Saturday, 27 April 2013


We have a close relation, an antiques expert of some repute, who visited Snowshill Manor a couple of years ago. At that time I knew little about this property, other than that it had been the home of an eccentric and obsessive collector and, so the National Trust in their wisdom wanted me to believe, was still filled with the dusty hoard he left behind. Said relation, with a wry (or was it sly) smile, told me "YOU would love the place!"
I wasn't sure how to take this remark. Am I an eccentric hoarder? Is my home full of junk? 
Last week, on our first visit, I entered the Manor with trepidation and here are some photographs of what I found in there, alongside some knick knacks I've picked up myself along the way...






Point taken!


Sunday, 21 April 2013


...where Vonnie once loved Derek,

where artists and craftsmen lived and worked together,

and where buildings are made out of Crunchy bars (according to Mr N).

We've been visiting the Cotswolds, of course, where we stayed on the remote and beautiful Snowshill Hill Estate at a farmhouse B&B. (Click on the link to find out more.)

The estate, with its farmhouses, cottages, barns and duck ponds, looks as if it dates from the 1700s but in fact it was the dream of farmer John Bourne who, in the early 1930s, built homes and roads, planted 200,000 trees and set up a traditional farming community here with the same kind of idealistic fervour as others who came to this area to live an artistic and idyllic life.

In the early 20th century Charles Robert Ashbee moved to Chipping Campden bringing with him his Guild and School of Handicraft, from London's East End. The Guild specialized in metal-working and produced jewellery and enamels, copper and iron-work, craftsman-made furniture and illustrated books. Here is an enamel and copper memorial plaque in Campden's parish church of St James.

The town has a small museum dedicated to the Guild, containing fine examples of the work of its artists.

The Guild's success here was short-lived, possibly because the market for its hand-made objects in the Campden area was limited, and it was liquidated in 1907. However individual artists remain there to this day and the craft tradition is strong. The front cover of the museum's booklet bears a picture of a pendant made by my favourite jewellery designers, Arthur and Georgie Gaskin (Please take note Mr N!), who retired to Chipping Campden in the 1920s.

Arthur Gaskin was not only a jewellery designer, he had produced woodcuts for William Morris's Kelmscott Press in the 1890s - so, always eager to follow our noses and our hearts, the next day found us at Morris's country retreat, Kelmscott Manor near Lechlade-On-Thames.

Although Morris did not found an artistic community he was at the heart of the Arts and Crafts movement, influencing craft, design and architecture. He also founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and could be described as an early environmentalist.
W. Morris

Later that day we wandered round Snowshill Manor, just up the road from our B&B, once the home of eccentric and childlike Charles Paget Wade, also an artist and architect of considerable talent - and a bit of a loner...

C.P.Wade, courtesy of Wikipedia.

..."Who do you identify with most, Morris or Wade?" I asked Mr N. He cast his greedy eyes around this huge Cabinet of Curiosities, a giant's toy box where every corner glimmered and glinted with intriguing treasures.

"Personally, I feel that Paget Wade has been cruelly misrepresented and portrayed as being far more of an odd-ball than he actually was, probably in order to attract more visitors to this National Trust property" 
Then he turned and disappeared...into Seventh Heaven.


Sunday, 14 April 2013


Here is a watercolour portrait of a distinguished gent. We found him recently and, because the board has an inscription on the back, I was soon off on a quest for his identity. His name, according to the inscription, was Mr Fluffy Robinson and this portrait was a present to Digby Cayley. I would say the portrait dates from around 1870.
As sometimes happens when researching, I found out very little about the lightweight Mr Robinson and quite a lot about Mr Cayley's family. They were both from Yorkshire and were aristocratic - Digby's father was Sir George Cayley, an aeronautical pioneer who organized the first ever manned flight in 1853, with his coachman, John Appleby, as pilot.

Cayley first developed his theories of flight as a schoolboy in the late 1700s and since that first flight replicas of his machine, a type of glider, have been flown successfully.

Even Richard Branson has had a go!

A replica of the flying machine can be seen at the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington near York.

None of which helps me with my quest...

...just who is the distinctly unfrivolous-looking Mr Fluffy?


Sunday, 7 April 2013


These are the antiques fairs where we do our business, incognito for the most part - a rugby scrum of antiques dealers and keen collectors.

Hundreds of people, not much eye contact - too busy buying and selling.

The inevitable consequence of this is that we recognise many people, have many acquaintances rather than close colleagues, and, more often than not, we never get to know their names. (The fact that most men aged between 40 and 60 are called Dave, Mark or Andy does not actually help.)

Of course, we know some well - here are Jim and Jimmy...

...and here is Mr Benbow, direct descendant of the brave Admiral. Can you see a resemblance, something in the cut of his jib?

But mostly we do not know the individual names of this motley, eccentric and interesting band of gypsies.

We therefore have a long, long list of nicknames for our fellow antiques-hunters, sometimes based on appearance, sometimes on their personality:
Mr Big Beard, Mr Grey Beard, Mr Fifties Throwback, Curly...
Mr Chatty, Sparky Mark, Lorna Doom, Ms Ennui... 
Sometimes we are a little cheeky:
The Chuckle Brothers, Brian Ferret, Peperami (he's a bit of an animal)...

You may well be wondering if our fellow dealers have a name for us. Apparently, throughout the North East, when we appear the cry goes up,

"Here they come, it's The Boroughbridge Two!"
Which is funny, because we don't live there, never have...