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Photograph :  Phillipa Jane Wielgos

An Interview with Paul Martin



Can you tell me about your new show?

It's called "The Great Auction Showdown with Paul Martin". It's Channel 5's biggest commission in their history, 80 programmes to be made in one year. I believe it will to go on the "Neighbours" slot once or twice a day in afternoon and early evening.


 It's a bit like "Flog It!" with valuation day with experts on hand. on and off camera and be part of a show and see how a programme is made.


Where it's different to "Flog It!" is that we go on the rostrum and auction the items ourselves rather than give it to another auctioneer to do so, so the onus is on us to sell it.


We have a competition to see who can sell the most and who can make the most money for people who bring their antiques in. We also have another section like the "Antiques Roadshow" where any profits made are given to charity. So it's very much like "Flog It!" meets the Antique Road Trip"! All about the owners and their personalities.It's arm chair travel for people all over the country.


It's one hour long and on Channel 5 and coming out soon. We are out on the road again in March travelling across England, Scotland and Wales to complete the other 40.


What tips do you provide to people wishing to buy?

Natural history really ... anything that's a curio for me is fascinating and they are exceptionally rare. It's hard to do a price comparable.

If someone wants to buy a chest of drawers, you can Google chest of drawers. There are many selling sites, about 600 at any one time to choose from, so you can choose your wood, sizes, period and price and home in to what you want and you do your price comparable and d that's how you buy really - there's so much choice.


It gets difficult when something is a curio because there may be only one or two of them, so finite, items that are different tend to fetch more money because you wont' see it again.


In the next couple of weeks I am hoping to buy a stalactite which was found in the Cheddar Gorge by a Victorian collector over one metre high. That kind of thing looks so fantastic on an office, desk or in a library or studio. It's just different and it's quirky, its got texture to it and its got these tonal qualities which only history brings, natural history items have a tonal quality when they are not fussed, re-coloured or touched up with and left natural. It's just a piece of history that takes you back in time.


That's what I like about antiques is that it's a document of social history,especially if it be they have been signed, dated, or initialled you know who made it, who the maker was, whether it's pottery or silver, whether it was from a collector, a natural history genius that toured the world and documented everything and discovered things.


All of these kind of things are provenance and provenance means it adds value because it's not just an object it's a piece of social history, a document so it brings history alive, a portal in to the past, takes you back in time, a connection to our ancestors and that's really special and antiques do that. Quirky items of natural history for me are wonderful.


Pieces of sculpture they are 'one off' as well and so are oil paintings because you don't replicate them and they are not a series of print runs, so good oil paintings by known British 20th century modern artists, quirky items of natural history, like stalactites.


Obviously, don't go anything listed on endangered certificates that need CITES certificates because it's not PC any more to have stuff like that or to buy things like that anymore. Stay away from ivory, elephant and rhino, tortoiseshell, etc., as eventually they will be illegal to sell and their value will go right down.


Coco de Mer, (Lodoicea maldivca) double coconuts which are an astonishing natural sculptural object grown on only two islands of the Republic of the Seychelles. It's the largest and heaviest plant seed in the plant world - so long as it is a good round shape and not polished or ground down, should bode well as an interesting, worthwhile desirable purchase and investment and it's quirky.


My tips are buy things you love and need for the house like farmhouse tables, kitchen tables, chest of drawers, those sort of things because they are much cheaper to buy from an auction room or antiques fair than they are to go to a high street store, and furnish your house with, so for me the auction room is the first port of call.


You can up-cycle, re-cycle, re-purpose, you can leave as it, just have fun with antiques buy things that puts a smile on your face that you are going to need and use every day and that can be part of your life.


An average chest of drawers George III Regency chest of drawers could be bow or straight fronted will set you back £400 but it will last a life time and your kids will inherit it and it will as good in another 100 years and will the best investment ever made with a wonderful mahogany which you can't buy anymore, its' well seasoned, well made,made by a cabinet maker in a time when there was no electricity, he was master of his genre, master of his trade just beautifully constructed full of dovetails, beading and inlay that you just don't find today. That for me is a must for anybody.


How's life at The Table Gallery?

It's difficult, the High Street is suffering and there is not a lot of footfall. I am quite lucky that the people I sell to tend to be local repeat customers. People that move from the cities to rural Wiltshire from London, Bath or Bristol, people who up-size from cities and need their houses furnished.


My idea is to educate people about what they should have in their house, and supply them with the right period and size, that are practical and good investment pieces.


I enjoy talking to and selling to people and I don't like sitting around when no one comes in, so I have cut down my hours to Friday and Saturday because of filming but I am open out of hours and I only live 5 minutes by car can meet people out of shop hours.

The High Street is tough a industry. Fingers crossed it gets better I am always looking for new clients, advertise, using social media use the internet. I sell to clients all over the world and shipping costs have killed any sort of export so my American clients and South Australian and Central European has dried up. It's too expensive to ship things at the moment. My client base is the UK. People buy online and I have a free return policy where people can return if it doesn't look right in their house.


Advice for people who wish to buy for investment?

I would buy art, that's easy to transport, you don't have to pay for courier carriage, it puts a smile on your face, it decorates a wall, it draws you in, it makes you think and educate you. British 20th century modern is where I am now. I think it's good to invest in 20th century modern.


I love the vibrancy of oil on board, British School 20th Century Modern and hopefully named artists who have trained at the Royal Academy or St Martins that have a track record and good to invest in as you can do your price comparisons and you know the artist is good to invest in and what's been sold before. So you can't go wrong with art, so long as it hasn't been heavily relined or touched up or re-varnished and in good country house condition.


Condition is key in furniture, sculpture and art I am not a big fan in changing the colour, French polishing or shellacking. I like the original warm look hat says it has been well worn and well looked after and it's given joy and a lot of pleasure and it will carry on doing that.


It's all about original surface to me. I buy surface and colour as you cant's change it and history changes it over time you get this historic patina that brings a dynamic to furniture and brings it alive. I like the semi-dry look, it's subtle, it's understated not blingly.


We hear you have moved...

I bought a place a year ago for the family and we have moved to a place in Wiltshire, not far from the shop and Corsham. It's a Grade II listed manor house, it's quite quirky but it's full of original features and hasn't been touched for years and it's like restoring an antique really, sympathetically. 


Restoration and conservation are key, using sympathetic artisan skills and traditional methods and bringing it back to life. Luckily, it's a big house and it doesn't have to be extended, or altered so we don't have to do a thing really, just about redecorating and sanding floors, a bit of plastering, new bathrooms and landscaping, so very lucky in a sense that the roof is sound, there is not a lot of damp. It's stone and brick built. It's a bit of a mismatch. 


It dates back to Charles II on the front (1670's) and on the back its Edwardian (1919). It's interesting but it's quirky and it's got original oak and elm floor boards, so bringing those back to life - so it's lots of fun and lots of work, and an escape from TV.


I love decorating and shutting myself in a room,and transforming a room, peeling back history and revealing little treasures and mouldings and the architectural detail, just cleaning it up and giving a coat of white paint and making it look fresh, for me that's just bringing history alive.


And what's this we hear about you restoring a home in Wiltshire?

I recently bought a new listed house in Wiltshire, not part of the shop or Corsham. It's an historic building which dates back to the sixteenth and seventeenth century with an Edwardian back.


The restoration and conservation of the building are a diversion from TV and proves hard work and fun bringing it back to life. The redecorating involves sympathetically filling rooms with objects, being creative, creating room sets and rhythm.


The building has its own idiosyncrasies, it's quirky with original features and oak floor boards. The redecoration involves a palate of historic colour schemes and is a long-term, ongoing project that I involve myself in when not filming and to spend time with my family.


Do you have any advice for people when it comes to restoration/conservation of properties?

Get the professionals in to do the job! Get guarantees and certificates, start at the top and work down, use lots of historic colours, research antique magazines and go to auction houses and art fairs to find well priced antiques. Furniture from an auction room and antiques fair are often much cheaper than the shops and don't be afraid re-purpose, up-cycle objects and have fun!


What's a good investment piece that people could buy for their home rather than buying new?

Buy the things you love and need for the house, such as a farmhouse dining table or a chest of drawers. Look carefully at the bottom, sides, and the back of the drawer; if the wood shows nicks or cuts, it was probably cut with a plane, a spokeshave, or a drawknife. Straight saw marks also indicate an old piece. If the wood shows circular or arc-shaped marks, it was cut by a circular saw, not in use until 1860.


A piece from George III Regency period, straight or bow fronted, may set you back £400, but it's beautifully constructed with high standards of craftsmanship, made in well seasoned wood, by a cabinet maker, unique in its making and features and made by masters of their genres and trade, which provide a document of social history and a portal into the past as well as a great investment for the future.


What about quirky items? What kind of thing could people consider?

Quirky items, such as natural history really are wonderful... anything that is a curio and that is exceptionally rare are fascinating for me. It's hard to do a price comparison, but if someone wants a price comparison you can Google.


There are about 600 selling sites you can choose from - and select an object by size, price, period, date, material, etc. It gets difficult when an item is a curio because it depends on how many of them are there in existence - finite items that are different that you don't see again.


In the next couple of weeks I am hoping to buy a piece of natural history, a one metre high stalactite from the Cheddar Gorge from a Victorian collector.


Locating an object which is a document of social history, signed, dated or initialled is important as it is vital to remembering our collective cultural history and preserve history and authentification.


It provides provenance that brings the story to life and offer a portal into the past that's special and antiques that do that for me are wonderful.


Sculpture and oil paintings are also good items for research and investment as are good oil paintings by known 20th century artists.

Don't buy anything listed on endangered certificates, such as ivory, elephant and rhino, tortoiseshell, etc, that need a CITES Certificate as they are not PC anymore and to to buy any of these endangered species will eventually be illegal and their value will go right down.


One of my favourite pieces is the Coco de Mer, (Lodoicea maldivca), an astonishing natural sculptural object grown on only two islands of the Republic of the Seychelles. It's the largest plant in the world that originated from the Seychelles and is a good example of the natural world of what to buy - so long as it is a good round shape and not polished or ground down, it should bode well as an interesting, worthwhile desirable purchase and investment.


Buy art, that's easy to transport as you don't have to buy carriage. British century modern is where I am at now - landscapes and portraits. I love oil and oils on board. British School, 20th century modern or named artists who have a past record and been to the art schools.


The condition is also the key. Hand-crafted or hand-finished items are often highly prized because no two examples will ever be exactly alike.


An item is considered antique if it is desirable or collectable because of its age, rarity or relative condition. Generally, items are antique of they're over 100 years old. There are some exceptions to this, such as cars, but it's a good rule of thumb.


With regard to furniture, I am not a big fan of changing the colour of shellacking or polishing. I buy pieces with unique and original surfaces and colour that changes over time that gives the object its aesthetic and dynamic.


What else will you be up to this year?

In addition to completing filming, which starts again in March, restoring my historic house and spending quality time with my family, I am looking forward to doing a series of talks at country house and historic venues, which were instigated after the lifting of lockdown in 2021 through Phillipa, my freelance researcher and talks co-ordinator/pr strategist, who is also a journalist and photographer - the first of my talks being at the King's Lynn Festival St George's Guildhall on heritage crafts followed by and Holt Festival in 2022.  These were followed through in 2023 with Syon House, Peterborough Cathedral and Lytham Hall, joint winner of the Historic Houses Restoration Award.

My 2024 talks programme will include Lincoln Cathedral, (tbc), Belvoir Castle, 20th and 21st July), Bowood House, (4th September), when I look forward to provide a talk, valuation and discuss an important item from the Bowood House Art Collection, and Lytham Hall, (22nd September), and perhaps one or two other surprises!

In November 2024 I began a new role out of television as Head of Valuations at Henry Aldridge & Son Ltd, a family run firm of auctioneers in Devizies, with a global reputation, where 'I am looking forward to working with clients across the country to ensure they receive the right advice around selling their items, whether they are individual pieces, private collections or complete estates. I am very much looking forward to developing a new area of business, with regular valuation day opportunities to ensure clients across the region benefit from the expertise and experience of the Aldridge Team.'


- Always buy something you love, and always consider the space around the object.

- Paul suggests disrupting the symmetry of a Georgian lowboy by placing a big shell or fossil on it. Buy in country-house condition. If it has marks and scratches, it means you can use it too.

- Sign and design. It must be designed beautifully and signed by the maker.

- Head to London auction rooms to seek out vernacular country pieces, and sell in the provinces. Look for pieces of natural history, such as large corals and fossils.

- Do not buy painted furniture or anything that has had major restoration.

- Invest in great British craftsmanship.



- The Sale Room. It's probably the best website. You can follow live auctions and go back and compare sold and guide prices

- Decorative Collective. A friendly introduction to UK and European dealers;

- Selling Antiques Search more than 53,000 antiques from 470 UK dealers; 1stdibs This vintage marketplace is a favoured hunting ground for the luxe fashion set;

- Antiques Trade Gazette. The must read if you're in the biz and want to be in the know;


Paul Martin's book, "My World of Antiques: Collect, Buy and Sell Everyday Antiques Like an Expert" (John Blake £20) can be ordered through bookshops, and bought online.  Signed copies are also available from Paul Martin at The Table Gallery, Corsham, Wiltshire.


Date of interview:  9 January 2023


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