Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.

In 1939 Charlie rented a Georgian building, Barton House in Wheathampstead that had been subject to a ‘Clearance Order’ in 1938, and spent the next 17 years challenging the local council to save the building from demolition. Charlie eventually bought the building in 1955, repairing it and converting it to a new antiques showroom in the 1960s. It remained as a showroom until the firm closed in 2006.

Collins Antiques, Barton House, Wheathamsptead, 1960s. Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.
Collins Antiques, Barton House, Wheathampstead, interior of showroom, 1960s. Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.

In 1950, Charlie’s son, my father Sam Collins, joined the business, followed by my brother Michael in 1975. In the 1960s Charlie and Sam would often undertake buying trips to Ireland, sometimes staying their for over 1 month. The business also continued to diversify in the period, becoming a local agents for ‘Sunway Blinds’ and the ‘Sunresta’ bedding company. There were some exciting antiques acquired during the 1960s, including, in 1962, a pair of French 16th century walnut stalls, which Collins sold to York Minster – (BELOW is a photo of the stalls; the young girl sitting on the seat is Anne Atton (nee Collins)!

Anne Atton (nee Collins) in the 16th century stalls in 1962. Photograph courtesy of Anne Atton.

By 2001, as the interest in antiques started to wain, the main showroom of Collins Antiques was leased out. Sam Collins sadly passed away in 2004, and the business of Collins Antiques finally closed in 2006 – although my sister, Sarah Collins, continues the family tradition of buying and selling gifts and modern furniture and furnishings.

Anne Atton.

March 31, 2023

Godfrey Giles & Co – ‘antique dealers’

Yet more examples of historic ‘antique dealer’ booklets and catalogues keep turning up – this time our friend Thomas Lange, researcher at leading London based antique furniture dealers Ronald Phillips very generously send us a copy of a rare brochure from his own collection. Thomas has been a keen supporter of the Antique Dealer Research Project for many years and has often sent us information and historical material on the history of antique dealing – thank you again Thomas!

On this occasion Thomas discovered an antique dealer that had not previously been known to us – Godfrey Giles & Co, 18 Old Cavendish Street, London.

‘Antique Furniture’ – Godfrey Giles & Co. c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds 2023.

Godfrey Giles were certainly not figured in our Antique Dealer Map website – but their absence can be explained by our research methodology; we have tended to concentrate on information about antique dealers from historic Trade Directories, Antique Dealer Guidebooks and Listings, and antique dealer advertisements etc. But of course such an approach misses many traders who operated at the periphery of the trade in antiques, and in overlapping practices such as furniture makers, decorators and general furnishers etc.

Godfrey Giles appears to have been this type of business. Indeed, they are classified as furniture manufacturers in the Furniture History Society’s ‘British and Irish Furniture Makers Online’ (BIFMO) database. The firm seems to have been flourishing in the 1890s, as ‘Decorators, Cabinetmakers and Upholsterers’, with various retail outlets in Kensington High Street, London (for ‘general furnishings’) and in Queen Street, London and New Cavendish Street, London (for ‘Decorative Furniture’ and ‘Antique Furniture’). Their New Cavendish Street shop was right next to another well-known ‘Decorator and Antique Dealer’ Gregory & Co.

The brochure that Thomas kindly donated to us is undated, but appears to date from c.1915; it’s about 10 inches x 6 inches, contains just 8 pages, and is typical of the types of booklets produced by several antique dealers in the period. It illustrates examples of antique furniture for sale in Giles’ shop.

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915 – illustrations of antique furniture. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023.

That Godfrey Giles, a ‘modern’ furniture maker and retailer, should also be selling antique furniture is no surprise of course, many furniture makers bought and sold antique furniture in the early 1900s as demand for antiques expanded in the period. As the booklet states, ‘The demand for antique furniture shows no signs of abating.’ The booklet has some interesting examples of antique furniture fashionable at the time. ‘Chippendale’ furniture was key of course, such as these ‘Chippendale Chairs’ described as ‘in original condition’ (see below):

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023.

Our these ‘Chippendale’ tables, the right hand one described as ‘of the best period and in exceptionally fine condition’ (see below).

Antique oak furniture was also particularly popular in the early 1900s – the booklet mentions the ‘Oak Room’ at Godfrey Giles’ showroom, ‘unique and full of interest to collectors’. The room itself is described in the booklet as a ‘Fine example of a Jacobean Oak Room taken from Erdington Hall, Birmingham. Circa 1650.’

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023

Erdington Hall was built in the mid 1600s, and was demolished in 1912, so this perhaps gives us a date for the Godfrey Giles & Co booklet.

Erdington Hall in 1879. Illustration from Harrison & Wills, ‘The Great Jennings Case’ (1879) – from

The antique furniture illustrated in the booklet suggests that Godfrey Giles & Co were buying and selling high quality antiques. In fact Thomas Lange has spotted a ‘Queen Anne Mirror’ in the booklet that was later illustrated in the famous 3 volume ‘The Dictionary of English Furniture’ compiled by Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards in 1924. The mirror in Godfrey Giles & Co booklet (see below, shown right) is described as having ‘Original gilding’ –

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023

The same mirror (see below) in ‘The Dictionary’ (see Volume 2, page 325, fig.45) was then owned by Mrs Percy Macquoid – perhaps, as Thomas suggests, Godfrey Giles & Co sold the mirror to the Macquoid’s? Illustrious customers indeed.

Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards – ‘The Dictionary of English Furniture’ (3 vols, 1924) volume 2, p.325.

We are so grateful to Thomas for so generously donating the Godfrey Giles & Co booklet to the Antique Dealer Research Project.


February 26, 2023

Waring & Gillow Italian Antiques Exhibition 1909

A new edition to the growing collection of Antique Dealer catalogues is a rare exhibition catalogue produced by the furniture makers and retailers Waring & Gillow in 1909. This ‘Exhibition of Italian Furniture and Pictures by Italian Artists’ took place at Waring & Gillow’s shop in Oxford Street in London.

Waring & Gillow Exhibition catalogue, 1909. Photograph, Antique Dealers’ Research Project, University of Leeds.

The exhibition included a very wide range of ‘antiques’ – ‘antique furniture’, ‘Old tapestries’, ‘sculptured marbles of historic interest’, ‘Bronzes’, ‘Old Majolica ware’, ‘Lace’, XVIth century Cathedral Vestments’ and paintings by ‘Old Masters’, as well as paintings by ‘Modern Italian Artists’ such as Pio Joris (1843-1921), Silvio Galimberti (1869-1956) and Filiberto Petiti (1845-1924) – the latter loaned by Queen Margherita of Savoy (1851-1926).

Waring & Gillow Exhibition Catalogue, 1909. Photograph, Antique Dealers’ Research Project, University of Leeds.

The ‘Modern’ paintings in the exhibition appear to have all been loans from various private collectors, no doubt an extra inducement for potential customers to come to buy the wide range of antiques in the exhibition, all of which were for sale. There were a small number of ‘Old Master’ paintings, which also appeared to have been loans (‘The Three Graces by Sarriboursi’, ‘The Annunciation by Francesco di Gentile’ and a ‘Madonna and Child and Saints Bernardo and Girolamo by Pinturicchio’); but there were also one or two ‘Old Paintings’ on sale at the exhibition – a pair of oil paintings on panel ‘of the Pier Della Francesca School’ (priced at £75 the pair), and a ‘XVth century Madonna and Child’ on panel (priced at £95).

The range of antiques for sale illustrates the evolving fashion for Italian interior decoration promoted by Waring & Gillow at the time. The catalogue even included an illustration of an ‘Italian Salon’ as one of the frontispiece images – the tapestries in the illustration were for sale in the exhibition, described as ‘Early XVIIth century’ the 7 tapestries were offered at £3,000 the set.

Waring & Gillow Exhibition Catalogue, 1909. Photograph, Antique Dealers’ Research Project, University of Leeds.

The exhibition included a wide range of antique furniture, including ‘XVth, XVIth and XVIIth century’ chairs and tables, coffers and cassone; this ‘Fine Italian Renaissance Credence’ in walnut (see below) was priced at £100.

Waring & Gillow Exhibition Catalogue, 1909. Photograph, Antique Dealers’ Research Project, University of Leeds.

And this ‘Table of old ”Verde Antico” marble, with ”Breccia Corallina” borders, was offered at £115 (see below).

Waring & Gillow Exhibition Catalogue, 1909. Photograph, Antique Dealers’ Research Project, University of Leeds.

Perhaps the most surprising ‘antiques’ for sale in the exhibition was a range of ecclesiastical vestments, including this ‘Renaissance Chasuble of the Sixteenth Century’ (one of 4 offered for sale) at £39.10s (see below). Although to be fair, the tradition of buying and selling antique textiles goes back to at least the early 19th century in terms of the history of antique dealing, and museums such as the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A Museum) had been assembling collections of antique textiles since it’s earliest days in the 1850s.

Waring & Gillow Exhibition Catalogue, 1909. Photograph, Antique Dealers’ Research project, University of Leeds.

That Waring & Gillow, one of the leading modern furniture retailers in the period, should be staging exhibitions of ‘antique furniture’ is of course not unusual; the firm was also buying and selling antique furniture alongside many modern furniture retailers at the time. The exhibition catalogue will be making it’s way to the collections of Antique Dealer material at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds in due course.


December 30, 2022

Happy New Year to all our readers!

2022 is coming to a close – so we’d like to wish all readers and followers of the Antique Dealer Research Project blog a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

We thought a fitting image for a Happy New Year is the advertising calendar, produced by the antique dealer Charles Morse, for his very first antique shop, ‘Mr Pickwick’s Antiques’ in 1947 – and thanks again to Charlotte Morse (and Ben) for so kindly letting us use the image again.

Calendar, 1947, ‘Mr Pickwick’s Antiques’ (Charles Morse). Image courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

We will continue to post on the Research Blog in 2023 with our usual selection of posts on the history of antique dealing and various related themes. In April 2023 we will reach the 10th (yes 10th!) anniversary of the Antique Dealer Research Blog. Over the years we have amassed an archive of blog posts amounting to more than 120,000 words, and several hundred images – and in that time we have had more than 70,000 visits to the Research Blog – thank you all that read the blog!

Early in 2023 we’ll have some exciting news to report on the on-going Year of the Dealer project (see the Year of the Dealer project website at the University of Leeds), with the launch of our Year of the Dealer Digital Trails at a selection of our project collaborator museums – so do watch out for news of the Digital Trails in late February 2023.

Happy New Year Everyone!


October 30, 2022

A BADA President medal 1962-1964

As part of the Antique Dealer’s research project at the University of Leeds, we are constantly on the look out for rare ephemera and items associated with the history of antique dealing in Britain. Often material is very generously donated to us, but sometimes things appear on the market which we just have to acquire. One such object was this medal (see below), which turned up at auction in August.

The medal is silver-gilt, about 34mm in diameter, and has a pale blue and white silk ribbon attached. I’d never seen one of these medals before, so asked Mark Dodgson, Secretary General of the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA) about it – he tells me that they were awarded to BADA Presidents to acknowledge their work as Presidents of the organisation. The BADA, as many of you will know, was established in 1918. This particular medal was awarded to the antique dealer Nat D. Ayer by the BADA in 1964 in recognition of Ayer’s Presidency of the BADA between 1962 and 1964. The Verso of the medal has the inscription ‘Nat D. Ayer 38th President 1962-1964’.

Nat Ayer was a very well-known character in the British antiques trade in the Post WWII period. He appears to have begun trading in antiques immediately after the end of the Second World War, opening a shop in Quiet Street, Bath by 1946. Nat Ayer is perhaps also well-known as the son of the famous composer Nathanial Davis Ayer (1887-1952) who was also known as Nat D. Ayer; composer of such famous songs as ‘Oh, You Beautiful Doll’ (1911) and ‘If you were the only Girl in the World’ (1916), with the lyricist Seymour Brown (1885-1952), and for his work on the Ziegfeld Follies. Below is a cover for a music sheet for ‘Oh, You Beautiful Doll’.

Nat Ayer Snr. was born in Boston in the USA – below is a photograph of Nat Ayer in 1916. He settled in the UK, becoming very successful in the Music Hall and theatre scene in London in the 1910s and 1920s. Ayer appears to have been less successful in the 1930s; he was eventually declared bankrupt in 1938; he sadly passed away in 1952 aged 65, in Bath, Somerset. Perhaps Nat Ayer Snr was also instrumental in his son Nat Ayer Jnr. opening an antiques shop in Bath in the 1940s?

Nat Ayer Jnr. went on to be a highly successful antique dealer, and as well as being elected the President of the BADA, he moved his business Mount Street in London in about 1964, which was at the time one of the most important locations for high-end antique shops in London. It may have been when Nat Ayer opened his new shop in Mount Street that he met his long-term partner, H. Gustave, who worked as the manager of the Connaught Hotel located in Mount Street.

Nat Jnr., like his father, was also a composer and an accomplished pianist. Indeed, in one of our many Oral History interviews with member of the antique trade – in our interview with the antique dealer John Bly (see Oral History pages on the project website) – John recalls encountering Nat Ayer whilst viewing an auction sale in Bath with his father Frank Bly. John remembers the auction was on view in a cinema building and seeing a tall man with a smart fur collar on his coat, playing a piano – his father Frank told him – ‘that’s Nat Ayer’. And as part of his introduction to the antique trade, John Bly also worked for Nat Ayer, helping him on his stand at the world-famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in the 1960s. John recalls that Nat was famous for introducing stage settings on his stand at the GH Fair – in 1969, for example, Nat Ayer backed his stand with a huge photograph of the New York skyline, and created trompe l’oeil effects on the floor, creating diminishing perspective effects like in theatre sets. The result, John tells us, caused a sensation at the Fair. Here’s a photograph of Nat Ayer’s shop window in Mount Street from 1966, demonstrating the flamboyant stock, typical of Nat Ayer’s ‘look’.

Nat Ayer became well-known as an interior decorator as well as a leading antique dealer. ‘Ayer & Co’, as the business became known, continued trading until the mid 1970s, moving his shop to 26 Bruton Street in about 1972, a shop now occupied by one of the leading specialists in antique furniture, Ronald Phillips.

It’s not known how or why Nat Ayer’s BADA medal ended up for sale at auction, but it has now joined the growing collections of antique dealer ephemera at the University of Leeds.


September 30, 2022

American Antique Dealers – Francis Bannerman & Sons, New York, 1929

Our collection of catalogues produced by antique dealers had another fascinating addition in the last few weeks – a catalogue from Francis (Frank) Bannerman & Sons, dating from 1929. The catalogue is in quite a fragile condition (the paper used for the catalogue is rather thin) but it’s also quite thick, with more than 370 pages, and thousands of objects listed for sale throughout – it’s certainly one of the largest and most extensive antique dealer stock catalogues we’ve seen (so far).

Francis Bannerman & Sons, catalogue, 1929. Photograph Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The catalogue is titled, ‘War Weapons, Antique and Modern – Cannon, Pistols, Muskets, Rifles, Saddles, Uniforms, Cartridges’. The front cover, (shown above), has a photograph of one of the ‘Island Storehouses’ that Bannerman had in New York – and which was, as the catalogue description suggests, ‘one of the sights of New York’ and ‘the finest Military Museum in the City’. It’s certainly a very impressive building, in a ‘Romantic’ Gothic style, obviously deemed appropriate for the stock of antique and modern weapons.

Francis Bannerman (b.1851 in Dundee in Scotland) came to the USA with his parents in 1854 and began in business working with at his father’s ‘junk shop’ in New York, trading in ‘ship chandlery’ and ‘naval auction goods’ (as Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography described it), which had been established in 1865. Bannerman developed the business further, opening his own stores selling antique weapons alongside the naval and army surplus stores he acquired from Government auction sales. Here (below) is Francis Bannerman, photographed in the 1920s.

Francis (Frank) Bannerman, c.1920s. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.

As a dealer in antique arms and armour, Bannerman continued a tradition that one can trace back into the early 19th century, with famous antique dealers such as Samuel Pratt (d.1849) and his brother Henry, who together with Samuel’s son, Samuel Luke Pratt (1805-1878), who ran a highly successful business trading in ‘ancient armour’ in New Bond Street, London, in the 19th century. Bannerman’s business in the 1920s draws from these traditions, but his business also seems to have acted as a wholesaler and supplier to several National Government’s during times of conflict. Hence, I guess, the large storehouses that Bannerman built in New York. Indeed, the images of the storerooms suggest a wide mixture of antique weapons and objects of antiquarian interest, alongside row upon row of rifles, many from Army and Navy stock from World War I; the weapons were sold for military re-use at the time. Here’s two images of the stores (apologies – the original photographs are very grainy):

Bannerman stores, New York, 1929. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.
Bannerman stores, New York, 1929. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.

The catalogue itself contains a mixture of ex-Government rifles, swords, clothing, tents, cannon etc., alongside some fascinating antique weapons, many of European origin from the Medieval Period onwards, including 16th century armour, spears and crossbows. The business also seems to have bought and sold weapons from indigenous (‘native’) populations from both the USA and around the world. Here, for example, is a rather problematically described series of ‘Bows and Arrows from Savage Tribes’:

Bannerman catalogue, 1929. Photograph Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.

There are also many rare collector’s pieces in the catalogue, some of which, the catalogue suggests, had been exhibited by Bannerman at the ‘British Empire Exhibition 1924’ at Wembley in London. Here (below) are some early wheelock and flintlock pistols from the 1924 Wembley Exhibition. The top image (‘C-WH’) is described in the catalogue as ‘Wheelock Sporting Gun, mid 17th century German’…’from Marquis of Ripon Collection’ and priced at $500.00.

Bannerman catalogue, New York, 1929. Photograph Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.

As well as photographs, the catalogue has hundreds of line drawings of arms and armour. This powder horn, priced at $250, from the 1812 War between Britian and the USA (1812-1815) is described as ‘Showing engagement June 29, 1813, between the British frigate, Junon, 30 guns, Capt. Sanders, and the Martin, 18 guns, Capt. Stenhouse.’ It was also described as ‘the only illustration known showing the engagement.’ The powder horn was apparently pawned by the descendants of the original owner, but never redeemed, and was sold to Bannerman by the heirs of the pawnbroking business.

Bannerman catalogue, New York, 1929. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds.

The Bannerman catalogue is a rare survival, although I’m aware of the existence of a small number of other editions of the catalogue, and provides a unique insight into some of the intriguing overlaps between ‘antique dealing’ and other commercial operations.


August 30, 2022

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) – rare antique dealer’s catalogue, 1937

Our collections of antique dealer catalogues have had a few more additions over the past months. The latest example of these rare pieces of ephemera is a catalogue produced in 1937 by the world-famous antique silver dealers How (of Edinburgh, Limited). As early 20th century antique dealer catalogues go, it’s quite a large, and obviously expensive to produce, catalogue of stock; it’s 12 inches high, by about 9.5 inches wide and contains 71 pages of black and white photographs of the antique silver that How (of Edinburgh, Limited) had in stock at the time. I guess such catalogues would be sent out to loyal customers, but you could also buy a copy of the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue for 5 shillings.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) were established in 1930 by Lt-Commander George Evelyn Paget How (Royal Navy, retired) FSA, Scotland. George How was born in Edinburgh in 1894, and spent much of his youth with his uncle, Lord Cuncliffe, who apparently taught the young How about antique silver. He purchased his first piece of antique silver, a George II silver basting spoon for £32 6d in 1911 in Gibraltar, whilst he was a cadet in the Royal Navy; he still had the spoon in 1936, shortly before the issue date of the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue.

G.E.P. How, perhaps from the 1920s Photograph, Antique Collector Magazine, June 1935.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) opened their first shop in North Street, Edinburgh, in 1930, before moving to fashionable Charlotte Square, Edinburgh by 1932. The business opened a shop in London by 1933, first in Berkeley Square, then Stratton Street (the location suggested in the dealer catalogue), before settling in Pickering Place, St. James’s after the Second World War.

George’s wife, Jane Prentice How (1915-2004) joined him in the business in the mid 1930s and was herself a leading expert on antique silver, a member of the Plate Committee at Goldsmiths Hall in London, and, by all accounts, a formidable antique dealer in her own right. Jane, known as ‘Mrs How’, continued the business of How (of Edinburgh, Limited) after the death of her husband. Many leading antique silver dealers of the day, including Hugh Jessop, John Bourdon-Smith and Brand Inglis, worked at How (of Edinburgh, Limited) at some stage in their careers as dealers.

The catalogue offers a fascinating insight into a leading antique silver dealer’s stock in the 1930s, including, as one might expect given the status of How (of Edinburgh, Limited) as one of the leading antique silver dealers, some rare and important examples of antique silver. Here, for example, is a rare, early, ‘Tigerware’ jug with silver-gilt mounts, made in London in 1556 – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Or this mid 17th century ‘Commonwealth’ period silver salver, made in London in 1657 – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited), catalogue 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The stock also included examples of the work of the world famous silversmith Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751), always much sought after. Here, for example, is a silver ‘small dish on four feet’ (it’s actually a silver sweetmeat-dish), dating from 1730 – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research project, University of Leeds.

This dish, which appears to have been one of a pair, turned up at auction at Christie’s in London on 5th July 2005 (lot 19) in a sale of ‘Important Silver, the property of a European Collector’, when it sold for £7,200 (the Christie’s auction sale catalogue suggested that the engraved Arms in the centre were a later addition – (see below):

Christie’s Auction Catalogue (online), 5th July, 2005. Copyright, Christie’s.

The How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue also illustrates antique silver with very illustrious provenances. These examples, ‘The Lencker Tazza’ (silver-gilt, made by Elias Lencker in about 1570), and the silver-gilt beakers, made in Augsburg in about 1600, were both formerly owned by the Rothschild family – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.
How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

However, (I couldn’t resist the pun!) one of the most interesting (to me at least) aspects of the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue is the inclusion in the catalogue of an example of a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ issued by How (of Edinburgh, Limited). The certificate also directly relates to some of the suggested categories and classifications beneath each of the photographs of the objects in the catalogue – ‘Quality of Object’ – ‘Condition of Object’ – ‘Condition of Marks’, graded variously as ‘Fair’, ‘Good’ and ‘Exceptional’ throughout the catalogue and, as one might expect, as ‘exceptional’ in the certificate example.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Many leading antique dealers and trade organisations, such as the BADA (British Antique Dealers Association) and LAPADA (The Association of Art and Antique Dealers) have offered certificates of authenticity, and many continue to do so, but the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) certificates of the 1930s demonstrate the long genealogy and enduring legacy of authenticity in the market for antiques.


July 31, 2022

Charles Morse Antiques

Our corpus of material on the histories of antique dealers continues to increase – thanks to the many, many individuals who very generously send us information about their antique dealing businesses, or information about antique dealers they have known. But of course our richest seam of information on antique dealers from the past comes directly from the relatives and families of antique dealers. And it’s thanks to Charlotte Morse (and her son Ben, and her half-sister Michal), that we have a whole raft of information on her father, the well-known specialist dealer in antique oak furniture and early objects, Charles Morse (1913-1980).

Charles Morse at Colne Priory, Essex, in 1975. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

Charlotte very kindly donated some ephemera, photographs, and a couple of the last remaining ‘stock books’ (dating from the 1970s) from her father’s antique dealing business, all of which make fascinating reading and will help the antique dealers’ research project enormously.

Charles Morse became one of the leading dealers in ‘Early Oak’ in the 1960s and 1970s, trading from very grand country house premises in Essex. He sold some spectacularly rare objects, many of which must remain in leading collections (if anyone recognises any of the objects in the photographs and knows more about them, or where they are, do let us know!). Morse began his life as an antique dealer in the years after the Second World War. He was trained as a journalist, and worked as a War Correspondent during the War, before getting a job with the Glasgow Express in the years immediately after WWII. Charlotte tells us that her father met the Belgian antique dealer George Baptiste during the War, and this must have been the catalyst for his interest in being an antiques dealer.

Morse opened his first antique shop, called, ‘Mr Pickwick’s Antiques’ in Connaught Avenue, Frinton-on-Sea, Essex in 1946. Below is an advertisement calendar produced by Morse in 1947, illustrative of the general business marketing strategies adopted by some antique dealing businesses in the decades after WWII.

Advertisement Calendar, ‘Mr Pickwick’s Antiques’ (Charles Morse) 1947. Courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

Morse appears to have developed his antique dealing business very rapidly – Charlotte tells us he did good business with the American export trade at the time. He was trading from his home, Groton Manor, Suffolk by 1950, as well as operating a small shop in the village of Boxford, near Sudbury, Suffolk and opening a shop in Great Portland Street, London by the mid 1950s. By 1961 Morse had been elected to the British Antique Dealers’ Association and had a shop in the famous Portobello Road. Throughout the 1960s he was making regular buying trips to Europe, especially to Holland and France, buying early oak furniture and sculpture. Charlotte very kindly shared this photograph of Charles Morse’s VW camper van, loaded up with antique oak furniture, being craned down from the ferry from Amsterdam in 1962.

Charles Morse’s VW camper van, on a buying trip to Holland, 1962. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

But Morse is perhaps most famous for trading from a number of historic properties that he owned in the 1960s and 1970s. He acquired ‘The White House’, Colne, Essex in about 1960, before buying Colne Priory, Essex in about 1967.

Colne Priory, Essex, home and ‘antique shop’ of Charles Morse, c.1967. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

Colne Priory was rebuilt in 1825, incorporating elements of an 18th century house and was built in the grounds of a Benedictine Priory dating back to the 12th century. It was a highly appropriate historic property from which to deal in antiques. Indeed, the tradition of antique dealers trading from historic properties can be traced back to the 1920s and continued throughout the 20th century – the tradition also continues to this day of course.

Charles Morse Antiques, Colne Priory, entrance, c.1970. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

Morse no doubt saw Colne Priory, and it’s historic interiors, as an effective marketing tool for selling antiques, but also, as Charlotte informed us, the house keyed into his love of history and the material culture of the past. Colne Priory was also a home of course, and below is a photograph the private dining room at Colne Priory, filled with antiques – the borderline between antique collecting and antique dealing has always been porous.

Colne Priory, private sitting room, c.1970. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

Morse sold Colne Priory in 1977, moving his home, and business, to Larks-in-the-Wood at Pentlow, Essex. Here, Morse continued to deal in oak furniture and early objects right up to his death in February 1980.

Charles Morse, ‘Larks-in-the-Wood’, Pentlow, Essex. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

Morse sold many spectacularly rare pieces of early oak furniture and early sculpture and objects – this early oak hutch for example; the stone head corbel on the top, left, was, so Charlotte tells us, discovered in the lake in the grounds of Colne Priory, and must have come from the Benedictine Priory itself.

Early oak hutch, Charles Morse Antiques. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.
16th century Hammer Beam End, Charles Morse Antiques. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

And (above) this 16th century oak Hammer Beam End, is typical of the quality of the stock of Charles Morse. As is this (below) 15th century Italian wooden painted and gilded Corpus Christi.

Charles Morse, 15th century Italian Corpus Christi. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

Charles Morse offered the sculpture for sale at the Northern Antique Dealers’ Fair in Harrogate in 1979, for the sum of £3,000. One does not get a sense of the size of the sculpture, until one sees Charlotte (then aged 22) carrying the sculpture into the fair.

Charlotte Morse, carrying the 15th century sculpture into the Northern Antique Dealers’ Fair 1979. Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Morse.

We are so grateful to Charlotte and her family for sharing this material, and her memories of her father, Charles Morse.


June 29, 2022

More Oral Histories go Live!

Our project to make all our Oral History interviews live on the project website continues to gather pace. We have now uploaded another 3 of our archive of interviews – thanks to Patrick Bannon, who is editing and creating visual files for the interviews. Our latest editions to the ‘live’ versions of the interviews are Peter Cheek (who traded as Peter Francis in London); David Fileman (from the famous antique glass specialists, Fileman Antiques), and Jerome Phillips (of the well-known antique dealers Phillips of Hitchin).

Peter Francis Cheek, in 2016. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Peter Cheek, very sadly passed away in 2017, and we again pass our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

The newly edited versions of our Oral History interviews have been created as audio and image files, and we have managed to find relevant photographs of some of the objects and/or events that our interviewees mention in their discussions. So, you can both listen to, and sometimes see, objects or events that are highlighted in the interviews. We hope this will make the interviews a more engaging experience.

Screen Capture from David Fileman Oral History Interview page on Project Website.

You can listen/watch the latest interviews on the ‘Oral History’ pages of the Antique Dealer Research Project website – Click Here

With the help of Patrick Bannon, we aim to have all the remaining Oral History interviews edited and with photographs embedded in the coming months – so do keep your eye on the Blog and the Oral History pages on the project website.


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