Officially founded in 1974, Derbyshire-based antiques dealer Beedham’s was the brainchild of Herbert and Norma Beedham. Their son Paul, who joined the company in 1977, is its second-generation owner.
Herbert’s initial forays into the world of antiques came through visits to local shops and dealers. As Paul says: “He’d return with all manner of things. Sheffield is known for its cutlery, so he bought a great deal of that, and glass, silver, coins… anything that interested him, really. He dabbled.”
When the family moved to a country pub near Bakewell, Herbert began to outfit the space with country artefacts. “He’d drop us at school,” says Paul, “and then head to local furniture shops, picking everyone’s brain and learning as he began to buy.” At the end of the day, Paul recalls unloading cars full of grandfather clocks, country and Windsor chairs and blunderbusses for the wall.
‘I always said we were like northern pirates’
Soon enough, word got out and local dealers – indeed, anyone with an interest in antiques – began to drop in for a drink. Runners would come to the door to trade, barter and sell. “In the end, Dad knew he could earn more money selling antiques than pulling pints.”
A business premises was found to house the now-significant stock, and Beedham’s was born. “I always said we were like northern pirates,” Paul laughs, “because Dad liked to travel, going to auctions and visit dealers further afield. We bought [items] in Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams, for instance, and then sold the items back to southern dealers who didn’t cover their own region in the same way.” While Beedham’s specialises in English and European oak furniture from between the 15th and 17th centuries, it also showcases a range of early sculptural works and architectural items.
The firm’s new website has been live for just a month, but the enquiries received so far have been heartening. Paul reflects on the “terrible [coronavirus] situation in which we find ourselves”, but is hopeful it will serve as an opportunity for the generation of online sales. “It’s an e-commerce site, so we can manage transactions and payments online,” he says.
An eye for unique antiques
One of the most exciting auction experiences involved a three-day sale in summer 1975 at the 18th-century mansion Denton Hall, Ilkley, North Yorkshire, originally furnished with Chippendale and Gillows furniture. “There was every style of antiques going,” says Paul. “It was one of those old-fashioned treasure houses.” Beedham’s purchased imported gothic metal fire irons and a pair of church over-stalls with misericord under-seats (the type found in cathedrals – but which had been in this private home for over a century). They also bought a set of painted gilt 17th-century chairs, which they tied to the roof rack of their Volvo to transport home. “It’s all part of the wonderful folklore of the business,” says Paul.
Towards the end of the days’ auctioneering, the porters announced that extra lots had been discovered in the house’s cavernous cellars. Paul recalls this included “a pair of marvellous, hand-crafted, true-rock crystal candlesticks from the Renaissance period in Florence. Everyone rushed to the front to see them – there was so much drama!”
On another occasion, the team purchased an Elizabethan table from Kirklees Hall, a 16th-century manor house near Bradford which is steeped in the legend of Robin Hood. This unique piece is, as Paul says, “of true, genuine provenance”. Crafted specially for the house itself, it left the hall for the first time in 400 years when Beedham’s bought it.