Box House Antiques

How the antiques trade has changed​

​The late ​Monty Sainsbury​ of Bath was my mentor​ who started out as a ‘runner’ long before WW2. He told me in order to get the news he would as a boy run down to the local station and wait on the platform for the London train. The engine driver would slow down and shout the news as he passed, “November 11th 1918 – the war is over !”. Today we are given information, some accurate but, as we all know now, much of it to put it kindly, euphemistically massaged, a bit like auction catalogues of today.

Monty always had dealing in his blood together with an added passion for very skillfully turning things on a lathe in his cellar, the result of working for a time in an armaments factory in Southampton.

After the war he saved up enough to buy an old American car into which he would load his modest purchases, initially butler’s trays and corner washstands @ seven shillings and sixpence a time for good ones. One day in the early 1950’s a shop on Gay Street in Bath became available as Reg the owner was retiring. “Would you like the shop Mont?’’

“Yes I’d like it but I have no money”… “Don’t worry about that”.

One fine day Monty attended a house sale just after WW2 when house sales were house sales and auctioneers were just that. Chippendale commodes were sold along with the Atco lawn mowers. A very fine Adam painted satinwood sofa table emerged from one of the upstairs bedrooms. “Oh”, says the porter, “I think there may be another in the cellar and I seem to remember a third, all en-suite, somewhere outside in the stables”. All three are bought for £85, with the resulting profit later producing a modest deposit towards the purchase of 35 Gay Street, Bath, with smiles all round.

Fast forward to the end of 1969 and I find myself attending a dreadful sale in Weston-Super-Mare looking in amazement at the best untouched 2’6” Queen Anne walnut bureau cabinet in the world among the wheelbarrows and garden rakes. “It’ll probably make £75” declares the auctioneer with gravitas.

Three hours later and struggling to stay awake lot 384 comes up, and precisely at that moment a certain Mr Monty Sainsbury walks into the room. I made him pay £3000 about which he was, to put it mildly, less than enthusiastic, with the auctioneer suffering a heart seizure.

Later over a rather large whiskey and profuse apologies from me, a long lasting and close friendship resulted. 90% of what I know is thanks to Monty Sainsbury who was most generous in his willingness to teach me the trade, accompanying him well into his 80’s on long buying trips around England and Wales. I was also given first choice of anything he bought.

I remember Monty v fondly and remain forever in his debt.

My son is now taking over in a very different world of big businesses doing their best to dominate and control the trade. In spite of the latter, we continue to do very well helping people find what they are seeking for their collections.