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1875 Liberty & Co original sign to go under the hammer

The original Liberty retailers sign dating from 1875. Estimate £8,000-£12,000

Culture

1875 Liberty & Co original sign to go under the hammer

Dreweatts auction house is to offer an original retailer sign that hung outside Liberty & Co in London’s Regent Street…

The large distinctive carved, gilded and polychrome painted sign that hung proudly outside their premises, dates from 1875, the year the company was founded by Arthur Lasenby Liberty. Lasenby Liberty, who was the son of a Chesham lace manufacturer, opened his shop at 218a Regent Street to sell luxurious silks, oriental goods and Japanese objects from the East, to fulfil the British fascination with all things exotic.

Ben Brown Head of Dreweatts Furniture, Rugs and Carpets department:

“Dreweatts is delighted to be able to offer this unique collection with all of its highly interesting, original and eclectic qualities.”

The business proved popular and by 1883 Lasenby Liberty took on two more shops in Regent Street, eventually occupying all of the late Georgian buildings from Nos. 140 to 150 Regent Street, which came under the name of Chesham House. Throughout the 20th century Liberty and Company gained a loyal following for their unique, specially-designed high-quality Fabrics and unusual objects. Lasenby Liberty successfully built good working relationships with British craftspeople and artists of the day, with a particular leaning towards those of the Art Nouveau movement, with the company quickly becoming a lynchpin in the movement’s development (Lasenbury Liberty was a member of the Arts and Crafts Society).

Liberty printed their own fabrics with a hand printing press, with their own specially-designed blocks and worked with artists studios to extend their offering to Jewellery, watches, silver, furniture, wallpapers, textiles and objects. Clientele included the artists Frederic Leighton, Edward Burne-Jones, Christina Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, with opera producers Gilbert and Sullivan using their fabrics for the costumes in the 1881 production of Patience. Liberty’s range of products continued to grow, with a wide range of furniture, silver, pewter, jewellery, wallpapers, carpets and soft furnishings. Lasenbury Liberty had a furniture workshop in Archway, London which produced Liberty Arts and Crafts furniture and silver and was sold at the shop.

By 1922 Lasenbury Liberty’s vision of a new design for an expanded shop became a reality, when the Great Marlborough Street location was designed by Edwin T. Hall and his son Edwin S. Hall. The timber clad exterior was created from the timbers of two ancient three-decker battle ships. 24,000 cubic feet of the ships timbers were used, including their decks, which were used as the new shop’s flooring. Lasenbury Liberty’s own furniture workshop produced the intricately carved panels and pillars found throughout the shop and they remain, alongside the timber cladding, to this day. Lasenbury Liberty sadly died before the completion of the new shop and a statue was erected at the front entrance to honour him.

The company continues to have a workshop that is the core of the business, hand painting and creating their distinctive prints and reimagining and reviving designs from their 45,000-strong archive. The sign is a historical memento, not just of this now listed building, but of an important icon of the Arts & Crafts movement. It carries an estimate of £8,000-£12,000.

The sign is just one of the unusual slices of history to be found amongst a collection amassed over 30 years by the antiques expert Drew Pritchard, most famously known for his role in the TV programme Salvage Hunters.

Drew is well-known to viewers for his keen eye and ability to identify valuable pieces that may not be in their perfect state, but have the potential to be brought back to life with good restoration. The well-known star and antique dealer’s collection is as diverse as you imagine, with everything from beautiful period furniture to more eclectic objects, such as vintage signage and architectural works. The sale titled Drew Pritchard: The Collection will take place at Dreweatts on March 5 & 6th, 2024.

Drew Pritchard:

“2023 marked my 30th year in the antiques trade and this collection is a vignette of that work. Anyone who deals in antiques knows it’s all consuming. This collection is part of that 30 years of obsessively collecting and dealing. I look forward to and am excited by the possibilities of the next 30 years”

Trained initially as a stained glass restorer, who already had a passion for antiques, Drew’s collection reflects his skills in valuing the pieces he finds, but also shows an understanding of the history and backstory of the works. He has rummaged through aeroplane hangers, to old schools to find hidden gems and his collection is testament to remarkable finds, as well as his knowledge. Over his many years of hunting, his purchases have been to either sell on, or to furnish his own properties. The sale will offer the opportunity to attain works that have been chosen by Drew for a specific reason, which means each piece has a unique backstory and quality. The sale, which is estimated to fetch over £700,000 comprises approximately 500 lots, which range in estimate from £200 up to £30,000.

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