I joined my father in the family antique business in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, where the shop stocked mahogany, walnut and oak furniture, together with longcase clocks, which were a particular favourite of my father's.
I soon found I had a natural feel for early furniture, understanding its construction and how the early carpenters and turners developed furniture making from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century – the 200 years that is called 'The Age of Oak'.
I grew up in the town of Worksop, which together with the surrounding villages, was the home of Windsor chair-making in the early to mid-nineteenth century. These beautifully proportioned chairs, made in highly figured ash or burr yew wood, fascinated me and my passion has led me to researching both the regional style, together with the history of the chair-making families, building up a substantial stock (or collection!) along the way.
I took over the business in the early 1980s, and started exhibiting at the country's major antique fairs, often serving on the vetting committees examining the early furniture. Two distinguished dealers of the day proposed me for the British Antique Dealers Association, and I became its youngest member.
I moved to a larger shop in nearby Bawtry, Yorkshire, which was once an eighteenth century merchant’s house, together with the adjoining coach house. I meticulously restored the two properties which were featured in the publication 'Period Home Magazine', together with furniture of the period.
The enjoyment of restoring early buildings led me to acquiring a seventeenth century cruck-framed manor house, together with its Victorian farmyard. I started to restore the manor, but the farmyard looked deserted and forlorn, so I decided to put the animals back. My love for early and rare furniture spilled over into my choice of farmyard stock, and I chose the rare breeds whose ancestry went back to the early days of farming. Over the years the farm and its animals expanded and I started a small farm shop called The Ginger Pig.
Years later, the Ginger Pig has grown, moving its farming base to the North Yorkshire moors and its retail outlets to London, where it owns eight butcher’s shops. As the business grew, a management team evolved, taking over the day to day running of the business, allowing me to resume my first love – early oak.
I was fortunate to be able to acquire Wysdom Hall on Burford High Street, a shop I first visited with my father in the mid-1970s, when he came to visit Roger Warner, the renowned antique dealer.