THE art and antiques trade survived largely unscathed from the widespread riots seen in England last week. However, many businesses across the country were forced to close...
As the rioting started in London and spread out to other towns and cities on August 8 and 9, a number of dealers, antiques centres and auction houses came close to some of the worst violence, but fortunately there have been few reports that they were hit directly.
A gang of around 20 looters however smashed the front of Kings Road dealers Gutlins Clocks and Antiques in the early hours of Monday morning, helping themselves to watches and small clocks. Owner John Coxhead estimated the cost of the thefts and damage at £50,000.
Seven or eight police vans were at the scene in under five minutes. The gang ran off with some of them climbing onto the roofs of nearby premises. Police made five arrests at the scene and two more later.
Those arrested on suspicion of burglary are all aged between 25 and 28.
With concerns in the Capital about police being unable to handle large numbers of rioting gangs, sellers of high value goods did what they could to increase security on their doors and, in some cases, had windows boarded up.
There were attacks and damage at the North end of Portobello Road, as well as on nearby Ledbury Road and Westbourne Grove, but the art and antiques shops in the area remained unaffected despite some alarmist reports on the internet.
The West End and Mayfair also largely escaped the brunt of the rioting, although a group of some 50 youths gathered in Oxford Circus and threw objects at shops on Sunday, August 7.
With riot police patrolling the area throughout the following day, most firms closed early on Monday afternoon, including Grays antiques centre, which is located just off Oxford Street, while Bond Street gallery The Fine Art Society cancelled the private view for the opening their latest group exhibition due to be held the following night.
Outside London in the borough of Elmbridge in Surrey, some jewellers and antiques dealers removed stock from their premises and took valuable items out of their front windows after rumours circulated about impending riots. However, Surrey Police did not ask businesses to close and asked the public and social networking sites not to raise unnecessary fears.
Neighbourhood police patrols said afterwards there had been no significant disorder.
In Birmingham, police were advising retailers in the Jewellery quarter to close following a Blackberry group message asking rioters to assemble at 3pm last Tuesday. The area is home to over 100 specialist jewellery sellers and most shut their premises early that day, including auctioneers Fellows.
In the event, a few shops in the quarter had windows smashed but there were no reports of any actually being broken into as the main focus of the riots centred on brand-name shops and electrical suppliers in Birmingham city centre.
It was a similar story in Manchester and Salford where there were attacks on fashion boutiques and shopping centres, including Miss Selfridge in Manchester's Market Street which was set alight. Auctioneers Capes Dunn are based in the city centre but the main incidents were further to the North.