(Above photo - Canonbury Antiques, 174 Westbourne Grove - circa 1995 )
After starting out on London's Blackstock Road in the 1960s the US export side of the business grew exponentially as we supplied goods to US customers and suppliers all over the States. At the height in the 1970s we were sending twelve 40 Foot containers a month to US locations. At this time it was decided we also needed some flagship London stores to reach new customers so we opened two stores, one on Notting Hill Gate's Westbourne Grove and another in Islington's Camden Passage. At the time Islington was fast becoming a very chic and fashionable area to both live and work in and our Camden Passage outlet was more suited to smaller goods and objets d'art. I will be writing more about Camden Passage in a future post as it's such an interesting place and area as this posts focus will be on Westbourne Grove.
(Above photo - Camden Passage, Islington - decorative pieces and objets d'art )
It's crazy to think but in the 1970s Notting Hill Gate, W11 - the area of West London in which Westbourne Grove sits - was largely run down and not the insanely expensive place to live and shop it is now. Notting Hill Gate always had a bohemian edge helped by the weekly Portobello Road market that dissects Westbourne Grove at one end. A lot of good bands and music - The Clash, Hawkwind and of course the annual Carribean inspired Notting Hill Carnival - came from this lively enclave. Now Westbourne Grove has to be one of the most chic roads in London with high end boutiques and fancy restaurants lining the street - or 'The Grove' as the locals call it. However throughout the 1970s, 1980s and a big part of the 1990s The Grove was wall to wall antique shops - how times change. You wouldn't know it now if you walked down the beautiful tree lined streets, a good reminder of how the fabric and identity of city's like London are constantly in flux.
(Above photo - Brave the crowds on Portobello Road )
As Canonbury Antiques founder Martin Worster Snr explains: "Many famous celebrities purchased goods in this area and we had many of them as clients; Crown Prince of Thailand (now King), Lionel Ritchie, Richard E Grant, George Harrison, Shirley Bassey, Princess Margaret, George Hamilton - to name but a few. The area was a mecca for interior decorators and designers from whom we gained a lot of knowledge and experience. Lots of our customers became lifelong friends"
(Above photo - Hello? Is it a sideboard you are looking for? (Lionel Richie) )
Martin continues: "One Saturday a gentleman called Jay Bradley and his partner came in at 4 PM. They were from Nashville, Tennessee. We walked around the store and he made a long list of merchandise which was around 40 % of the total current stock . After one hour selecting goods he said that he would think over the weekend and come back on Monday to finalise. I asked him would he like a lift to his hotel in Piccadilly. I learnt that this was his first buying trip to London. I asked him if he would like a trip around London to see all the sights . He promptly and eagerly said 'yes'. For the next two hours I drove Jay and his partner around London pointing out and explaining the history attached to the different locations. His business was called Temptation Galleries - a name that always amused me."
(Above photo - Temptation Galleries, Nashville Tennessee )
"On the following Monday, Jay returned as promised and purchased all but a few of the items selected on the Saturday. I felt that I had made a good impression on him. Along with my wife we visited him in Nashville where he returned the hospitality given in London. Jay had an amazing showroom with pictures of his more famous clients in his large lobby. They were mostly Country Music stars such as Dolly Parton, Glenn Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, etc etc not forgetting the one and only Liberace."
(Above photo - Liberace: How much is that mirrored piano? )
Episode of Lovejoy, shot in the Canonbury Antiques Westbourne Grove gallery:
(Above photo - Westbourne Grove in the 1970s )
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