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What Became of Stephen Long’s Antiques

September 30, 2013
by the gentle author

Solar plate etching by Jane Waterhouse

You may recall that I photographed the last day of Stephen Long’s celebrated antique shop in the Fulham Rd before the stock was removed for auction. Dennis Severs had bought china from Stephen Long’s shop for many years to furnish his time-capsule house in Folgate St, and it was David Milne, curator of the house, who took me over to visit the shop after Stephen Long died.

Although many of the contents were not of great monetary value, Stephen Long had a distinctive eye and collected items that appealed to him personally, combining them imaginatively to create displays that were artworks in their own right. He had an instinctive response to the human quality of artifacts, objects that carried their history of use and that evoked an entire world. For this reason, he was not troubled if antiques were damaged or inferior specimens, because it was the poetry of things which fascinated him.

When Stephen Long’s shop was cleared out, everyone wondered what would become of his things. Yet artist and printmaker Jane Waterhouse became so inspired by the collection that she obtained permission from Cheffins, the Cambridgeshire auction house that was selling them, to photograph them all and she has now embarked upon a series of subtly-toned elegaic prints of the pieces that speak most powerfully to her. “There was a particular quality to Stephen’s eye that I felt a rapport with,” Jane admitted to me, “so I have produced these fugitive prints.”

“I felt I needed to do it with solar plate etchings as close to photographs as possible but not photographs, and the process is quite beguiling – you can expose the plates by laying them in the sun, she explained. At present, Jane has completed a portfolio of nine etchings entitled ‘Belonged,’ printed in pale silver and in a lustrous velvet black, and collected in a grey canvas portfolio. These ethereal images resemble ghosts of the objects, communicating presence without substance, which suits the subjects very well because now they are all gone, dispersed and sold to new owners. “Heaven knows where the objects in these prints are now,” Jane confessed with a shrug.

“It has been calculated that we interact with well over five hundred and twenty objects each day.” Jane assured me, “The vast majority we hardly register. Some we will take stock of – maybe the early morning cup of tea or coffee? Maybe a bag to leave the house with – for putting more things in? Objects may be useful, or practical function may not apply. There are, though, some objects that cannot be disregarded – those that are to be cherished. Objects that endure. These seem to have a kind of potency – an ‘aliveness.’

We surround ourselves with these objects, some inherited, some saved for, some found, others purchased on a whim. Some might be gifts. The selection of these pieces, the act of taking them into our homes and our lives may be strategic or not. These are objects, the gradual accumulations of things that speak not only of their owner but to their owner.”

At Stephen Long’s antique shop

Zinc container with wicker frame

Oak leaf curtain tie

Eighteenth century teapot

Steel tray

Posy dish

Metal base

Tea bowl

Nineteenth century teapot

Eighteenth century hand-held fire screen

Pie mould

Mochaware pot


Ridged bowl

Staffordshire poodle

Shell-shaped dish

Nineteenth century ceramic box

Pot mended with rivets

Earthenware mug

Prints & photographs copyright © Jane Waterhouse

Visit Jane Waterhouse’s website to learn more about her work and buy her prints

You may also like to read my original story

At Stephen Long’s Antique Shop

5 Responses leave one →
  1. September 30, 2013

    Daily treat, thank you (both) ever so much. And would that tureen be Russian, who knows now? Only leaving the gentle author to visit Jane Waterhouse… Have a good day.

  2. September 30, 2013

    These photos, apart from their own intrinsic qualities, take the illustrated story of Stephen Long and his emporium one step further than could have ever been anticipated by the owner. They provide a sad, telling but wonderful contrast with the photos taken by John Vere Brown of Stephen Long’s flat above the shop, photos which illustrated an article in one of the first ever Interiors (now World of Interiors) in about 1980 or 81. The flat was in a way an extension of the shop, providing all the objects with a context, a richly decorated setting for the man who hid behind the desk on the days his shop was open to the public. The kind of society that created people like Stephen Long is gone and these photos — plus yr previous article, as well as the photos by John Vere Brown — leave us with a detailed look at a kind of life that managed to survive almost to the end of the 20th century.

  3. Terry Basson permalink
    September 30, 2013

    I guess we shall always be blessed with Antique shops but sadly not another Stephen Long.

  4. David Milne. permalink
    September 30, 2013

    A wonderful tribute to Stephen and his collection, I remember my many visits to him, him sitting behind his desk at the back of the shop as he would greet me with a kind good morning or good afternoon and we would talk about 18 Folgate Street it’s vast collection of things and share our memories of Dennis. There are I’m happy to say much of Stephens collection safely and loving cared for within our many chambers.
    These photographs brilliantly display the intrinsic beauty of objects that have meaning to us as collectors of the rare and unusual. Things that survive because they are loved by the people who once owned them and most importantly used them during their daily lives.
    David Milne.

  5. Patricia Celeveland-Peck permalink
    October 17, 2013

    I love the idea of the ghosts of objects….antique mirrors especially house many ghosts

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