Jonny Williamson - Noble and Thane

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You’ve been in the business for quite some time, how did you get started?
Trading is probably in my blood. My ancestors started a golf shop which they opened in Carnoustie, Scotland in the 19th century and it passed through the family until my Dad sold it in the 1980s, almost 100 years later. It’s the second oldest golf shop in the world. They made their own clubs and sold them worldwide.

My earliest personal encounter with antiques was saving up and buying a WWII gas mask from a little shop in town. I was probably about 10 or so at the time. I’ve always had an interest in militaria, and after moving out of London about 15 years ago I decided to take the plunge and pursue dealing full time.

If your dad hadn’t have sold the golf shop, do you think your path would have turned out differently?
That’s an interesting question – I guess everything happens for a reason. Selling the shop wasn’t an easy decision to make and I remember it vividly. At the time Carnoustie wasn’t on the major golfing circuit with regards to The Open etc, as it is now, and as it had been, so the business suffered as a result. Neither my brother nor I had any interest in golf as a sport so I don’t think my future ever really lay there. It’s sad to look back at it, but at the same time I’m proud of my family’s achievements and it’s something I’ve appreciated more as I’ve grown older.

Where does your interest in royal and noble antiques come from?
Again, this originates from the militaria. To begin with I was mainly catering for collectors – buying from homes through adverts and selling online.

A lot of the high-ranking members of the military had peerages or other connections to nobility. However, it was becoming increasingly difficult to source these items, and as the market is very competitive it made buying at auction near impossible if you wanted to turn a profit.

I started getting more and more enquires from designers and people putting rooms together in their own homes or businesses who were looking for that regal or military feel, but weren’t necessarily interested in the origin of the piece or the rarity of the regiment. It allowed me to source more generic items that had the look. Anything from battle worn Union Jacks and scarlet tunics to coronation robes and coronets. That influence is still in my stock today but perhaps has become a little more diluted with time. I always feel drawn to that subject matter but also have a keen interest in natural history and objects akin to the days of the ‘grand tour’.

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Woo Gilchrist