The West

Collectors get chance to buy piece of history
Mark Howard and Leslie Lauder prepare for the sale. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

An exhibition and sale of one of the largest collections of rare 18th and 19th century English furniture opens at Fremantle antiques dealer Lauder and Howard this week.

The collection of 37 Gillows pieces is almost unprecedented because most surviving items are in museums or long-held private collections and rarely come up for sale.

Gillows expert Susan Stuart has arrived from Britain to attend the exhibition and give a talk about the pieces that have antique enthusiasts buzzing.

While there are many items priced under $5000, the most expensive piece - a bookshelf - will set a collector back almost $40,000.

Les Lauder, owner of Lauder and Howard, said it had taken the dealer more than five years to build up the collection.

"Gillows was about sheer quality and excellence - they sourced the best possible timbers from around the world, employed the best cabinet-makers and they had great designers," he said.

"The pieces are beautiful but everything Gillows made was also meant for use.

"We've tried to keep them as modestly priced as we can because we want people to enjoy these pieces but they do come at a cost."

While not as famous as contemporaries such as Chippendale, Gillows made some of the finest English furniture between 1732 and 1903.

The company never published a book of furniture designs and discouraged clients from allowing pieces to be copied.

But by the turn of the century, Gillows had fallen victim to its own high standards and was overtaken by mass-produced furniture.

The exhibition runs from tomorrow until October 15.

The West Australian

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