An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 27

Clinton Howell Antiques - March 5, 2018 - Issue 27
An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture
A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts
As the market was taking off, my wife and I had two children, Henry, born in October of 1981 and Alice, born in April of 1985. Work, however one is blessed in other ways, does not stop for such events and I found myself going to the UK more and more, occasionally with the family, to attend auctions but also to visit country houses. I am going to concentrate on the country house visits over a number of forthcoming issues of this autobiography because of how they informed me about English furniture. As I have said, I visited a number of country houses while at the London College of Furniture, but those were largely confined to the London area. There are great houses throughout the UK. I would almost say that it is unlikely that one is ever further than two hours by car from some worthy pile to visit, notwithstanding the remoter part of the Scottish highlands and islands. And I can only bemoan the fact that there are probably a slew of private homes that I will never see.

During the Godmersham Park sale that I recently referenced, I went to visit Leeds Castle which, by the name, you might think is in Yorkshire. No, it is in Kent and it is an extraordinary castle with a proper moat. It was a Norman stronghold and there has been some residence there since the 9th century. The history is interesting, but what I was interested in was the furniture. Re-decorated in the 1920's at the same time as Godmersham, the choice of furnishings was not dissimilar from what was selling at Godmersham Park, fifteen miles away. For example, there was a lobed top (also known as a turret top) japanned tea table almost identical to one at Godmersham which sold for 45,000 GBP. I don't remember all of the similar pieces in both houses, but what was clear was that fashion in the 1920's, was quite clearly defined as far as furnishings were concerned. On that trip, as I was staying with my mother-in-law in West Sussex, I visited Parham House near Pulborough which is famous for its needlework. It is an Elizabethan house and has contemporaneous, and later, furnishings. There is a wonderful long gallery with a fascinating decorated ceiling. It is still lived in and it feels that way. As I will say about all these houses and castles, it is worth the visit.