Find rare and vintage collectibles at the Honiton Antiques Festival

PUBLISHED: 15:38 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 15:38 04 November 2014

Graham York at his shop Graham York Rare Books. Photo: Matt Austin

Graham York at his shop Graham York Rare Books. Photo: Matt Austin

Matt Austin Images 2013

In the run up to the Honiton Antiques Festival Devon Life meets four of the town's 85 antique dealers

Caroline Bushell with an antique Honiton lace wedding veil. Photo: Matt AustinCaroline Bushell with an antique Honiton lace wedding veil. Photo: Matt Austin

Three years ago the antiques fraternity of Honiton got together to plan a week of antiques-based events. Linking in with the national antiques week during the third week of November, this was the birth of The Honiton Antiques Festival.

With more than 85 dealers operating from its shops and centres the town also has an auction house and several restorers and conservators, so deserves its reputation as the antiques capital of the south west.

This year the fourth festival will see events happening throughout the town. Individual shops or dealers will stage exhibitions and displays, auctioneers Chilcotts will hold specialist sales and Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood will host a special event.

Valentine Butler, one of the organisers, says the week has brought visitors from as far afield as Ireland, Denmark and France and the town’s Tourist Information Centre has recorded a jump in visitor numbers. In fact the whole town benefited so much that last year the local Town Council backed the Honiton Antiques Festival by giving it a grant of £500.”

Honiton Antiques Festival 2014 will run from Monday 10 to Saturday 15 November. There will be a Book and Printed Paper Fair on the Thursday and an Antiques and Collectables Fair on the Friday in the Community Church on the High Street.

Graham York at his shop Graham York Rare BooksGraham York at his shop Graham York Rare Books

Graham York has been dealing in books for more than 30 years - originally selling books simply so he could buy more to read for pleasure. He came to Honiton in 1982 and set up his current shop in the High Street 14 years ago.

The shelves of the shop are filled with fascinating old leather-bound volumes, with more stacked on tables and desks. In the window you’ll often find Graham’s Jack Russell Lottie sunning herself.

Among the rare books Graham has found over the years was a 15th century book of herbalist remedies - an example of incunabula, the earliest books created using moveable type between 1475 and 1500.

Printed in Latin, it also contained contemporary notes written in the margin by a mediaeval herbalist. It was bought by the John Ryland Library at Manchester University.

During the antiques festival Graham will be holding a selling exhibition on a smuggling theme.

Caroline Bushell with an antique Honiton lace wedding veilCaroline Bushell with an antique Honiton lace wedding veil

Caroline Bushell says her interest in vintage textiles began when she started buying old linen from farm and house clearance sales in the 1970s. “It was a hobby that went wrong,” she jokes and she is now joint owner with Ann and Phil Barton of Fountain Antiques, from where 43 dealers sell an astonishing range of antiques.

Caroline admits to having to disguise the excitement she felt when she came across the lace wedding veil in our photograph. Tipped off by a friend she discovered it in a Sainsbury’s carrier bag with some other lots at a South Devon auction house. She immediately recognised it as handmade Honiton lace from the early 20th century. The intricate work - a square inch would take ten hours to produce - means it must have been made for someone of wealth. Not wanting to appear too interested she didn’t leave a bid and someone else went to the auction for her. She got the veil for £60 and now has it priced at £485.

Third generation antique dealer Leigh Extence specialises in clocks. He has a particular passion for carriage clocks and a fascination bordering on obsession for those made by Parisian carriage clock manufacturers Henri Jacot and father-and-son team Pierre and Alfred Drocourt, who were rivals in the mid to late 1800s.

He’s pictured holding a grande-sonnerie carriage clock made by Drocourt, possibly for the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris. Every 15 minutes it chimes the hour or the quarter hour. Leigh, who has spent some eight years researching Jacot and Drocourt for a book he is writing, bought the clock from a man who had acquired it from the son of Drocourt’s agent. It has the original case and winding key and is not for sale.

Leigh can spot a carriage clock by one of the two makers at a glance. He once spotted one in a grainy photograph on eBay from a house clearance in South Africa and was confident enough to buy it for £400. When it was delivered the Drocourt name on the clock movement confirmed his hunch and it is now on sale for £2,500.

Carriage clock expert Leigh Extence. Photo: Matt AustinCarriage clock expert Leigh Extence. Photo: Matt Austin

During the Honiton Antiques Festival Leigh will have an exhibition dedicated to Drocourt and give a talk in which he will be revealing some of the discoveries he has made during his research.

Roderick and Valentine Butler sell 17th and 18th century furniture from their home Marwood House - itself a piece of Honiton’s history dating from 1619.

The business is the longest established of its kind in the area, drawing customers from a 60-mile radius. At 76 Roderick shows no inclination to retire, declaring: “What else would I do? I’m still going to buy antiques!”

He’s tickled by a description from the early 1300s in which the sellers of old furniture are called “fripperers”, showing the antiques business is no recent invention.

He and Valentine, who trained as a cabinet maker in the ’60s at the London College of Furniture, clearly love living surrounded by beautiful furniture and regard themselves as custodians of it for future generations.

Roderick and Valentine Butler. Photo: Matt AustinRoderick and Valentine Butler. Photo: Matt Austin

A large desk dominates the main showroom. It’s an example from a Gothic revival period in the 1830s when (not unlike today) it became fashionable to make new furniture look ancient. A great example of early recycling, it contains some carvings that are late mediaeval and caryatids at the corners that date from the 1700s.

A recent good find at an auction house was an old oak cupboard with a £200 estimate, but to an expert eye worth a good deal more. Roderick bought it for £4,000 - outbidding a rival who had also recognised it’s true worth.

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