Posts tagged ‘Ecology of the Trade’

December 30, 2015

Early 20th century women antique dealers

I recently came across a fascinating little article published in The Sketch on the female antique dealer Clara Millard – The Sketch, in case you were not aware, was a British weekly illustrated newspaper which focused on high society and the aristocracy (it ran from 1893 until 1959).  The article, written by a journalist/writer named only as ‘F.E.A.’, was published on March 14th 1894 and focused on an interview with Clara Millard – here is Miss Millard aged about 25, in a photograph published in the article (see below):

Clara Millard 1894 The Sketch

Miss Clara Millard, c.1894. Photograph by Jones & Co., Surbiton. Image from ‘The Sketch’, March 14th 1894, p.348.

Clara Millard, as far as we know at present, traded from the 1890s until the 1920s, first at Vicarage Road, Teddington, and later at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire; she was also an early member of the British Antique Dealers’ Association (certainly a member by 1920) – see also our interactive project website map for information on Clara Millard –

The article was entitled ‘A Curio Collector, a visit to Miss Clara Millard’ and gives us an insight into the social demographic of women curiosity/antique dealers in the period (it is evident, for example, that Clara was from a well-to-do family), and the kinds of objects that circulated in the trade in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Millard mentions a few objects that she had sold in her shop in Teddington, including ‘a set of seven spa diamond buttons worn by Garrick at the Stratford Jubilee’ – The Shakespeare Jubilee took place in September 1769, and was organised, and partly financed, by the actor-manager David Garrick (1717-1779).

She also mentioned that she also sold the library table used by Napoleon when in exile at Longwood House, St. Helena. The effects of Longwood House were sold in 1822 and there were several library tables in that sale – for an exemplary description and analysis of Napoleon’s furniture at Longwood House see Martin Levy, Napoleoon in Exile, the houses and furniture supplied by the British Government for the Emperor and his Entourage on St. Helena (Furniture History Society, 1998). Perhaps the library table that passed through Clara Millard’s stock was the famous table that was also subsequently sold at the auction sale of the library and effects of John Copling in 1867, who seems to have acquired a number of Napoleonic relics.  The table in question was described in 1867 as ‘A 6ft LIBRARY TABLE of mahogany and yew, banded with ebony…..constantly used by Napoleon himself in his cabinet’ (see Levy, p.66) – this table certainly appears to have been the most famous of the library tables dispersed at Longwood House in 1822. One wonders how Millard obtained the table, and to whom she sold it?

Besides these interesting details on the objects that Millard sold, the interview also provides a fascinating insight into the social networks of Millard, and how she came to become a dealer. The interviewer ‘F.E.A.’ asked her ‘What made you become a dealer in curios?’ – and she gave a comprehensive response, stating;

‘ When I was sixteen I had to decide upon some way of earning my own living….I had always lived with people who liked nice things, and I understood a little about curios, so I started a sale of china and curiosities.  I prepared a catalogue, and sent it round to collectors and wealthy people. The catalogue was a happy thought; it attracted notice and the whole transaction was so successful that I went on as I had begun. I must not forget to tell you that I owe a great deal to the kind help and teaching given to me by Lady Charlotte Schreiber, Lady Currie and Baron Rothschild.  Thanks to them, I made fewer mistakes that I should otherwise have done. Then, I have had a larger share of good luck than falls to the lot of most people’ (The Sketch, p.348).

Millard’s connections to Lady Charlotte Schreiber (1812-1895), daughter of the 9th Earl of Lindsey, and a major collector of ceramics, as well as to Baron Rothschild (1840-1915) and Lady Currie (1843-1905), is indicative of the intimate relationships between dealing and collecting, and of the significance of social and cultural networks in the history of the antique trade.

It’s also worth mentioning that Clara Millard was also well known, in the 1890s, as an antiquarian book dealer – which also draws further attention to the overlapping practices that constitute the ‘antique trade’ (see earlier blog posts on these notions).


August 15, 2015

Oral History Interviews – Lennox Cato

We did another of our growing corpus of antique dealer project Oral History interviews the other week – and with another ‘BBC Antiques Roadshow‘ presenter – this time with Lennox Cato of Lennox Cato Antiques in Edenbridge, Kent.

Lennox cato 1

Lennox Cato. Photograph courtesy and copyright of Lennox Cato Antiques, 2015.

In a fascinating and wide-ranging interview, recorded at his antique galleries in Edenbridge, Lennox told us of his very early introduction to the antiques trade – he was adopted at an early age by the well-known Brighton based antique dealer ‘Dicky’ Compton and his wife – as well as the history of his own time in the business since he opened his first shop in The Lanes, Brighton, in 1978.

As many of you will know, Lennox has become a regular expert (especially on antique furniture) on the popular BBC programme ‘Antiques Roadshow’, as well as being a very active member of the British Antique Dealers’ Association.

Lennox Cato

Lennox Cato in investigative mood. Photograph courtesy and copyright of Lennox Cato Antiques, 2015.

In our interview Lennox reflected on his 35+ years in the trade, and had some enlightening observations of the structure of the antique trade and his perspectives on being one of the very few (the only?) Black ethnic members of the antique trade (at least at this senior level of the trade).  This, for us involved in the research project, is particularly interesting; our study is of what one might call the ‘ecology’ of the antique trade, and is one of the key research themes within the AHRC funded project. Indeed, whilst we are not explicitly tracing the quantitative metrics of the Black and other ethnic demographics of the trade (we’ll leave that for an extension to the current research project), our interactive website is tracking the shifting gender composition of the antique trade over the course of the 20th century – so we will have some data on the changing patterns of men and women dealers 1900-2000.

But anyway, our interview with Lennox has yet to be edited, but will, like all of our oral history interviews, be available for everyone to listen to through our project websites – keep your eyes on the ‘News’ from the ‘Antiques Dealers’ project.

Thank you again to Lennox for taking time out of his very busy schedule to do our research interview.





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