Day one of the Decorative Antiques & Textile Fair, Battersea Park, Spring, 2018. The Fair runs until Sunday, April 22nd. Please get in touch if you want a free invitation. Admits Two. Look forward to seeing you there.
April 17, 2018
Day one of the Decorative Antiques & Textile Fair, Battersea Park, Spring, 2018. The Fair runs until Sunday, April 22nd. Please get in touch if you want a free invitation. Admits Two. Look forward to seeing you there.
April 10, 2018
Luke features in The Financial Times magazine, How to Spend It, April 7 2018. Emma Crichton-Miller writes about antique chess sets in her regular antiques column, Past Masters.
October 05, 2017
January 25, 2017
Second day of the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, Battersea Park. Last day, Sunday, January 29th, 2017. Pleased with the stand, looking good...
January 13, 2017
November 30, 2016
Big thank you to Homes & Antiques magazine for featuring my antique glass Witch Ball collection on the front cover of their new January issue. All for sale, so if you’re interested in buying one, give me a ring.
May 13, 2016
Source: Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair/Luke Honey Ltd
Eagle eyed readers of Homes & Antiques will recognise this rather stylish chair, pictured above. It’s a ‘Red Chair’ from the Prince of Wales’s Investiture, held at Caernarvon Castle in 1969. The investiture sounds like a ceremony steeped in arcane antiquity, but in reality it was actually a 20th century re-invention (revived as recently as 1911 at the instigation of David Lloyd George): a heraldic pageant for the television age, and at a time of burgeoning Welsh nationalism (and even terrorist threat), for some, controversial.
The Queen personally invited Anthony Armstrong-Jones (the Earl of Snowdon) to oversee the design of the ceremony. As a Welshman, designer, architect of the London Zoo aviary, and photographer, Snowdon was an inspired choice. Through his marriage to Princess Margaret, he also happened to be the Queen’s brother-in-law.
To help him, Snowdon recruited two other designers to the royal cause: Carl Toms, the great stage designer who had spent his formative years under the influence of Snowdon’s uncle, Oliver Messel, and John Pound, a ‘brutalist’ designer from the Ministry of Works. The investiture took place on a circular raise dais, beneath a lanced Perspex canopy bearing a huge Prince of Wales feather crest, presumably made from a moulded plastic.
Not unlike the Queen Mother’s see-through PVC umbrellas, the transparent canopy was specifically designed to allow the television cameras (mounted on hydraulic cranes in the specially designated ‘television compounds’) a better view, bringing the glamorous six hour spectacle into the homes of millions, rather than as Snowdon put it in a television interview, ‘an elitist few’.
Snowdon, as Constable of Caernarvon Castle wore a uniform to his own design: a natty high collared number in bottle green (with zip) which depending on your point of view, either looked like ‘something from Carnaby Street’ or in Snowdon’s own words ‘a cinema usherette from the 1950’s or the panto character, Buttons’.
Design for the Prince of Wales’s Investiture, 1969 by Carl Toms, from the Investiture programme. Collection: Stephanie Connell Antiques & Art
And the guests needed chairs to sit on. According to Anne de Courcy’s recent biography, the Ministry of Works wanted the ‘riff-raff’ (as they thought fit to call them) to sit on planks mounted on scaffolding, with the VIP’s permitted to sit on chairs. Fortunately, this was over-ruled by the designers, and 4,000 special investiture chairs were made (‘a sea of red’).
Manufactured by disabled workers at the Remploy factory in Bridgend, the chairs are made from a beach-wood frame and the seat and backs are constructed from preformed plywood, veneered in Olive Ash and stained in ‘Vermillion Red’. The backs are embossed with the Prince of Wales’s Feathers in gold leaf and the seats are upholstered in red Welsh tweed, using a stable dye that would not run onto the guest’s clothes during a Welsh shower. The underside of the seat bears a Prince of Wales’s feathers stamp and the date ’69, and, obscured by the upholstery, hand-written numbering.
Prince of Wales’s Investiture Chair Sales Leaflet, 1969. From the collection of Luke Honey Ltd
The chairs were offered for sale after the ceremony and sold flat-packed for £12 each, via a promotional advertising leaflet. Snowdon bought six. And in a more egalitarian age, guests were encouraged to re-assemble the chairs for themselves, IKEA style.
Gold tasselled cushions, upholstered from the same red Welsh tweed and emblazoned with a medallion sporting the Prince of Wales’s feathers, were also made, but are now extremely hard to find, as presumably many were thrown away. An investiture chair is now held in the Frederick Parker chair collection at the Metropolitan University, London.
Prices for the chair are rising as collectors and interior designers begin to appreciate their handsome looks, regal history and practicality. They work especially well in dressing rooms and bathrooms.
Expect to pay in the region of £650-950 (depending on condition) from a specialist dealer. Condition is important, and originality is key. Many chairs on the market are in poor condition or have had the Welsh tweed cloth replaced. The special Investiture cushions remain especially scarce.
Luke Honey is a former auction specialist, dealer in art and antiques, writer, and custodian of the Frederick Parker chair collection.
April 21, 2016
Our stand at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, Battersea Park. Ends April 24th.
Luke Honey & Stephanie Connell (Stand 127).
April 08, 2016
Important: Please note that the fair ends on Sunday, 24th April, not the 27th April as I very stupidly managed to state in the newsletter. So if anyone turns up after the 24th, I’m afraid you’re going to find an empty pavilion. Really sorry about that. See you there.
December 16, 2015
You can also read this on my regular blog at the Homes & Antiques magazine website:
Pollock’s “Redington” Toy Theatre, 1960’s reprint from the Victorian original, in the collection of the V & A.
One Christmas- a long, long time ago- I bought a Pollock’s Toy Theatre with the yearly cheque sent by a kind godfather.
Oh, the excitement as the jaunty Harrods delivery van bounced up our rickety gravel drive! I must have been about ten years old. That Christmas my family was forced to watch several creaky performances of Jack the Giant Killer, with my long suffering little sister dragooned into reading the minor parts.
Pollock’s Toy Museum & Shop, Scala Street, London.
Later, as an undergraduate at University College, London, I discovered Pollock’s shop in a dingy back street off the Tottenham Court Road, and drawn, like a moth to candle, it became a regular haunt, as much because of its intoxicatingly archaic, dusty atmosphere- evoking the vanished, gaslit ambience of an Edwardian Never-Never Land.
Toy theatres were popular children’s toys until their decline at the end of the 19th century. Miniature prosceniums, characters, scenery and props were printed onto paper from copper plates and sold by publishers and stationers as individual sheets “a Penny Plain, or a Tuppence Coloured”. These could be cut out, pasted onto card or wood and then painted- if the child decided to plump for the cheaper option.
Children had a wide range of plays to choose from: Victorian melodramas, pantomimes and historical romances. The “actors” were mounted onto little tin slides and pushed onto the stage from the side wings. And sometimes, a play might include exciting stage tricks and effects, as in The Miller and His Men (1835), which included moving water and, disturbingly, realistic explosions (“red fire to burn”).
We can trace the early days of the English toy theatre to the first days of the Regency, when William West set up shop in Exeter Street, Covent Garden. By the 1880’s only two toy theatre publishers remained in London, Pollock in Hoxton, and Webb in Finsbury; and Benjamin Pollock’s shop, alone, struggled on as a quaint anachronism until his death in the 1930’s.
Urania Toy Theatre, Carl Bayer, Germany, circa 1885.
And with the decline of English toy theatre came the arrival of imported theatres from Germany and Denmark. If the populist charm of English toy theatre- “The Juvenile Drama”- had been enjoyed by children from a wider background, European theatres were more the preserve of children of the upper and upper middle classes: altogether grander and more sophisticated affairs, with magnificent prosceniums, sumptuous chromolithographic colour printing and operatic productions such as The Magic Flute.
Pollock’s “Hamlet, presented by Sir Laurence Olivier”, from the 1948 film, set and costume design by Roger Furse.
In 1944, Alan Keen, a raffish advertising man turned rare book dealer, bought up the entire stock of Pollock’s shop (including the original copper printing plates) and began republishing the plays and theatres. An interesting play from this period is Lawrence Olivier’s Hamlet, “reproduced from the J. Arthur Rank Enterprise” and published for the miniature stage in 1948. It featured colour-tinted photographic cutouts of a swashbuckling Sir Lawrence, and scenery and costumes taken directly from the film’s original set designs by Roger Furse.
Six years later, facing bankruptcy, the business was saved by the remarkable Marguerite Fawdry, who re-established Pollock’s in the attic of an old house in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden (later to move to Scala Street), but with the additional lure of a fascinating Toy Museum, which soon became a mecca for trendy parents searching for quirky presents for their ‘with it’ children in the Swinging London of the 1960’s.
November 24, 2015
Here’s my first blog post for Barneby’s.
You can also read it on the Barneby’s website:
Image via royalhats.wordpress.com
British coronation furniture is becoming increasingly collectable. If you enjoy visiting English country houses you may have noticed coronation chairs tucked away in corridors, halls and even bathrooms. These were made specifically for guests to sit in at the coronation of English- later British monarchs, held at Westminster Abbey since 1066.
In 1902, at the coronation of Edward VII, guests were invited to buy the chairs to keep as souvenirs, and this charming practice has continued to the present day.
George VI (1937) chairs are of a simple modern design, constructed from limed oak, with chamfered legs and upholstered in green velveteen emblazoned with the royal cipher in gilt thread. Elizabeth II (1953) chairs are of similar design but feature legs in silvered oak with upholstery in Royal Blue. Both chairs are stamped with the royal monogram.
Chairs were for the use of peers and their consorts and were numbered, so, after a bit of research, it’s possible to discover who sat on them.
Stools were also made for the pages. Peers who carried regalia were expected to have their own pages in attendance- these were often their friends’ teenage sons who wore the peer’s own specific (and splendid) livery.
Specialist dealer, Stephanie Connell, who recently sold an Elizabeth II chair and a George VI stool at the Autumn Battersea Decorative Antiques Fair, says that demand for coronation furniture “is on the rise, as collectors appreciate their historical associations as well as their practicality. They also make talking points for bathrooms, studies and halls.”
Chairs were also manufactured for the coronations of Edward VII (1902) and George V (1911). Both are easy to miss, as the Edward VII chair is easily mistaken for a simple country side chair with rustic rush seat, and the George V chair resembles a mahogany dining room chair in reproduction Chippendale. Both chairs are stamped CORONATION FURNITURE.
Image: Luke Honey Ltd
More recently, Lord Snowdon designed a fascinating modernist chair for the Prince of Wales’s Investiture at Caernarvon Castle in 1969. These stylish chairs are made with a beech-wood frame, and the seat and back is constructed from preformed plywood, veneered in Olive Ash and stained “Vermillion Red”. The backs are embossed with the Prince of Wales’s feathers in gold leaf and the seats are upholstered in red Welsh cloth, using a stable dye that would not run onto the guests’ clothes in the likely event of a rain. The chairs were manufactured in Wales at the Remploy factory and sold flat-packed for the princely sum of £12, which included delivery “complete with instructions”: in a more egalitarian age, guests were encouraged to re-assemble the chairs for themselves.
Image: Luke Honey Ltd
Prices are on the up. If you buy from a specialist dealer, expect to pay in the region of £450 for a coronation stool, £900 or so for a good George VI or Elizabeth II chair and £850 for a Prince of Wales chair. As always, condition is key and will affect the value. Chairs associated with famous individuals can fetch considerably more: In 2010, a George VI chair, Elizabeth II chair and George VI stool fetched £6,875 at Christie’s. They came from Althorp, the seat of the Spencer family and ancestral home of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Luke Honey spent many years as an auction specialist (Phillips, Bonhams and Bloomsbury) and is now a leading dealer in decorative mantiques, exhibiting at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair twice a year. He is a custodian of the Frederick Parker Chair Collection and sells coronation furniture on a regular basis.
November 02, 2015
Now and again an inspirational auction comes along which really grabs you. Step forward last year’s Bunny Mellon sale at Sotheby’s. Oak Spring was her understated- and relatively modest- Virginian 50’s farmhouse. Wonderful collections of eighteenth century English porcelain, country furniture, equestrian mezzotints, antique silver, and a stunning museum of historic antiquarian gardening books in the grounds.
Considering the Mellons are one of the richest families in America, Oak Spring seems to be the antithesis of modernist bling (yawn) and the horror of today’s celebrity culture. Until you remember that within the estate there was, I gather, a private airport, with a jet sitting on the runway, on stand-by. Not that I disapprove, God forbid; four cheers for Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon.
Have a close look at the top of this Louis XV fruitwood table, circa 1745 (Lot 367). Looks like Bunny left the window open, doesn’t it? It’s faded, splattered, stained and patterned with acidic rain-water.
But how many of us would be tempted to have this restored, re-varnished and otherwise re-juvenated? I hope that whoever bought it left it exactly ‘as is’. Antiques often have a story to tell. It’s what makes them so fascinating- and human. There’s also a beauty in imperfection. And above all, antiques should be used.
October 29, 2015
Lady Cynthia Asquith’s The Third Ghost Book, mass-market paperback, Pan, 1965
It’s that time of year again. With Hallowe’en just around the corner, here’s a selection of collectable English ghost stories and spooky supernatural tales guaranteed to get you in the appropriate mood for Fright Night.
It’s said that England is the most haunted country in the world, so if you love collecting old books, why not while away the dark hours with a classic ghost story? Alternatively, a pile of scary vintage paperbacks left on the spare-room bedside table should amuse and entertain your houseguests.
This first edition second state copy of Dracula (“an unusually good example” but with “some restoration to the spine”) sold for £1,500 (hammer price) at Bloomsbury Auctions in 2013. Bram Stoker, the Irish manager of the Lyceum Theatre and author of Dracula, is said to have dreamt up the legendary vampire following an indigestible supper of dressed crab.
Dracula was first published in 1897. Stoker had never been to Transylvania, but lengthy research at the British Museum Reading Room (combined with the benefit of a nightmarish imagination) gave birth to an enduring myth, later popularised by the old black and white horror movies of Universal Studios.
In the world of rare books condition, provenance, originality and association all play an important role when it comes to the tricky business of valuation: in 2010 a first edition first issue copy of Dracula, personally inscribed by Stoker to Mrs W. S. Gilbert (the wife of operetta librettist, Sir William Gilbert), fetched a staggering £44,000 at auction (Bloomsbury).
Or how about an early edition of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous yarn was first published in 1886, with the American edition beating the British edition to the press by four days.
Auction prices vary, depending on condition, but expect to pay a few hundred pounds or so for the first English edition. The book was published in paper wrappers, with a smaller hardback print run bound in cloth.
More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by Montague Rhodes James, mass-market paperback, Pan, 1955.
Those of you on a tight budget might enjoy vintage paperbacks from the 50’s and 60’s, especially if you’re interested in period graphics. They’re highly collectable. It would be quite possible to build a fascinating collection for very little money, but as ever, only try to buy books in the best condition you can find them in.
M.R. James has been called the “Master of the English Ghost Story” and for good reason. Connoisseurs of the genre consider his short stories to be among the most terrifying supernatural tales ever to be written. This sensationalist mass-market edition of More Ghost Stories from an Antiquary (see above) can be bought online for a few pounds.
Take a look, too, if you dare, at the unsettling short stories of Lady Cynthia Asquith (daughter in law of Prime Minister H. H. Asquith). Lady Cynthia became well known for her ghost anthologies; her last anthology, The Third Ghost Book, was published in 1956, later to be re-published by Pan with an especially lurid paperback cover (see above). And if the Stately Ghosts of England are your thing, don’t forget Lord Halifax’s Ghost Book, first published in 1936. Halifax spent several years collecting a true ghost stories as told to him by the owners of some of England’s finest country houses.
And finally, perhaps, the creepiest of them all: the books of real-life ghost hunter, Harry Price. Price is best known for the investigation at Borley Rectory, a sinister Victorian pile hidden away in a remote corner of Essex and described by the popular press of the day as the ‘Most Haunted House in England’.
The rectory burnt down under mysterious circumstances in 1939. Some say that the resident ghosts could be seen “dancing in the flames”. Price’s books are avidly collected, and can be quite hard to find, especially with that all-important original dust-wrapper.
September 19, 2015
I’m getting ready for my stand at the next Decorative Antiques Fair, held in Battersea Park, London. It opens on Tuesday, September 29th and runs for a week, ending on Sunday, October 4th. Please feel free to drop by for a drink (Stand 117). Click this link to my latest newsletter and you will be able to download free tickets. Print them out and the paper ticket will admit two people. If you want to sign up for my next newsletter, please go to the home page, scroll down and you’ll find the sign up box at the bottom.
Lots of interesting new stock for this one, including a pair of Prince of Wales’s Investiture Chairs in immaculate condition. I’ve photographed one of them in our London bathroom, and very handsome it looks. Lord Snowdon designed them for the event, held at Caernarvon Castle in 1969.
I’ll also be unveiling a Qing Dynasty Chinese Ancestor Portrait, an early Terence Conran coffee table in the manner of John Piper, a French Art Deco gentleman’s desk in Indian Rosewood, a set of late 17th century portrait engravings of the House of Orange, a Victorian red leather governmental despatch box, an original Herbert Terry 1227 Anglepoise Lamp, a Festival of Britain Gordon Russell Double Helix sideboard and a large collection of fascinating photographs from the days of the British Raj in India (as below). They’re all framed and will be available individually.
September 03, 2015
Lovely television programme from Andrew Martin last night about the famous ‘named’ trains of the 1930’s and 50’s: The Flying Scotsman, The Coronation Scot, The Silver Jubilee, The Golden Arrow, The Cheltenham Flyer, The Cornish Riviera Express, The Brighton Belle. Andrew Martin wrote a splendid book about it, which you can buy on amazon. I gave it to my father for Christmas and it went down well judging by the sporadic little knowing chuckles I kept on hearing from the other room.
The Brighton Belle was especially stylish, and amazingly survived until 1972. Oh for a more leisured, civilised age! This glamorous all-electric train was popular with theatrical luvvies, Larry Oliver was a fan. We’re thinking waiters in white mess jackets with brass buttons serving breakfast kedgeree on porcelain plates. The Southern Railway was good at this sort of thing.
This photograph made me laugh. It looks like a pub, but unbelievably it’s actually a Mock Tudor Southern Railway Tavern Car, circa 1947. They called it "At the Sign of the White Hart"; here you could enjoy a pewter tankard of bitter, (or presumably a slice of gammon with pineapple?) as you steamed through the Surrey countryside towards Waterloo or Victoria.
The gel at the front looks a bit like Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter. She's got her foot foward like a Harrod's model. I bet my bottom dollar the chap at the back (missing only a manly pipe clenched between his teeth) is a bogus Wing Commander and drives an MG. We’re in Patrick Hamilton territory.
I would love to know what the waiter is serving up through the hatch. Steak and Kidney pie? A grapefruit half, garnished with a glacé cherry? Dover Sole?
April 22, 2015
Day two of the Battersea Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair and all is well with the world. One of my favourite goodies on the stand is this splendid Cecil Beaton 1953 coronation photograph of Her Majesty The Queen, presented in the official dark blue leather Buckingham Palace frame with the monarch’s cipher tooled in gilt.
Double whammy too, as it’s signed by both Cecil Beaton and Her Majesty.
Big fan of Beaton. The style reminds me of those wonderful Powell & Pressburger films; in a way we’re in Red Shoes territory: the theatrical Neo-Romanticsm of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Beaton was harking back to the formal court portraiture of William Beachey, Joshua Reynolds and Franz Xaver Winterhalter. I try to avoid using the word ‘iconic’ (overused, I fear), but if there was ever a genuine time to use it, this would be the moment.
April 20, 2015
We’ve just finished setting up our stand for the Battersea Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, which opens tomorrow. Stand 115. Please drop by for a drink.
Highlights include this splendid scarlet coloured wool smoking jacket which belonged to Peter Cushing, the star of both stage and screen. My assistant, Mrs Grantham, certainly thinks so.
We think it came from the actor’s personal wardrobe (rather than a studio costume department) and is tailored by Simpson’s of Piccadilly, He most certainly wore it in the 1960’s BBC television adapation of Sherlock Holmes, and latterly, the 1971 Amicus horror flick, “The House that Dripped Blood”.
We’re selling it with full provenance, certificate of authenticity and a BBC press still showing Peter Cushing wearing it on camera. Here’s the very same jacket, as worn by Peter Cushing in “The House that Dripped Blood”:
April 09, 2015
I’m getting ready for my new stand at the Spring Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, which runs from April 21-26, 2015. It’s in the middle of lovely Battersea Park, London, and you can park directly outside the pavilion. It’s a fantastically friendly and relaxed fair, one of the best in London (and I’m not just saying that because I happen to be an exhibitor) and features a large number of leading dealers with a wide-ranging selection of stylish and decorative antiques, often unusual, sometimes quirky. It’s dog friendly too.
This time round, I’ve upgraded to a larger stand, so please do feel free to drop round for a drink.
Lots of exciting new stock, too: A Battle of Britain era Air Ministry desk, a large William IV convex mirror, a huge poster from the 1963 film, Strip-Tease, a signed Cecil Beaton coronation photograph of H.M. The Queen, an original Phrenology Head by L.N. Fowler (illustrated above), a fabulous 1930’s French aeronautical poster, an original stool from the Coronation of King George VI, a colourful Regency board game, now in a box frame; a pair of Hatherley patent library steps, an original American stage ventriloquist’s poster from the 1920’s, several globes, a funky 50’s Heal’s satinwood coffee table, plus the usual choice array of rare backgammon boards, antique chess sets, games boards, pinball and bagatelle machines.
And last, but most certainly not least, we’re delighted to announce that we can now offer Peter Cushing’s original scarlet smoking jacket by Simpson’s of Piccadilly, as worn in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and the 1971 Amicus horror flick, The House that Dripped Blood. Perfect for a modern-day dandy. Dare you try it on?
Please do feel free to get in touch with me if you would like complimentary tickets. See you there!
January 19, 2015
Chartwell, the former home of Sir Winston Churchill, (now under the ownership of the National Trust) is a joy to visit. There has been a house on the spot since the sixteenth century. When Churchill discovered it in the early 1920’s the house had been Victorianised with spooky gables, ivy-clad Kentish tiling and oriel windows in the Tudor style. So the architect, Philip Tilden, was employed to ‘modernise’, ‘re-construct’ and extend the house. The finished result created something entirely different.
Architectural historians can be a bit sniffy about Tilden’s work; certainly, he was no Lutyens, and it is one of the great ‘ifs’ of history to think what might have been if Churchill had employed Lutyens as architect, or for that matter Gertrude Jekyll as garden designer. But that, perhaps, is part of Chartwell’s charm. It’s like a splendid Churchillian galleon, sailing defiantly over the expansive views of the splendid Kent Weald, ‘The Garden of England’ as Winston’s nanny, Mrs Everest, called it.
The finished result is marveollusly nineteen twenties, the fag-end of the Arts & Crafts movement, a twentieth century re-interpretation of the Elizabethan with its creaky oak staircases and weighted doors (the browny-pink brickwork reminiscent of The Wharf, the Asquiths’ weekend place at Sutton Courtenay), and the Jekyll influenced rose gardens, loggia and croquet lawn.
And yet, the dining room is suprisingly modern and steams off on a completely different tack. Tilden designed a low-ceiling room, with five arched French windows in the neo-classical style, welcoming in the light and those marvellous views across Southern England. As we discovered in the last post, the chairs were not designed by Heal’s, but the circular table in weathered oak most certainly was, and became a standard feature of in the Heal’s catalogue.
The room has been restored by the National Trust to how it would have looked in the 1930’s: the whole effect is not unlike a stylish state room on some transatlantic ocean liner. The chairs are covered in a glazed chintz, Arum Lily, the curtains are green. There is simple rush matting and standard lamps.
During Churchill’s ‘Wilderness Years’ this room, in so many ways, was a witness to history. It has here that Winston entertained his guests- in politics, arts and business, and ‘argued out his lonely stand against appeasement’.
January 16, 2015
This little number came up for sale yesterday at Lawrence’s of Crewkerne, and did rather well- selling way beyond its modest estimate of £100-200. It’s a walnut armchair from a dining room set, very similar to the one designed by the architect, Philip Tilden, in collaboration with Sir Ambrose Heal for Chartwell: Winston Churchill’s country house in the Kent Weald, the ‘Garden of England’. Heal & Son gave one to the V & A and you can read all about it here. Funnily enough it’s not mentioned in Olive Heal’s definitive (and brilliant) new book on Heal’s- which I would urge you to add to your reference library. I like the way the chair synthesizes 18th century ‘Chippendale’ taste with Arts & Crafts; it’s very English and very 1920’s. Would work brilliantly with a writing desk.
I must confess to being a bit of a fan of all things Churchillan, and the world seems to agree looking at the results of the recent Mary Soames auction at Sotheby’s, when Winston’s Goldfish Pool at Chartwell fetched a phenomenal- but not unsurprising- £1.8 million, against a sensible estimate of £400,000-600,000.
And here’s a close-up:
As you know, Winston was an amateur painter of charm, and his paintings are full of character. One of his many endearing traits, I think. He’s caught his beloved Golden Orfe well; the way the fish skim the surface, and the play of light on the green pond water. You will remember that famous- and beautifully written- passage in Painting as a Pastime. Churchill had been suffering from depression after the failure of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. To distract him, his sister-in-law Goonie persuades him to take up painting:
"Some experiments one Sunday in the country with the children’s paint-box led me to procure the next morning a complete outfit for painting in oils. Having bought the colours, an easel, and a canvas, the next step was to begin. But what step to take!...So very gingerly I mixed a little blue paint on the palette with a very small brush, and then with infinite precaution made a mark about as big as a bean upon the affronted snow-white shield....At that moment the loud approaching sound of a motor-car was heard in the drive. From this chariot there stepped swiftly and lightly none other than the gifted wife of Sir John Lavery. ‘Painting! But what are you hesitating about? Let me have a brush- the big one.’ Splash into the turpentine, wallop into the blue and the white, frantic flourish on the palette- clean no longer- and then several large, fierce strokes and slashes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas...The canvas grinned in helplessness before me. The spell was broken. The sickly inhibitions rolled away. I seized the largest brush and fell upon my victim with beserk fury. I have never felt in awe of a canvas since."
Another friend was Sir William Nicholson, the father of Ben, and, incidentally, one of my all-time favourite artists. In the watercolour below Winston and Clemmie sit in their stylish dining room at Chartwell with their beloved little marmalade cat, Tango. I adore this painting, and covered it a few years ago in a post on my sister blog, The Greasy Spoon. The Tilden designed chairs don’t seem to be included in the painting, although I'm pretty sure the oak table is by Heal's. I’m not sure exactly which room at Chartwell the chairs were designed for. I need to find out more.
Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949), Study for Breakfast at Chartwell II, Sir Winston Churchill and Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, Lady Churchill, in the Dining Room at Chartwell, with their cat, Tango, The National Trust.
STOP PRESS: Just had an illuminating chat with none other than Oliver Heal on the telephone. He tells me that the chair was not designed for Chartwell, and had nothing to do with Philip Tilden, being an earlier model. However, the table (as above) was. Apparently the table was initially photographed with the chair, and everbody assumes that the two are connected. They’re not. So it shows you that, sometimes, you can’t trust academic cataloguing- even if they’re written within the hallowed portals of the Victoria and Albert Museum.