ROTARY ROUND-UP: Encyclopaedic knowledge of antiques

Henry Nicholls, left, discusses one of the pieces of brought in for his attention, a Chinese Blanc de Chine porcelain figure from the 1930s
Henry Nicholls, left, discusses one of the pieces of brought in for his attention, a Chinese Blanc de Chine porcelain figure from the 1930s

This week, David Chapman, from the Rotary Club of West Worthing, gives an update on the latest and future goings-on.

Old lovely and interesting may not quite describe Rotarians, but it proved a fascinating title for a talk by local antiques dealer Henry Nicholls at the Rotary Club of West Worthing.

He also treated club members to an antiques roadshow, subjecting items members had brought in to a meeting to a valuation together with a detailed analysis.

Henry was led into the world of antiques as a child of eight.

He told the club members that as a child he had always fancied himself as a pirate – and all pirates had to have a treasure chest – and his trove was the attic, cupboards and whole rooms in his grandmother’s house that stored the accumulated hoard of past generations of his family.

He would rummage through the clutter at his grandmother’s house, search out and then sell anything that caught his eye – of course, his mother took a cut!

His experience grew through helping at school fetes in the 1970s, and an exciting spell as a grocer’s boy when delivering groceries to the elderly he would occasionally come away with old bits and bobs they no longer wanted.

At 15, he was introduced to the world of house clearances.

He could not believe how much hard work they were, but loved the sense of adventure and began a succession of stalls in antiques centres, with the eventual realisation that his true vocation was in the world of antiques and the people who buy and sell them.

26 years ago Henry opened up his shop in Worthing at 91 Rowlands Road and he is still there.

He has appeared in a number of TV antique shows from Trash to Cash and ITV’s Secret Dealers to Dickinson’s Real Deal, on which he is still a permanent feature.

Henry gave his full professional scrutiny to all the items brought in by club members and their partners, giving each a full Antiques Roadshow description and valuation.

Members were astounded by his encyclopaedic knowledge of the diverse array of pictures, porcelain, jewellery and other family heirlooms and keepsakes.

One of the most intriguing objects was a little ivory card holder that Victorian girls used as an aide-memoire to help organise their programme of dance partners at the ball.

Henry said: “I loved the Brazilian ruby three stone ring which I valued at £1,500, as well as the silver mounted ebony conductors baton, which I valued at £200.

“However the high spot of the evening for me, after a very long day – I was up at 2am and out at a fair – was a nice pint of beer, some good food and the hospitality of the Rotarians.

“My love and fascination for antiques is not so much about the money. It is about the discovery, the unknown, the history we can hold in our hands.

“Every day I learn something new about another period, artist, occupation or fashion. And every day I look forward to going to work as I never know what will happen, what I will see or who I will meet.”

Details of Worthing’s three Rotary clubs are:

• Worthing Rotary Club meets Monday, 12.55pm, at the Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, Worthing, 01903 209564.

• West Worthing Rotary Club meets Tuesday evening at Tudor Close, Ferring, 01903 501961.

• Worthing Steyne Rotary Club meets Monday evening at The Ardington Hotel, in Steyne Gardens, Worthing, 07788 638757.

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