Eric Knowles on his new Tunbridge Wells emporium:
It has become readily apparent that a significant number of people who recognise my name make the erroneous assumption that I work entirely as a TV presenter. I am pleased to say that nothing could be further from the truth!
In the first instance, I am a non-executive director of Moorcroft Pottery Ltd, patron of several museums, an author and a budding documentary maker.
However, after having spent most of my working life associated with a well-known London auction house, over the last two years I have taken on the position of Chairman of The Hoard Ltd and its online presence ScottishAntiques.com – a dynamic business focused on the finest antique and contemporary porcelain, glass and silver – not forgetting Tunbridge Ware – and other facets of history.
“Our new emporium will embrace the whole gamut of decorative arts, from classic to contemporary”
As a result, I am now relishing the exciting challenge of opening a shop in Royal Tunbridge Wells, and retailing from the iconic location of The Pantiles Arcade at the Corn Exchange – the heart of the world-famous Pantiles in this fair town.
Selling online is unquestionably great fun and the sheer variety of the stock we handle has dictated that I broaden my knowledge, which is no bad thing.
However, both myself and my learned colleagues have had to admit that we missed the benefits of meeting prospective clients face-to-face, rather than having to interact with them as little more than a largely anonymous voice at the other end of the telephone, or by way of an email trail.
It was this lack of engagement that first prompted the idea of acquiring a retail premises where we could meet and greet our presently ‘disembodied’ clientele.
As for the venue for our venture, the gods were smiling when we were ushered towards the Corn Exchange, which would provide the perfect interior space – and which, as many readers will be aware, began life as a theatre in 1802.
I should like to stress that it was never our intention to open something which would become known as an ‘antique’ centre – and we are, in fact, keen to distance ourselves from the very idea, as our diverse stock embraces the whole gamut of decorative arts from classic to contemporary.
We feel that this diversity and blend of the decorative and academic will appeal to an eclectic audience who are able to appreciate both quality craftsmanship and design aesthetics, whether by William Morris, Émile Gallé or René Lalique…
We are being joined in our new venture by John Masters of the Design Gallery, formerly to be found overlooking The Green in nearby Westerham. I first met John almost 15 years ago, and a visit to his gallery was always a combination of delight and a free education.
We are further delighted to be joined by David Wilkinson of Wilkinsons PLC, a Royal Warrant holder as supplier of lighting and chandeliers to Her Majesty The Queen. David is the fourth-generation custodian of the business that was started in Stourbridge by David’s great uncle.
As a result, there will be a truly breathtaking selection of prestigious chandeliers suspended from the building’s original cast-iron vaulting above our own room settings – an attraction in its own right.
The final addition, for the time being, is long-standing friend and colleague Charles Hanson. Auctioneer Charles is opening an office and is intent on running a minimum of four auctions per annum on The Pantiles.
We will first be opening our doors on Sunday July 4 to host a valuation event in aid of a local charity, for which we are presently taking bookings.
Along with my colleague, Mr Hanson, I am also delighted to announce that I will be joined by two Antiques Roadshow chums on the day, namely John Benjamin – a world authority on jewellery – and Grant Ford, our paintings expert, formerly with Sotheby’s. I have also been able to call on the services of my former colleague and friend from my auctioneering days, Loraine Turner, who specialises in silver.
As July 4 draws closer, the ground floor of the Corn Exchange, and the rafters, will continue to witness manic activity to ensure that we are looking our best – after all, first impressions count.
To book tickets to the opening event on July 4, please call 07497 387995 or visit Scottishantiques.com for details.
PHOTOS: David Bartholomew