Tony gave up a successful career with Higgs and Hill, the civil engineering company in the mid 1970s, to devote himself to dealing in English antique clocks.
He was born in Carlisle in 1944 and moved south to Bromley in Kent when he was 11. Tony was educated at Bromley Grammar school, after which he began a career in the construction industry, first as a buyer with Costains, later rising to be the group chief buyer at Higgs and Hill.
In 1968 Tony bought his first clock from a charity shop for 2/6. It was a Westminster chimer which he paid for with the proceeds from a successful bet on the horses.
His passion for English clocks grew as a Saturday trader in Blackheath Antiques Market. This was followed by regular appearances at small local weekend antiques fairs after he began working part-time at Higgs and Hill.
In 1979 Tony and his wife Sonja moved to Leigh in Kent, where they opened their first and only gallery. They also became regular exhibitors at the major London antiques fairs such as Olympia, BADA and Grosvenor House.
Tony’s reputation grew rapidly as he focused on buying and selling only exceptional clocks by the top London makers. An Anthony Woodburn clock became synonymous with quality, originality and beauty.
Best eye for a fine clock
Tony had the best eye for a fine clock in the business and naturally he was soon invited to serve on all the clock vetting committees, eventually becoming chairman of vetting at the BADA, Grosvenor House and Masterpiece fairs.
Handling some of the finest English clocks ever to come onto the market, Tony was involved in building almost every important English horological collection over the last four decades.
Tony’s passing leaves a massive hole in the antiquarian clock world and he will be much missed. He was a quiet, modest man of great integrity and fine and fair judgment.
He had a kind and gentle disposition which, combined with a wonderful mischievous sense of fun and humour, meant he was liked and loved by all those who knew him.