Cu­ri­ouser and cu­ri­ouser

There is a col­lec­tor in all of us, whether it be of shells, doll’s houses or Ro­man coins. Anna Tyzack meets the en­thu­si­asts who have found their pas­sion

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs by Richard Can­non and Paul Cooper

Anna Tyzack meets the col­lec­tors who have found their pas­sion

As chil­dren, we col­lect shells on the beach and, as teenagers, we hoard posters. For some, the urge to col­lect car­ries over into adult life and even be­comes a life­style. Jon Bad­de­ley, An­tiques Road Show pre­sen­ter and di­rec­tor of Bon­hams Knights­bridge, be­lieves that there is an in­her­ent col­lec­tor in all of us: ‘It be­gins with an ob­ject that gives you joy and leads to a life of fairs, mar­kets, mu­se­ums and li­braries, plus end­less cat­a­logu­ing, dis­play­ing and stor­ing.’

Col­lect­ing as a hobby dates back to An­cient Egypt and there are many rea­sons why we en­joy it, Mr Bad­de­ley con­tin­ues, in­clud­ing nos­tal­gia, the plea­sure of bring­ing or­der to chaos and the thrill of the chase.

‘I get an enor­mous adren­a­line rush when I find a new piece,’ agrees Mark Han­nam, who has been col­lect­ing Ro­man coins for most of his life. ‘It’s of­ten when I’ve al­ready walked sev­eral miles, but, af­ter­wards, I can keep go­ing for the rest of the day.’

It only takes a small bud­get to lay the foun­da­tions of a col­lec­tion, ac­cord­ing to Mr Bad­de­ley. ‘You can start by buy­ing chipped or blem­ished pieces and then in­vest in those in per­fect con­di­tion when fi­nances per­mit,’ he says. ‘It’s a hobby that can grow up with you.’

He ad­vises fledg­ling col­lec­tors to ‘buy with your heart’, but to make sure their col­lec­tion can be eas­ily dis­played in the home. ‘If you have to store it away in boxes, it takes all the fun out of it,’ he warns. It’s also a good idea not to fo­cus on some­thing too fash­ion­able —col­lecta­bles such as Rolex watches are plagued by fakes and repli­cas. ‘Re­mem­ber— if some­thing looks too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is.’

Mr Bad­de­ley col­lects wa­ter­colour orig­i­nals of early-20th-cen­tury rail­way posters, a genre so un­fash­ion­able that the art­works cost less to buy than the posters them­selves. But is there mar­riage value in putting ob­jects to­gether in a col­lec­tion? Don’t count on it, he cau­tions—your money is safer in the stock­mar­ket. ‘How­ever, if you in­vest in stocks and shares, you’ll only en­joy it when they go up. A col­lec­tion gives joy all the time.’

Peter Fran­cis, Gul­laskruf glass and Hornsea ce­ram­ics

A large blue vase by the Swedish glass­maker Gul­laskruf (1893–1995) first caught Peter Fran­cis’s eye in a gallery in Lon­don 15 years ago, but it was only when he moved to an Arts-and-crafts house in the Lake District, de­signed by Bail­lie Scott, that he be­gan col­lect­ing glass­ware. ‘I stud­ied one of the long, deep win­dow sills and re­alised that what it needed was Gul­laskruf glass vases,’ re­calls Mr Fran­cis, who was pro­duc­tion de­signer for the ‘Harry Pot­ter’ film se­ries and Ti­tanic. ‘They’re not ex­pen­sive, but they’re ex­am­ples of good de­sign, which fits with the ethos of the house,’ he elab­o­rates.

Orig­i­nally, Mr Fran­cis only looked for green vases by the same de­signer, Arthur Percy, but, in time, he per­mit­ted red and blue into the col­lec­tion. ‘The house is ec­cen­tric and doesn’t lend it­self to colour themes,’ he ex­plains. ‘How­ever, the oak sur­faces are per­fect for dis­plays.’

He also col­lects mid-20th-cen­tury Hornsea ce­ram­ics, hav­ing grown up near Hornsea, and has a num­ber of mugs and owls. ‘As a pro­duc­tion de­signer, I’m al­ways putting things to­gether to cre­ate en­vi­ron­ments for a story and I sup­pose my home is my story: a bit mud­dled, but in an or­derly way.’

Peter Fran­cis, who was pro­duc­tion de­signer for the ‘Harry Pot­ter’ film se­ries and Ti­tanic, started col­lect­ing Gul­laskruf glass 15 years ago

David Lowe, grand­fa­ther clocks

Noon is a noisy time of day in David Lowe’s home near Salisbury, Wilt­shire, ow­ing to his col­lec­tion of 11 grand­fa­ther (or long­case) clocks. ‘I try not to make phonecalls ap­proach­ing midday—it takes up to 10 min­utes for them all to chime,’ ex­plains the bar­ris­ter, who also col­lects Stafford­shire fig­ures and has more than 230 paint­ings and en­grav­ings, in­clud­ing Bri­tain’s largest col­lec­tion of paint­ings by Mar­garet Neve—each one is sep­a­rated on the walls by ‘just a 5cm gap’, but he and his wife ‘weren’t pre­pared to get rid of any of them’.

Each of his clocks has its own char­ac­ter: there’s a Scot­tish model from a ladies’ club in Ed­in­burgh, with Wal­ter Scott’s Lady of the Lake painted above the face, an early, one-handed coun­try clock and an­other with a chain that oc­ca­sion­ally slips off its cogs, prompt­ing an ear-split­ting crash.

He bought his first long­case, by Will Snow of Ot­ley, at an auc­tion in Leeds, in 1955, when he was just 12 years old. ‘It’s num­bered 619 and, once, years later, when I was see­ing clients in their din­ing room about an in­her­i­tance dis­pute, they hap­pened to have num­ber 620,’ he re­calls.

In 1957, he in­vested in an­other clock, by An­thony Hud­son of Pre­ston, and bought his third, by Thomas Beech­ing of Rye, in 1972 for £150. A grand pro­vin­cial clock, it has a blue-lac­quered moon-dial. ‘My wife and I col­lected it in our Re­nault 4 and had to strap the case on the roof,’ he re­calls. He also has a rare Re­gency dial clock, pur­chased from an an­tique shop in Dorch­ester while wait­ing for one of his daugh­ters to take her driv­ing test: ‘I couldn’t re­sist it.’

It takes Mr Lowe more than half an hour to wind all the clocks, but he couldn’t bear to part with any of them due to their ‘fine faces and in­ter­est­ing cases’. The clocks have even in­flu­enced the type of house his fam­ily has lived in over the years. ‘We tried to down­size from our old rec­tory in 2004, but ended up in a larger, even more di­lap­i­dated old rec­tory,’ he con­fesses.

Time and space: af­ter start­ing his col­lec­tion when he was 12, bar­ris­ter David Lowe now has 11 grand­fa­ther clocks

Above: An­tiques Road Show pre­sen­ter Jon Bad­de­ley col­lects wa­ter­colour orig­i­nals of early-20th-cen­tury rail­way posters. Be­low: Peter Fran­cis has a par­tic­u­lar fond­ness for owls

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