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    Sale 5746

    The Roger Warner Collection - Part I

    20 - 21 January 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 1


    CIRCA 1540

    Price Realised  


    CIRCA 1540
    Of large size, the interior with divide
    22 in. (56 cm.) high at right-hand end, rising to 24½. in. (62 cm.) high at left-hand end; 74 in. (188 cm.) wide; 21 in. (54 cm.) deep

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    Dr. D. Patton, Coleshill, Wiltshire.
    Purchased by Roger Warner on 11 November 1965.

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Roger Warner Collection

    Half-way down the High Street in the Cotswold town of Burford stands a handsome Georgian, dressed stone fronted building with two bay windows below five sash windows. This façade hides the Elizabethan house behind, built by Simon Wisdom in the mid-16th century. It was here, in 1936, that Roger Warner opened his antique shop and for fifty years ran his legendary business, supported firstly by his mother, then by his wife Ruth and subsequently by a team of helpers.

    Roger Warner was a birthright member of the Society of Friends and was a lifelong supporter of Quaker causes. His grandfather, Metford Warner, the proprietor of Jeffrey & Co., wallpaper manufacturers, worked for William Morris producing hand-painted wallpapers while on his mother's side, he was descended from the Sowerby family who were noted glass manufacturers in Gateshead. It was a chance meeting with Fred Wilson, a lecturer at the V & A Museum that spurred his life in the antique trade. After working briefly in an antique shop in Paddington, he opened his Burford shop, with a capital of £600. Although many objects were bought locally, a flurry of weekly newspapers were subscribed to and sale advertisements cut out, with a selection of country house sales and auction room sales being selected for viewing. This was long before the days of specialised antique trade newspapers with sale advertisements. Roger disliked driving east of Burford to view a sale as the sun would be in his eyes in the morning; he preferred to drive west with the sun behind him and would then return home late at night with his car piled high with purchases.

    For over fifty years he attended many country house sales, including ones at Mapledurham, Cliveden, Moccas Court, Wardour Castle, Hampton Court in Herefordshire, Hinton St. George, Melbury and countless others. Once or twice a year Roger would take two weeks to go on a buying trip in the north of England, very often driving from Burford up the west coast of England through the Lake District to Scotland, calling on reputable dealers and contacts, returning to Burford though the east of England. Every item purchased would be recorded in a red spiral bound notebook, with notes made on items seen which might be considered for future purchase. He had a deep interest in vernacular furniture and enjoyed purchasing the unusual and the obscure. Among his many passions was a life-long interest in children's deportment chairs which he collected and stored in an attic above his drawing room, some of which are in this sale together with many other wonderful curiosities. In 1965, a local friend, Arthur Negus, who worked for the Cotswold auctioneers Bruton Knowles, suggested to Roger that he might like to appear as a team member on the television programme 'Going for a Song' a forerunner of The Antiques Roadshow. Roger subsequently made twelve appearances on the show and supplied many of the objects that were used during filming. To his great amusement he had to be 'covered in make-up' before the filming started.

    Throughout his long career he was an enthusiastic supporter of both British and American museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Swarthmoor Hall in Cumbria and Temple Newsam House near Leeds, which displays a textile collection under his name and to whom he bequeathed a delightful group of objects. His support for American Museums was as keen: he numbered among his clients Colonial Williamsburg and Agecroft House in Virginia as well as the American Museum in Bath. He would always alert them should he find anything that he thought would fit into their collections. The Burford shop was a regular call for the London trade and collectors alike. His stock was eclectic and unpredictable; Gothic oak cupboards, a pair of Queen Anne shoes, carvings by Grinling Gibbons, Isnik plates, a satinwood chamber organ from Northwick Park (bought by the composer Andrzej Panifnik), a Victorian fire-screen enclosing an enchanting array of white feathered exotic birds and even a mummified Egyptian cat ! His infectious enthusiasm and great knowledge drew many well known personalities to his shop, such as Queen Mary, Princess Margaret, Ralph Edwards, Peter Wilson, Nancy Lancaster, John Fowler, Bruce Chatwin, Christopher Gibbs, Robert Kime and a host of Blenheim and Cotswold house parties. It was rare to leave his shop without a purchase. It was in the 1960s that Mrs. Graham Greene purchased a 19th century wax doll and left it in her car while she went back to the shop with her cheque book to pay for it. Sadly, it was a hot summer's day and when she got back to the car, she found that the doll had melted in its tissue paper on the back seat !

    Although most items were bought for stock, he had all his life collected and squirreled many wonderful and rare things away. At the top of the house was his 'museum', his holy of holies which was a room where he sat and read and enjoyed his treasures and where he would occasionally invite a trusted friend to come and discuss the state of the antique trade or look at a new acquisition. In 2003, he published, in association with the Regional Furniture Society, his autobiography, 'Memories of a Twentieth Century Antique Dealer' which gives a fascinating account of his business life. Following his death in 2008 at the age of 95, his son and daughters have decided to sell their father's collection so enabling another generation of collectors to enjoy his wonderful treasures. The sale includes a charming group of paintings from the 16th to the 18th centuries; portraits of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and a sketch of Alexander Pope, a mouth-watering 16th century portrait of Lady Denman in a bejewelled dress and an impressive still life of flowers, attributed to Jacques-Charles Oudry (which Roger Warner bought from the sale of Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote Manor, near Chipping Campden). Delights from the 'Museum Room' include a 14th century gold ground Siennese school painting of Saint Ezekiel, together with a charming oil on panel depicting Saint Pelagia attributed to Bernadino Fungai. Peddlar dolls to silhouettes, delicate textiles to early candlesticks, Delft chargers to door-stops, untouched oak, mahogany and walnut furniture, treen mortars and mousetraps are but a few of the delights in this sale.

    As Roger Warner wrote in his last Christmas card to me - 'What fun it all was' - and it was !

    Philip Astley-Jones

    ************ PUT ON NEXT D-P-S ************


    My First encounter with Roger Warner was in 1964, shortly after I had arrived in the Cotswolds to take up my first post as a school master, straight from College, and with a keen interest in rural life and the many hand crafts still found in the countryside. This was an interest which happily I shared with my wife, Gerry, and which found a practical outlet in our purchase of a derelict farmhouse, and, as things progressed, innumerable equally derelict pieces of country furniture which came to live with us which we repaired and mixed together with no thought at that stage as to their regional or social origins.

    This first meeting with Roger began an irreversible change in these perceptions, and initially occurred on one of my expeditions to buy furnishings suitable for our new home, at a farm sale on a bright autumn day, held in the Windrush Valley just outside Burford where Roger had his shop. In those days it was common for furniture to be brought out of farmhouses when families sold up after a lifetime in residence, to be lined and lotted up for sale with no sense of its significance or for that matter, its dignity. At that time, the concept of regional or vernacular furniture had yet to arrive on the scene, a moment that came later with the birth of specialized scholarship in the field, the formation of a learned society, and specialist dealers and auctioneers.

    In the early 1960s however, when I first met Roger Warner, the interpretation of our vernacular heritage largely fell to both ladies and gentlemen of private means, who took an antiquarian interest in the material culture and traditions of the working class. Amongst these were a number of Antique dealers, of which Roger was a prominent member, who had a natural curiosity about all traditional household furnishings, and were working at a time when such objects were available in almost unbelievable abundance. How fortunate I was to bump into him at that farm sale, and to be able to benefit from the insights he gave me; since I still recall in clear detail how the farmhouse dresser, stacked with 140 pieces of blue and white pottery, stood in the garden in the autumn sunshine. Roger and I were inspecting it together, and fell into conversation about the wood the dresser was made from; the nature of the drawer linings; and the brass-ware; and I remember well his description of how hardware vendors brought goods around to each farm in turn, and which would have provided a few pieces of the inexpensive Booths Country Scenes pottery for the farmers wife to buy each time, and how this accounted for the different shades of blue, being from different consignments. We discussed the farm kitchen implements and the preparation of foods for storage; and so it went on, to my delight. In the event of the sale, Roger was successful in buying the dresser, and I bought the complete set of blue and white for a few pounds, which adorned our less grand dresser at home for many years.

    The memory of my first meeting with Roger was seminal in my own developing interest in vernacular material culture, and it was with enormous pleasure that when our own twin daughters were of an age to visit Roger's shop in Burford, meeting him was to become a long lasting and pleasurable memory for them too. His love of objects of all kinds and the stories they held for him were especially demonstrated in his regard for children and the things of childhood; dolls houses and furnishings particularly, but my own children would stand wide-eyed as he opened drawers in cabinets and fished out a small precious object to show them. It might be a corn dolly, a card of buttons, or a beaded purse which he extracted with a flourish, asking them what they thought it was; and then furnishing an eloquent explanation, before moving on to a new treasure. Pure magic for children and adults alike !

    Roger's bearing and speech was that of an English gentleman of his time. I never saw him without a tweed suit, tie, and pullover. His upright manner and clear cultivated tones made him a natural teacher, and one would perhaps have thought him to be the headmaster of a public school. On the other hand, he was an excellent salesman, who carried potential customers along with his enthusiastic descriptions, and his closing lines 'This will cost you exactly... ' said in such a precise way as to leave customers in little doubt that haggling was not part of what he did.

    His ethical standards and trade practices were scrupulous, born, no doubt, of his Christian beliefs as a practicing Quaker at Burford Meeting House; beliefs which, by his own admittance, allowed him to be an independent buyer at auction. This position no doubt stood him in good stead when being asked, as he frequently was, to visit private homes in the locality to buy peoples belongings.

    Of course, his shop was an Aladdin's cave, with highways and byways filled with all kinds of antique objects, because this true magpie saw fascination in almost everything, to such a degree that should a museum or owner of an historic house seek for such rarities as period fabrics, fire insurance signs, bird cages, a four poster bed, or even a rare straw-work fire-screen to attach to a chair, then Roger's shop would be a natural place to visit; so much so that many wealthy and talented people visited him regularly, including Queen Mary and her friend the Duchess of Beaufort, as well as David Rockerfeller.

    Roger's legacy, resulting from his professional life as an Antique Dealer, is in part found in his gifts of many kinds, including rare and fragile wallpapers, fabrics, sale catalogues, furniture, and musical instruments which he gave to a number of major institutions, including Temple Newsam House, Leeds, through his friend, the late Christopher Gilbert. From the standpoint of the study of regional vernacular furniture, his long association with many areas of England where he bought items, and his deep interest in all matters connected with them, has meant that his photographs, conversations, and perhaps above all, his memoirs, published by the Regional Furniture Society in 2003, have provided researchers with an invaluable source of first hand information. His range of interests is there for all to see in the sale of his final estate, which represents the passing of a grand and exciting era of antique dealing.

    Dr. B.D. COTTON