Home The House October 1902

The House   | October 1902

Miss Woollan’s Victorian antique shop

A pretty pole Victorian vanity screen
a collector’s Mecca for Victorian furniture

For many people the pleasures of shopping are destroyed by the obvious and apparent stress under which most modern business is conducted. The joy of indecision, the delight of allowing the fancy to be gently wooed by some two or three rivals for favour, cannot be indulged to their fullest extent under the eve of an assiduous assistant who, naturally and properly enough, is determined to sell as many articles as possible in a given time.

There are still, however, some by-ways left for those who take a delight in examining the object they covet, at least twice a week for three months before they purchase it. They wish, so to speak, to make friends before they introduce it into the sanctum of their household, and when it is purchased and reaches the place for which, as if by predestination its qualities have been slowly showing themselves, it comes home rather like a long-lost heir than the uncongenial stranger that some article purchased in a department in two minutes would be. The two lines in which the real art of buying may still be said to prosper are in book collecting and in the hunting out of objects of art generally. Many of these objects should be considered art, no matter if they come in oak, mahogany, or event shiny pewter. Yet, even among old furniture shops there are not so many now where one may roam at will and select and compare just as one's whim dictates. Antique shopping and collecting beautiful wares should be considered an enjoyable full-time occupation.

A rare photograph of the Kodak reception room in Clerkenwell Road, circa 1902
illustration   pewter for sale at Miss Woollan's

In her rooms at 28 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, Miss Woollan has succeeded in combining the best qualities that a museum of this kind could possess. The rooms are most accessible, being in the heart of the best of the London district. They are conveniently arranged, and are always full of an ever-changing display of old furniture, pewter, china, glass, and a hundred other objects beloved of the collector. On a sunny afternoon it is difficult to conceive of any more pleasant occupation, for those who have a true reverence for antiquities, than what may be described as foraging round the flat. Right opposite one of the doors we come across a pretty little pole-screen (illustrated in the title-piece of foraging). It is slender and delicately painted, while its shield shape and dainty proportions point clearly to the Sheraton period. Turning to the side, we observe a curious antiue mahogany chair (illustrated). It is one of six small Queen Anne pieces, and the curious animal ornament which terminates the back is of special interest, as showing signs of a style prevalent about the time when the chair was manufactured.

We turn away, passing a quantity of beautiful satinwood, including a bookcase and a very handsome chest of drawers, and stroll into the next room. It is impossible to go, however, without observing an interesting circular table, with drawers all round. Each of these drawers bears a certain number of letters of the alphabet; a very curious method of decoration which is rather difficult to explain. Passing through a small room in which some pieces of oak are temptingly displayed, we come to another apartment, right across which a handsome Moorish screen recently illustrated in one of the art papers) is stretched. Nestling close to this example of magnificent Oriental work are the charming and unobtrusive Queen Anne table and dressing-glass (sketched). The richness of the mahogany set off by the original brass fittings, and displaying that magnificent colour which only time can give, awakens an immediate and almost uncontrollable desire for the transfer of those pieces to the safe keeping of one’s own sanctum sanctorum.

A unique Queen Anne Chair, circa 1902
illustration   a unique Queen Anne Chair

If there is one thing more than another capable of showing off and being shown off by mahogany, it is pewter; and we find a large selection at Miss Woollan’s. One of the illustrations gives sketches of some of the pieces. The dull sheen of the dainty Georgian coffee-pot and the graceful outlines of the other pieces, proves that there is more artistic method in the pewter madness than some people would have us believe.

But it is almost impossible even to sum up in so short a space the many branches of collecting represented at 28 Brook Street, Mayfair London. It may be safely said that anyone with a penchant in this direction will find something of interest.

It is pleasant to think that the many charms at Miss Woollan’s establishment do not go unappreciated, and those who act upon the advice here given, and devote an afternoon to examining these treasures, will find that the title at the head of these notes is not by any means a misnomer.

A dainty Queen Anne table and looking-glass
illustration   a dainty Queen Anne table and vanity mirror

28 Brook St, Mayfair London

This article is written to appeal to reader who is interested in Victorian era arts and crafts. This was a special period for the arts and crafts movement. The famous figure head for the arts and crafts movement is generally regarded as the Apostle of Art, William Morris. However, when looking into all things vintage, then I suggest looking at the wider connections that one may stumble across.

My guiding angel, who is always looking out for me, pointed me to another connection of historical importance to the vintage audiophile enthusiast. As I was preparing this article for web release, I came across an interesting discussion about the Handel & Hendrix in London museum. First up, the museum was Handel's home from 1723 to 1759. It was also a one time home for Jimmy Hendrix as well. This small but important museum has period Georgian features, instruments and scores. Recitals are still being held here. All this history is only a few doors down from Woollan’s former antique shop.

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