Andrew Seccombe - Blighty Antiques
The Financial Times once described you as having “the most impeccable eye”. Do you think this is something that you either have or you don’t? Can you develop an eye for antiques?
Yes that was quite a compliment! I do believe you are born with it, but also it comes with experience and the best way to learn is through your mistakes.
Is it safe to say antiques is all you’ve ever known and a lifelong ambition?
Yes I would say it’s all I’ve ever known; I was brought up in a dealer’s house where everything was for sale including the kitchen table (which was often sold), and being around colourful characters of the antiques trade. Now I’ve got two children it’s a bit like history repeating itself... “Daddy, don’t sell Geraldine the Giraffe” and “Daddy where has the sofa gone?” I knew from an early age that the antiques business was going to be my world.
Where does the name Blighty come from, and are you often referred to as Mr Blighty?
The word Blighty originated from India, used by British soldiers as a fond term for England, “Going home to dear old Blighty”. I came up with the brand identity when I opened a shop in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. It was original, it worked well and suits the look that I love, which is of decaying grandeur mixed with colonial and a country house look. Clients and dealers started to call me Mr Blighty assuming I named the company after myself and it kinda stuck. This led to my Instagram account Mr Blighty.
What is your most memorable antiques story about your time in India?
It all started with my Godmother’s husband Lord Throckmorton, who had a great love of India. When going to his house he would take me into his library which was full of the most amazing things from India, mixed with very good country house furniture. He would show me his hunting trophies and photo albums and his collection of things he had brought back from India, which I found fascinating. As soon as I was old enough I bought a ticket to India myself, and I’ve been there more times than I can remember over the last 20 years. I have bought many things from there over the years and have had great fun finding them and getting them out of the country, but that’s another story...
Although it’s great for children to grow up around interesting and beautiful things, I know from experience it doesn’t always go to plan. Have you ever had any ‘mishaps’ with the children and antiques at home?
Yes two incidents spring to mind. First was an excellent Howard & Sons armchair in its original ticking. I caught my eldest daughter, who would have been about four at the time, drawing with a blue Biro pen around the mint H&H monogram print - luckily being a blue print it was not that noticeable! The other time was with my youngest daughter Liberty who had become rather fond of a very rare country house letter box which was in our hallway. She liked to hide her sweeties and other random objects inside it. One day she saw me showing it to a customer and decided that she didn’t want me to sell it, so when I wasn’t looking she wrote her name on the original label, which had the postage collection times, saying ‘This is Liberty Seccombe’s Letterbox’!
The one thing I like most about you, is that you don’t suffer fools! Is this a cut throat business, or do you find most dealers are easy going?
The business attracts people with large personalities and with a strong passion, this sometime causes personality clashes but generally I find it a very easy going profession. One of the reasons I really love the business is that it attracts people from all walks of life, from aristocrats to travellers, and we all have a common interest in beautiful things.
Finally, because I know you so well, don’t you just hate how we constantly deal via email, text and Instagram? Don’t you wish sometimes, just sometimes, people would pick up the damn phone? (Feel free to drop me in it).
You’re making me feel old! Us older members of the trade prefer a good old telephone call for a deal and a catch up of the latest gossip, but the younger generation do everything via text, Instagram etc, so its important for the business to respond to individual needs of the clients. The quickest way to seal a deal is to call, as I’m inundated with messages and sometimes it can slip through the net.