On Wednesday 24th October, LASSCO, Yale University Press and the Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art held the launch of ‘Moving Rooms: The Trade in Architectural Salvages’, by John Harris.
Paying court to the elder statesman of salvage were such luminaries of architectural and conservation history as Gavin Stamp, John Martin Robinson, Colin Amery, the legendary Mark Girouard, Charles Brooking, the Director of the Soane Museum, Tim Knox, and a raft of English Heritage mandarins including Simon Thurley. Other notables included Eileen Harris, Christopher Howe and Alex Von Moltke, eminent Pimlico Road dealers, Sally Salveson, Stephen Bailey, design guru, together with Neville Floate and Phillip Anderson, notorious antiques runners….and the ever colourful Ron Sidaway.
With Anthony Reeve, Ferrous Auger and Archie Mackie of LASSCO milling amongst this colourful crowd there was more than a hint of Vicars and Tarts about the occasion.
In his welcome address, Adrian Amos, founder of LASSCO, took up this theme suggesting that John Harris was an ‘Abraham descending into Hades for a knees-up with Beelzebub’, John responding that his host stood in ‘direct line of descent to the venerable dealers recorded in the book’ – a qualified compliment at best!
John continued with a glorious account of his chance discovery at a private residence in Philadelphia of Lord Bollingbroke’s ‘Cedar Room’, in which Pope reputedly wrote ‘Essay on Man’, and of his narrow avoidance of a life of servitude to the lycra-clad chatelaine.
John Harris has spent a long life recording the demise of the English country house and the dissipation of its contents internationally. This latest work is a monumental work of academic detection that belongs on the bookshelves of every architectural antiques dealer. It is both business aid and sad and sobering reminder of our tragic loss over the past century and more.