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Esseborne Manor
Near Andover, Hampshire

8th-13th March 2009


This is the second time our party has stayed at this comfortable family-run hotel between Newbury and Andover, where the surrounding fields were showing the first welcome signs of Spring.

Our holidays are now promoted in conjunction with the Friends of the British Antique Dealers Association, this enables us to call upon the plethora of talents to be found in that unique organisation. The first of such speakers was Nicholas Shaw, a specialist silver dealer from Petworth, who talked enthusiastically and knowledgeably about 20th century Silversmiths from C R Ashbee to Stuart Devlin. Any subject is vividly brought to life when you can handle the goods, and Nick brought a varied selection including a silver and pearl muffin-dish by C R Ashbee worth several thousand pounds. In the face of such an object one wonders at Ashbee’s Socialist principals!

Maureen Duke is the doyenne of English bookbinders, and we were delighted to listen to her talk on the history of book-binding. Not your sort of thing? Well when you hear Maureen talk you cannot help but be riveted by this somewhat esoteric subject, bringing alive as she does a thousand years of the craft from papyrus to paper-back.

Outings we have to have, and this time we ventured to the immaculate gardens and house of Hinton Ampner. Built only in 1960 by the connoisseur Ralph Dutton, this mansion houses a breath-taking collection of furniture and effects in what Osbert Lancaster called the Vogue Regency style, not least of which was an abundance of objects in hardstones with ormolu mounts. The gardens are no less wonderful even at this drear time of the year with the immaculately clipped topiary (see picture) giving form to the flowerless beds.

By contrast the Edward Barnsley Workshop gave us a glimpse of the modern cabinet-maker at work. The sense of style, the quality of the goods and the dedication of these apprentices cause you to rejoice in the face of modern mediocrity.

Another varied programme which attracted not only residential participants but also some who came in on a daily basis.

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