Why Paul Atterbury from Antiques Roadshow loves Dorset
PUBLISHED: 00:02 20 December 2009 | UPDATED: 09:19 09 October 2012
Poole Pottery and Glenn Miller and beautiful Dorset are just a few of the consuming passions of Paul Atterbury, an Antiques Roadshow regular, as Pamela Spencer discovers.
Although Antiques Roadshow expert Paul Atterbury and his wife Chrissie were first drawn to Dorset for family reasons they both fell in love with the county, and ten years ago decided to make their home in the pretty village of Eype, which lies on the magnificent World Heritage Coastline close to the historic town of Bridport. Dorset is so rich and diverse its impossible to pick a favourite spot, but I love the coastline between Portland and Lyme, says Paul.
As a freelance writer and lecturer specialising in 19th- and 20th-century art and design, Paul gives more than 100 different lectures annually around the UK. He also writes one or two books each year, but admits that his most enjoyable activity is the Antiques Roadshow, which he regards as the treat element in his working life.
Appearing on the Antiques Roadshow is an important and enjoyable part of my life. It appeals to me because I like meeting people and hearing their stories. Even though the Roadshow days are long and tiring, they are always exciting. Each item is a new challenge and a voyage into the unknown.
What is seen on our screens is only a small section of what the Roadshow team see during the day. As a team, there will be 20 of us on duty, and well see ten or fifteen thousand objects in the course of that day, of which 50 will be filmed.
What especially excites Paul is the story that comes with an item, rather than the fact that the item is worth a lot of money. Every meeting with every person is a surprise. About three years ago I met a woman who, during the war and serving in London, was able to meet and get to know Glenn Miller while he was performing in London during 1944, shortly before his death on his way to Paris. In fact, one could say she was one of the last people to talk to him before his death.
For Paul, a Glenn Miller fan, that was a magic moment because what this woman had brought to the Roadshow was a piece of sheet music signed by Glenn Miller and his band. It was worth money but the value of the sheet music was nothing without the story that went with it.
Paul was born in London in 1945. His mother, puppeteer Audrey Atterbury, always said that her son, the five-year-old Paul, was her inspiration for Andy Pandy, the puppet launched into the world in 1950. In turn, she inspired in her son a keen interest in antiques.
My mother was a great enthusiast and collector of Moorcroft china, and I learned a lot from her. We used to visit antiques fairs together simply because we had similar interests. Growing up with someone like my mother, a dedicated collector with wide vision, taught me a great deal.
After leaving school in 1962, Paul worked in publishing as a designer, editor and writer before attending the University of East Anglia as a mature student to complete a History of Arts degree. He then worked for Sothebys Publications as production manager, for Royal Doulton as historical advisor running factory museums, and finally for The Connoisseur magazine as editor. Made redundant in 1980, he became freelance, having resolved never to work for anyone again.
Paul always makes four or five visits each year to the large antiques fair at Shepton Mallet, not necessarily to buy, but to look. Fairs are a useful research facility. On the Roadshow we have to be up to date on prices and the best way is to attend antiques fairs and auctions.
There was a magic Roadshow moment when a woman brought a piece of sheet music signed by Glenn Miller and his band
Does Paul have any advice for an aspiring collector? Its not possible to foresee future collection trends, the only rule is to buy what you like and what you can afford. For someone starting a collection today, I would suggest first pick a subject, then make use of the conventional and electronic facilities that are available. We now have access to more information than in the past, and therefore, in some ways, collecting is easier.
Pauls book on Poole Pottery, published in 1996 and reprinted in 2003, was written with his co-author, Leslie Hayward, who for many years was the factory historian. Leslie assembled all the information, which Paul then put into publishable form.
I liked Poole Pottery before I came to Dorset, but my interest increased once I realised it was my local factory. The appeal of Poole Pottery to me is a combination of two things first, the location where the pottery is made, which is the unexpected conjunction of an industry with the seaside, and secondly, I think Poole Pottery is one of the greatest exponents of design through the 20th century. It was one of the most important factories we had in that period.
Paul admits he is the possessor of one or two favourite pieces. In the 1930s, the pottery did a limited range of very large dishes, (chargers), which are painted with images of ships and boats that are associated with Poole history. To me, the most important one is painted with a trading vessel called The Water Witch. Built in Poole in 1876, it remained in service in and out of the harbour until 1939. Its so much a part of Poole, and I especially like the conjunction of a beautifully painted dish reflecting local history.
For a month or two each year, Paul and Chrissie visit Australia to see family in Melbourne. Although they love the landscape, history and wonderfully dynamic culture of Australia, they are always happy to return home to Dorset.
We live in a really friendly village and are very happy to be part of the community. As incomers, people have been so kind to us. Dorset is a wonderful county to have as ones adoptive home.