Jonathan Kenneth Horne
For four decades Jonathan Horne was at the
heart of the market in antique English and continental Delftware, and in
the recent Birthday Honours he was appointed MBE for services to medieval
English ceramics, but his influence on the antiques trade spread far beyond
his speciality. He was chairman of the British Antique Dealers' Association
between 2001 and 2004 and was also a founder and vice-president of the
Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, president of St John Ambulance,
Kingston Division, a Freeman of the City of London, a Liveryman of the
Stationers' Company, and in 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of
Antiquaries. He was also instrumental in the founding of a new City of
London Guild set up on behalf of all those involved in the decorative arts,
serving as Master in 2008-09.
Jonathan Kenneth Horne was the son of Kenneth
Horne the playwright (rather than the comedian) - whose successes included
Fools Rush In and Love in a Mist - and his wife Joy, always known as
Georgie, née Doudney. Her father, the Rev. C. E. Doudney, was an army
chaplain who was killed in 1915, and whose diaries were edited by his
grandson and published as The Best of Good Fellows (1995). Horne was born
at Wadebridge in Cornwall in 1940, but the family soon returned to Croydon
in South London and endured the later stages of the Blitz. He and his two
brothers - there was also a sister - maintained that if they misbehaved
they were threatened that there would be no guns that night. It was their
favourite task to collect shrapnel from the lawn every morning so that it
would not smash the mower blades.
Horne was educated at Whitgift School in
Croydon, where he developed a passion for history and archaeology, cycling
through Kent and taking part in many digs, in particular at Lullingstone
Roman Villa, Reculver and Dover Roman Forts. Nothing later than the Roman
period interested him then, but then he "got a job in Croydon where my
employers had a property that was going to be redeveloped and I suggested
we do a dig. We found some Roman pieces and later wares as well as
fragments of delftware. I suddenly realised you could still find pieces of
post-medieval pottery in antiques shops", and thus started to collect.
Later he came to consider the 17th century as the most fascinating period
of English history, "with the development of the sciences and the opening
up of the New World."
For a time he was a trainee manager at Selfridges,
but the prospect bored him, and he soon determined to build on his
archaeological foundations. In 1968 he took a stall in the Portobello
Market dealing in copper kettles and anything else saleable that came to
hand, and putting his inherited theatrical talents to good use in
salesmanship. He perfected the art of unpacking very slowly to whet
appetites for what was to be unveiled. In less than four years his
reputation was such that he was elected to the British Antique Dealers
Association (BADA), and in 1976 he moved on to set up in a small shop at
66c Kensington Church Street, where he dealt in early metalwork,
needlework, carvings and works of art as well as early English delftware
and continental pottery.
Soon, however, the pottery, together with books on
English ceramics, ousted the rest. Tiles became a speciality within his
speciality. He not only sold books, but from 1985 published high-quality
reference works and catalogues on a variety of subjects, but mainly
relating to his core interests. This was more a proselytising enterprise
than a commercial one. As he said: "To get your name on the spine is the
very best of publicity. It also enables specialist subjects to be written
up which are not commercial enough for big publishers." For nearly 30 years
he also produced an annual exhibition catalogue, which has become an
important reference series for all those interested in English pottery.
Among his rules for successful dealing were that knowledge is helpful and
important, but the main tool is your own eye. Put your money up front, and
to stay at the top, buy the best, and be seen to buy it. It was not
necessarily a contradiction that he also maintained that it is better to
buy the broken but interesting than the perfect but boring. He made a point
of cultivating the whole market, and not just the upper reaches. As well as
showing at international fairs in London and New York, he was a regular at
Buxton in Derbyshire. "There are plenty of people who never come south of
Oxford. I take a lot of inexpensive objects - amazing things for a few
hundred pounds each. It all mounts up."
He spearheaded the BADA members'
exhibition programme to celebrate the Millennium. Dealers who had no
intention of taking part found themselves doing so after persuasive
telephone calls from Horne, and later declared that they were glad to have
listened to him. In 2008 he was chairman of the BADA 90th anniversary
exhibitions programme. He believed that high-quality, academically
rigorous, exhibitions were an important way for knowledgeable and
enthusiastic dealers to draw customers into antique shops and counter the
glitzy auction house marketing. Among his own notable shows was the last,
his Pirates of the East End (2008), which displayed artefacts excavated
from the Limehouse residences of known 17th and 18th-century privateers,
bringing attention to a little-known corner of London history.
theatrical heritage also showed itself in his relish for ceremonial,
insignia and institutions. Soon after leaving school he had joined the
Honourable Artillery Regiment (TA), and when he retired from the active
unit in 1978 he was elected a member of the Company of Pikemen and
Musketeers, the Lord Mayor's bodyguard, rising to the rank of Elder
Drumbeater. In one uniform or another he marched in the Lord Mayor's Parade
for 51 years, and on one occasion two of his daughters also paraded, as
Vestal Virgins. This City of London connection bore fruit during his time
as chairman of BADA, when he and the president, Lord Brooke of Sutton
Mandeville, the former Arts Minister and MP for the City of London, took up
an idea first floated half a century earlier, to establish a City Livery
Company for antiques dealers and associated historians, connoisseurs and
supporting services. After much agonising over a suitable name - "Historic
Arts Practitioners" and "Arts Professionals" were among those discarded -
this hatched in 2005 as the Guild of Arts Scholars, Dealers and Collectors.
He worked tirelessly to establish the guild, serving as honorary clerk from
its inception, and following Geoffrey Bond as second Master. It is now well
on its way towards company status.
London guilds first began to emerge
during the 7th century and were the forerunners of the trade and craft
guilds of the 12th century. These protected customers, employers and
employees by searching out goods of poor quality and punishing offenders.
Over the centuries, the majority of guilds were conferred with royal
charters and became known as livery companies. Their modern role is as much
charitable as protective of trade. Many very unmedieval professions are now
represented, including airline pilots, chartered accountants, management
consultants and information technologists, but until that point, although
the goldsmiths, painter stainers, clockmakers, furniture makers, stationers
and other venerable companies represented particular groups, there was no
one guild directly covering the requirements of the wider antiques trade.
In August 2006, after the death of his old friend and rival Alistair
Sampson at the beginning of that year, Horne merged their businesses,
trading from Sampson's Mount Street premises as Sampson & Horne in
partnership with Christopher Banks, who had latterly run Alistair Sampson
Ltd. However, he did not enjoy the much larger shop for long, as the
economic climate and his own poor health shortly dictated a further move to
Brook's Mews near by. A final project was the auction of their remaining
stock, as "The Sampson & Horne Collection", which took place with great
success at Bonhams in April.
Cancer was diagnosed last year, and one of his
last visitors was a fellow Pikeman, who pinned a miniature MBE insignia to
his pyjamas. He is survived by his wife Rachael and three daughters.
Jonathan Horne, MBE, antiques dealer, was born on November 13, 1940. He died of cancer on June 25, 2010, aged 69