They know what they want
The Northern Antiques Dealers Fair returns under new management, but offering the same high quality
WHEN I reported the Northern Antiques Dealers Fair in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in September 1992, I began by quoting the 10th Viscount Downe’s remarks in opening the very first fair, in 1951. His words seem even more relevant today than they did 25 years ago and, as the fair, under new ownership, has reverted to its original name, I venture to repeat them here.
He said: ‘In these days when the terms “austerity”, “utility” and “short supply” have such real meaning for all of us in Britain, it is surely a welcome treat to be able to visit such an exhibition… for here we can examine and appreciate works of art made by craftsmen whose guiding principles were the striving for perfection and loyalty to their craft.’
Back in 1992, I suggested substituting ‘recession’ for the Viscount’s terms; now, the word might stand in only for utility, leaving austerity and short supply in place. Although I don’t know of any examples, it would not be surprising to find pieces of Utility Furniture at such a fair nowadays.
The advertisements in the 1951 catalogue show that some of the more reassuring early characteristics have endured through the years. Then, there were restorers, shippers and valuers, plus an ale and stout bottler. Today’s 30 or so exhibitors are accompanied by T. L. Phelps Fine Furniture Restoration, the York and Thirsk branches of NFU Mutual, Stephen Morris Packing and Shipping Services and Premium Harrogate Tipple, makers of Harrogate gin and rum. The last has been in business for a year and is based on the Ripley Castle estate, where COUNTRY LIFE threw a memorable party in 1992.
Another 1951 advertiser was the long-gone men’s clothes shop Allens, where on one Batemanesque occasion a would-be customer asked for a discount. The owner was summoned and the man courteously escorted out of the back door. This attitude to business was reflected in Allens’s advertisement, which failed to notice that the fair was not quite the same as a race meeting: ‘It is the prudent punter who has an extra shirt or two “up his sleeve”. Make a point of an early meeting with Allens.’
For 34 years, the fair was organised by Louise and David Walker, who have strong local connections, David having been a partner with his brother, Ian, in Walker Galleries of Harrogate. Last year, they sold the fair to Ingrid Nilson, who runs five other events under the banner of the Antique Dealers’ Fairs Ltd. It was a most amicable handover, Louise saying that ‘Ingrid was always my choice, if I wasn’t doing it’.
Many veteran exhibitors are still to the fore and the aim is to enhance, rather than reinvent. The traditional strengths—english furniture, silver, jewellery, 19th- and 20th-century paintings—are as well represented as ever, because, as northern dealers always emphasise, they have a loyal, well-informed clientele that is sure of what it wants.
The expected quality is illustrated this year by Millington Adams’s George III Chippendale-period, mahogany, double chairback settee (Fig 3), priced at £29,000. In 1992, Charles Lumb offered a slightly more elaborate, but near contemporary, double chairback settee, which, I noted, was ‘very close to the Master’, although I did not have a price.
Another outstanding piece of furniture at the fair is a late-18th-century Chinese export
lacquer chest on its original stand (Fig 1), priced at £35,000 by William Cook.
Melody Antiques has a well-justified reputation for traditional oak furniture, such as a good Scottish Master’s chair here, but also has a taste for more quirky items. It has found the papier mâché figure of a splendidly bucolic agricultural auctioneer, dating from about 1870. He is priced at £1,950.
English ceramic and porcelain dealers include Valerie Main, Carolyn Stoddart-scott and Graham Ruddock. The last has a fine Worcester plate from the late 1760s painted with the arms of the Scottish Gavin family impaling Hearsey (price on application) (Fig 2). It’s a pity it wasn’t Hersey, as we might have got a hedgehog crest as well as the Gavin ship.
Among the silver dealers, Art Deco specialist Solo Antiques has an unusual silver table cigar cutter and lighter marked for London, 1899, at £1,350 (Fig 4).
Charles Schulz’s ‘Peanuts’ strip first appeared 11 months before the first Northern Fair. Licht & Morrison (which, with Howards and Howell 1870, have been the most regular exhibitors) has a most appealing Snoopy and Woodstock gold, onyx, diamond, sapphire, emerald and pearl brooch (Fig 8)—such opulence would surprise the characters.
A bonus piece of trivia: although ‘the bird’ first made an appearance in 1967, he was only named after the 1969 festival three years later.
Painting and print dealers include Harrogate’s Sutcliffe Galleries with a lovely 24in by 36in late-afternoon scene of loggers beside the River Wye (Fig 5) by George Cole (1810–83), father of George Vicat and grandfather of Rex Vicat.
A different slice of riverside life comes with Atelier from the Channel Islands, which has
Whistler etchings, such as a strong impression of his 5½in by 81∕3in Eagle Wharf, Wapping (Fig 7) at £3,750. The Northern Antique Dealers Fair, Harrogate, runs from October 19 to 22 (www. harrogateantiquefair.com).
Next week Visits to Olympia and Chatou
Fig 1 above: Chinese export lacquer chest. With William Cook. Fig 2 left: Worcester plate. With Graham Ruddock
Fig 3: George III Chippendale-period double chairback settee. With Millington Adams
Fig 4: Silver table cigar cutter and lighter of 1899. With Solo Antiques
above right: Les Anemones was once owned by Vivien Leigh. With Haynes Fine Art Fig 7: Eagle Wharf, Wapping etching by Whistler. With Atelier
Fig 5 above left: Loggers by the River Wye by George Cole. With Sutcliffe Galleries. Fig 6
Fig 8: Gold, onyx and jewel encrusted Snoopy brooch. With Licht & Morrison