The first incarnation of Canonbury Antiques was way back in 1969 in good old London town. This was at the tail end of the Swinging Sixties - a remarkable and exciting time of great social change as well as a period of some rather good music, much of it coming from the English capital. The first showroom was at 90 Highbury Park - on Blackstock Road - which is just a stones throw away from Arsenal FCs orginal stadium at Highbury in North London. Or Noaawrrf Laarndon mate, as the local Cockneys would call it.
At that time there was eight or so shops of other antique dealers making the area a magnet for dealers from all over the world, particularly the United States and Europe. How times have changed now? Like much of London, Blackstock Road is now a trendy thoroughfare populated with organic coffee shops, delicatessens and health food shops.
(Blackstock Road today)
In the 60s, 70s and 80s the London Borough of Islington was a largely working class area until massive regeneration and gentrification occured throughout the 90s so that nowadays a small and pokey one bedroom apartment will set you back upwards of half a million Pounds. Within Islington the area of Canonbury - which is where we got our name from - was always a bit more upmarket. If ever you get a time in London and want to explore a gorgeous district / neighbourhood, Canonbury is well worth a visit, particuarly for the stunning Georgian homes.
The weekly routine in the 60s and 70s on Blackstock Road went something like this. Mondays and Tuesdays were the buying trips - up and down the length and breadth of the country - Leeds, Liverpool, Exeter, Swansea, Brighton and Suffolk - searching for antique furniture for the emerging markets. On Wednesday the lorries were unloaded to the lines of waiting customers who had been patiently waiting since 8am to get first dibs on the pick of the goods. How times have changed? This was old school hand to hand dealing, friendly faces, banter and human interaction, much of its sadly replaced today by PC screens, Google algorithims and SEO to reach prospective clients who we probably will not meet in person - although everyone is of course welcome in our Canonbury Antiques Hertfordshire showroom.
Why the Swinging Sixties?
In terms of antique dealing, the Swinging Sixties were significant as there was a big resurgence of people wanting antiques. There was a new period of nostalgia after Britain was slowly emerging from the shadows of the Second World War - food rationing still occured even in the 1950s. There were dramatic societal changes occurring - in 1961 the pill (birth control) for women was introduced in the UK hence liberating women and allowing for more sexual freedoms. Is that where the term Swinging comes from?
(Jimi Hendrix in London)
The 1960s were also a time of high employment in the UK and young people had extra disposible income to spend on records, clothes (and drugs) hence fuelling youth subcultures and music. Aggh, music, what a time to be alive! In the 60s the UK, specifically London, was packed with all the greats. I love the story of how for Jimi Hendrixs first London show the audience members included The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Clapton and Pink Floyed who all had their minds bent by Jimi's guitar skills. Oh to be in that room back in the day where psychedelic history was made. Jimi Hendrix went on to live and record in London and you can visit his house on Brook Street in Mayfair today.
(Carnaby Street - packed with dedicated followers of fashion)
It was such a changing and creative time and hence the worlds attention was focused on London and there was a big appetite for all things British - it was Cool Britania Mark 1. Some people went to buy Mod clothes and records on the famous Carnaby Street. Other people went to Blackstock Road, N5 to buy antiques and to ship them all around the world to the new and emerging markets as part of the endless thirst for all things British. Business - just like the music - was definitely swinging.
In the next historical thumb nail sketch we will look at 1970s and the avent of containers and how that influenced the business.
Come visit us in the Canonbury Antiques Hertfordshire showroom