Posts tagged ‘Blairman’

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 30, 2014

Antique Dealing….and other practices

The history of the trade in antiques is composed of a complex mixture of overlapping practices and activities. In the early 19th century, when we can say that the present trade began, antique and curiosity dealers emerged from the furniture-making community, from the ‘rag-trade’, the second -hand trade more generally, and modern china and glass sellers….amongst others…. ..if you’re interested, see my work A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Antique and Curiosity Dealers (Regional Furniture Society, 2009 & 2011 – copies still available!…£20…(sorry about the advert!….) – But anyway, historically, the trade has always comprised a series of interrelated selling and manufacturing practices.  Indeed, during the course of the investigations for the current project and the history of the antique trade in the 20th century these overlapping practices continued – here’s just one example of the practices of ‘antique dealing’ operating alongside other activities – some of these are obvious (interior decorating for example, and furniture making…which many dealers today are involved in). But antique dealers have also regularly sold a range of ‘modern’ things alongside what one might describe as ‘traditional’ antiques (the notion of ‘antique’ is quite obviously a mutable term!).

Anyway, Martin Levy (of Blairman & Sons, London) sent us this image of a tea-cup and saucer, which was apparently retailed by Blairman, when the firm was then trading in Llandudno, Wales (they had a shop there from the 1880s).

Photograph copyright Blairman & Sons, London

Photograph copyright Blairman & Sons, London

Photograph copyright, Blairman & Sons, London.

Photograph copyright, Blairman & Sons, London.

We reckon the tea-cup and saucer dates from c.1890-1910, so would have been a ‘modern’ thing when sold by Blairman at the time. The retailing of ‘contemporary’ products is interesting, especially given the recent shift to the contemporary and the changes in the activities of, what were often considered to be ‘traditional’ dealerships – it’s now not that unusual to enter an ‘antique shop’ and be confronted by modern and contemporary design amongst the ‘brown furniture’ and ‘antique’ objects…..

There are many other examples of other practices that the antique trade have been involved in over the years and we hope to include information of these activities as part of our ‘cultural geography’ of the antique trade…




March 29, 2014

Project Advisory Board Meeting at Temple Newsam House, Leeds

We had our 2nd Advisory Board meeting at Temple Newsam House in Leeds on Friday 28th March. Thank you to our Advisory Board members (Reinhold Behringer, Georgina Gough, Martin Levy, James Lomax, Camilla Nichol, Judith Phillips, Emma Slocombe, and Christopher Wilk) for their continued support, advice and counsel for the Antique Dealers project. We thank James Lomax and Martin Levy, who did a little ‘trade tour’ of the collections at Temple Newsam House –


Temple Newsam House

James is emeritus curator of Temple Newsam, and Martin is the director of H. Blairman and Sons and they both talked so engagingly about the decorative and fine art objects that entered the collections via the antiques trade and are on display at Temple Newsam. Indeed, Martin had many personal recollections of the acquisition stories of many of the objects on display, including a set of 4 giltwood torcheres (see below) which Martin discovered in an auction in Switzerland in 2007 and negotiated their return to Temple Newsam House – they were originally supplied to Temple Newsam by James Pascall, for the Picture Gallery, in the 1740s, but sold from the house in 1922.


Giltwood Torcheres by James Pascall, c.1746

There were lots of fascinating anecdotes from James and Martin, stories that one never hears about – especially when one considers  the acquisition of museum objects! Some of the stories of the acquisition of objects at Temple Newsam are public knowledge – (for example, the then, in 1965, world record price of £43,050 for the Chippendale Library Table, formerly at Harewood House in Yorkshire) –


Library Table, by Thomas Chippendale, c.1771.

But Martin also told us that his father, George Levy, who bid at auction for the table, only just managed to acquire the table on behalf of Leeds City Collections (of which Temple Newsam House is a part) – George Levy managed to persuade the consortium of philanthropists who wished to buy the table for Leeds to allow him to go just one extra bid over their suggested limit for the table… very nearly got away!

There were so many more fascinating stories about the acquisition of some of the objects at Temple Newsam…part of the research project is to investigate these ‘hidden histories’!





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