Posts tagged ‘The Country Antique Shop’

October 26, 2014

Tourism and the Interwar Antique Shop

* Guest Post by Heidi Egginton, University of Cambridge *

As Mark very kindly said in his previous post, I am currently doing a PhD on amateur antique and curiosity collecting in Britain from the 1870s to the 1930s. In the course of my research I’ve become a bit obsessed with looking for old postcards and other bits and pieces relating to antique shops and collections, and when I came across some intriguing postcards apparently designed by two antique dealers themselves – Mr. F. G. Halliday of Fore Street, Taunton, and G. A. Parkhurst of Crawley – I decided to find out more…

During the early twentieth century, the new antique shops springing up in towns and villages all over England seemed to be instantly recognisable to amateur collectors and lovers of the antique – they tended to inhabit old, crooked buildings and played on their historical associations. This could mean simply affixing ‘Ye Olde’ to the name of the shop, though in some instances, the building itself was even promoted as a tourist attraction in collectors’ magazines, and through the use of promotional postcards. Many shops included cafés, and were evidently intended to cater for day-trippers and motorists.

F. G. Halliday, 'Ye Olde Tudor House'

One of a series of phototype postcards printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons to advertise F. G. Halliday’s ‘Ye Olde Tudor House’, Taunton (c. 1920s)

These two dealers, like many of their contemporaries, made much of their shops’ romantic (and probably spurious) connections with illustrious visitors. [1] Halliday portrayed his ‘Tudor House’ – now acknowledged as one of the oldest surviving domestic dwellings in Taunton – as being ‘rich in historical interest from its association with the notorious Judge Jeffreys and other celebrities’. [2] Parkhurst maintained that, in his shop’s previous life as an inn on the road to Brighton, ‘many noted personages’ had undoubtedly stayed there on their progress to and from London, ‘including Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne’.


Map showing location of antique shops and Taunton Castle, in ‘The Quest of the Antique at Taunton’, The Bazaar: Our Saturday Issue for Collectors and Connoisseurs (8th October 1927)

One of the main attractions of these shops, however – perhaps even more so than the antiques and curios offered for sale – were their original architectural and interior features. In the summer of 1914, the newly-opened ‘Hatfield Gallery of Antiques, Ltd.’ placed an advertisement in the Connoisseur proclaiming that the firm had been established in Goodrich House, a ‘fine specimen of English domestic architecture’ with ‘25 spacious rooms, many fitted with rare Adam mantelpieces’. ‘The furniture and other antiques for sale, instead of being huddled together, as is generally the case in a shop, are judiciously placed about the various rooms as in a private house, and purchasers thereby are best able to judge how they would look in their own homes’. All of this was described as ‘in itself well worth a visit’, as there was much to ‘interest the antiquarian or artist’. This firm even employed its own ‘Curator’, a Mr. Horace Hall, who had previously worked in ‘the Antique Department of Harrods’ Stores’ [3]

Ye Olde Tudor House, Taunton postcard

The impressive ‘Banqueting Hall’, with a first-floor balcony, inside the Tudor House (c. 1920s)

In the following decade, Halliday and Parkhurst were suggesting that their shops could be visited as part of a day out in the countryside or market town, almost in the same way as historic houses. On his postcard, Halliday called his shop a ‘fine’ specimen of ‘Tudor architecture’ and ‘a striking example of the old world town of Taunton’; still of ‘undoubted antiquity’. Inside the shop, as well as some ‘well-preserved old timbering and some excellent panelling’, several rooms contained ‘examples of Adam work’ from the end of the eighteenth century. The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart’s special Saturday issue for antique collectors described the Tudor House in October 1927 as being full of ‘splendid “period” rooms where each piece has its place, and the galleries have the air and appearance of a particularly “intimate” museum’. [4]

Ye Ancient Prior's House, Crawley

Souvenir postcard showing exterior of G.A. Parkhurst’s ‘Ye Ancient Prior’s House’ (postmarked 4th January 1917)

On the first floor of the ‘Ancient Prior’s House’, which dated from ‘1150’, Parkhurst said that he had found ‘two secret chambers’ – no doubt once used by ‘highwaymen, who were the terror of the road in the old days’. Although he insisted, rather sheepishly, that he had most definitely not attempted to ‘verify’ the rumour that his cellars contained the entrance to ‘a secret underground passage leading into the Church’, he had also found ‘several old smuggling chambers’ underneath his front room.

G. A. Parkhurst postcard

Promotional postcard showing the ‘Entrance Hall’ to Parkhurst’s shop (c. 1910s)

G. A. Parkhurst died in 1920 and the shop briefly passed to a ‘J. Wyndham Parkhurst’, probably a relation. Some antiques were later transferred to ‘The Carlton Galleries’ in Tunbridge Wells, which dealt in ‘Authentic Antique Furniture’ as well as offering decoration services for period and modern room schemes. [5] By the end of the 1920s, the shop itself had been converted back into an inn, ‘furnished with the old beautiful’, by Trust Houses Ltd., a company who ran a number of “old English” hotels and historic public houses.


‘The Motorist Antique Collectors’ Guide’, showing the locations and opening times of antique shops and other attractions between Brighton and London in The Bazaar: The Popular Weekly for Connoisseurs and Collectors (27th April 1929)

Halliday moved out of the Tudor House and into another shop in 1946, at which point it became a restaurant; its new owners assured a local newspaper that they would retain the interior’s original features. [6]




[1] Deborah Cohen, Household Gods: The British and their Possessions (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 152-53.

[2] R. J. E. Bush, ‘The Tudor Tavern, Fore Street, Taunton’, Somerset Archaeology and Natural History, 119 (1975), pp. 15-21.

[3] Advertisement: ‘Now Open: Visit Historical Hatfield and The Hatfield Gallery of Antiques, Ltd., Founded to Encourage the Collecting of Genuine Antiques’, Connoisseur (May 1914), p. xxvi. For Harrods’ antique department, see: Julia Petrov, ‘“The habit of their age”: English Genre Painters, Dress Collecting, and Museums, 1910-1914’, Journal of the History of Collections, 20 (2008), p. 241.

[4] ‘The Quest of the Antique at Taunton’, The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart, 9 October 1927, p. 380.

[5] Advertisement: ‘The Carlton Galleries’, Kent & Sussex Courier, 28 February 1936, p. 11.

[6] ‘A Historic Tudor House: No. 15, Fore Street, Taunton, To Change Hands’, Somerset County Herald, 26 January 1946, p. 3.

April 30, 2014

Bull in a furniture shop?

In certain circles there has always been a certain degree of bad feeling towards the antiques trade-in rather the same way as lawyers and second-hand car salesmen. Needless to say this is almost always undeserved and seems to stem largely from jealousy, particularly due to the level of mark-up applied by a successful dealer selling a piece that they may have bought very cheaply for example. In this post I would like to focus on one notorious dealer who has gained a lot of adverse press coverage over the years. In this case, however, there is no doubt that the bad press is wholly proportionate.

Wilfred Bull was an Essex-based furniture dealer who made his name in the days of the antiques boom in the 70s and 80s, becoming well-known as a good trade source for the top dealers and becoming extremely rich in the process. Things changed dramatically in 1985 when he murdered his wife in his showroom and attempted to pass it off as the work of a crazed burglar. Needless to say Mr Bull ended up in prison but this wasn’t the end of his brush with infamy.  Whilst in prison he attempted to sell part of his collection of rhino horn, valued at £2 million and acquired before his imprisonment, on the black market as a way of financing his life after his expected release. Despite having his sentence extended as a result of this second indiscretion, he won a landmark Court of Appeal ruling in 1998 and was thus able to sell off part of his haul.

As with any trade there will always be a few bad apples and sadly Mr Bull’s name is now known for all of the wrong reasons.

Chris Coles,

Project volunteer research assistant.

The winding-up sale for Wilfred Bull's firm conducted by Sotheby's

The winding-up sale for Wilfred Bull’s firm conducted by Sotheby’s

April 22, 2014

Dealer’s Shops – images of developing locations and use of historic premises

Our database of images of Antique Dealer shops continues to grow. In the previous post I directed attention to the significances of the changing interior display of dealerships, and in the present post I thought it would be interesting to focus on exterior views and the range of buildings used by the trade; and to direct attention to the significance of the changing locations adopted by the trade over the course of the 20th century…..and some interesting aspects are evident – one is the growth of the ‘Country Antique Shop’.

In my earlier research into the history of the antique and curiosity trade (see publications in my research profile if you’re interested!) I made an observation that in the 19th century the emergence of the antique shop appears to have been almost exclusively an urban phenomenon, and that the ‘country antique shop’ was a later (20th century) development in the history of the trade.  This is also borne out when one investigates the store of images we have as part of this new project.  The Country Antique Shop we are so familiar with appears to have been a first half 20th century development, and here’s a selection of images we have just to give the briefest insight into this history.

Here’s an image, from 1921, of one of the most famous antique furniture dealers, Moss Harris & Sons (est 1868)…at 40-54 New Oxford Strett, London.


There have been many hundreds of dealers in London of course; here’s just one more, Walter Bird’s shop, Kensington Church Street, London, an image taken in c.1945:


Beyond antique shops in London and other urban areas such as Manchester and Birmingham, as well as in historic towns such as Bath and Warwick, the ‘country antique shop’ appears to have begun to proliferate from the second quarter of the 20th century – with an increased expansion during the 1940s and 1950s, which seems to have been a particularly important period. Locations such as ‘The Cotswolds’ and tourist towns in Sussex, Devon etc., appear to have been the preferred locations for many dealers during this period.

Here’s Forge House, Broadway, Worcestershire, in 1953; and one can also note that the historical nature of the building itself is a key driver for the appropriate adoption of such premises by the trade:


Here’s Shirley Brown’s ‘shop’, at Tredington, Warwickshire, also in 1953:


And, to close, a couple of ‘shops’ in Devon, that illustrate the wide range of buildings, and trading practices, adopted by the trade; here’s A K Halsey, Boffins Boft, Kingsbridge, Devon, also taken in 1953.


And finally, R. E. Martin, trading from home, as it appears…at ‘Tucketts’, Trusham, near Chudleigh, Devon, in 1961.


The project will be investigating the history of these locations, changing trading premises, and other developments as part of this broader ‘cultural history’ of the Antique Trade in the 20th century….so watch this space!


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