Guests included personal friends from the antiques trade, among them both working and retired dealers and people who have worked with Penman Fairs for the past 30 years. Among them was Helen Linfield, who can claim to be Caroline’s longest-running exhibitor, having taken a stand at the Lindfield fair in 1967. Others included close friends, family and neighbours.
As well as an excellent lunch, speeches and a very jolly afternoon, everyone enjoyed nostalgic photo albums of fairs (and parties) past and present, the history of the Chelsea antiques fair and photos of the vintage racing cars that Ricardo used to drive. Dealers were also intrigued to see a selection of fair catalogues, 1951-2018.
Among those present were Michael Wakelin and Helen Linfield, Lennox and Sue Cato, John Bird, Rosy Ford, Ben Cooper, David Foord-Brown, Sean Barry, Michael and Rosemary Hunt, Duncan Phillips, Barbara Bell, Louise and David Walker, Paul and Ana Nash, Barry and Mandy Cotton, Stephanie Cripps and Stephanie Castell. Speaking after the occasion, close friend and Petworth dealer John Bird said: “It was a delightful day to celebrate with the unstoppable ‘mother to the trade’.”
Caroline Penman fair factfile
■ She started organising fairs in 1967 and in the following 50 years ran many successful events. This included founding the Ardingly Showground fair and the Shepton Mallet fair at the Bath & West Showground, which were later sold.
■ She also founded The West London Antiques Fair (1976-2007), The 20th Century Antiques Fair, (1998-99), The City of London Antiques Fair at the Barbican (with Raymond Gubbay) (1987- 89), the City of London Art & Antiques Fairs at the Honourable Artillery Company (1996-99), The Chester Antiques Fair, (1989-2019), the Anglian Antiques & Art Fairs (2005-12), Sussex Antiques & Art Fairs in various venues (1991-2017) and a series of art fairs in 1996, the most successful of which was at Chelsea Old Town Hall, running till 2017.
■ Penman also took over The National Collectors Fair (1973-77), The Westminster Antiques Fair at the Horticultural Halls (1986- 95), the Chelsea Antiques Fair (1984-the present), The Annual Brighton Antiques Fair (1980-91), The Petersfield Antiques Fair (2000-the present) and The Annual Kensington Antiques Fair alongside Terry Gasson (1997-2005).
■ During the 1990s, the London calendar included nine Penman events annually. In all, she has run over 500 fairs in 48 different venues.
■ In 2008, Penman reformed the business as a limited company, then in 2014 her long-time assistant Barbara Bell (since 1989) and Ben Cooper joined her as co-directors. The company is now closing down. Penman will now run fairs as a sole trader, as she did for many decades prior to the limited company.