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The Property of Christopher Jones Esq.
Christopher Jones is an indispensable figure in Northamptonshire, the county in which he was born and brought up, and where he started his antique business three decades ago. He is indispensable not only as a charming and lovable friend to many, but also as an aesthetic guide and mentor to those of us burdened with indecision about how to furnish or decorate our houses. His advice is clear, instant, and unfailingly good, for it is based on an instinctive taste and judgment with which he seems to have been blessed from birth.
Born in Kettering into a family of modest means, Christopher quickly found that he was an instinctive collector. As a schoolboy, he would spend his pocket money on buying little objects at junk shops and jumble sales. On leaving school, he trained to be a teacher and even became one for a couple of years. But at the age of 24, he gave up teaching and returned to his natural vocation, launching his career as an antique dealer with a tiny shop in Kettering.
From there he graduated to a larger shop in Weedon near Daventry and thence in 1991 to the nearby village of Flore, where he remained until 2006 as the tenant of a large rambling Jacobean manor house. Flore House was to become a Mecca both for the gentry of the county and for the smartest interior decorators both from London and abroad; for Christopher's interest in antiques has always been essentially for their decorative qualities.
All the rooms at Flore House were filled with his acquisitions - mainly French and Italian antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries, but also anything else, old or new, that caught his eye during his extensive travels around Europe. They were jumbled together in a seemingly random fashion but enjoyed nevertheless a mysterious harmony.
Christopher is a modest man, but admits that he understands the English country house look "incredibly well", and it is this understanding that has always guided his purchasing decisions and made his collection so seductive to private buyers and interior decorators alike. Clients included leading decorators such as Nicholas Haslam, Chester Jones, and the New York "king of chintz", Mario Buatta. The late Princess Margaret was also a customer.
In 2006, following the sale of Easton Neston, the great Hawksmoor country house at Towcester that had been in the Hesketh family for hundreds of years, Christopher bought Pomfret House, the former vicarage on the estate, and moved there lock, stock and barrel from Flore. Pomfret House, a light and theatrical Regency-gothic manor house, is the perfect showcase for Christopher's eclectic taste.
He carefully restored and redecorated the house and filled it with the cream of his collection, a range of original items from many sources and periods, imaginatively assembled in happy juxtaposition - lacquer chests, stone vases, antlers, chandeliers, busts, pictures, mirrors, clocks, and all the basic things a house needs, such as sofas, chairs, tables, lamps, china and glass.
It is these that are to be auctioned at Christie's. They are being sold to clear the decks so that Christopher may again indulge his passion for furnishing a house, using fresh objects, in his own inimitable style. He is not someone who cares to stand still.
I myself owe him a great debt. I live about four miles away from Easton Neston at Stoke Park, Stoke Bruerne, where there are two early 17th pavilions with curved colonnades that once linked them to a country house that burned down in the 1880s. They are beautiful buildings in the Palladian style widely attributed to Inigo Jones, one originally a chapel and the other a library.
The library, a magnificent high single room, recently required extensive renovation and redecoration, for which I called on Christopher for advice. He knew immediately what to do, what colours to use, and where paintings and mirrors should be hung so that everything would seem right, harmonious and satisfying. The result is a great tribute to his gifts.
The auction at Christie's offers a rare opportunity for everyone to enjoy the benefits of his unique experience and judgment.