The Parsons collection, including dozens of his showbusiness diaries, is being sold by Oxfordshire dealer WR Harvey Antiques, a new exhibitor to the long-standing fair now in its 55th year.

The four-day event is back, from May 20-23, after a year-long hiatus due to Covid, in its picturesque spot at The Octagon in The Pavilion Gardens of the spa town of Buxton in the Peak District.

Parsons, whose longevity as a performer on stage, radio and television was legendary, was best known for BBC Radio 4 programme Just a Minute, which he helmed for half a century, and the TV game show Sale of the Century.

The 32-bound diaries include working scripts, notes, and suggested stories from Parsons’ work with comedian Arthur Haynes and scripts for one-man shows and various TV programmes from the 1950s-70s.

Among his antiques for sale are a late 17th century oak refectory table, a collection of six English 19th century copper and brass military powder flasks, a pair of original c.1829 lithographs of equestrian hunt scenes by Henry Heath (1801-58) and a large collection of 18th and 19th century copper and brass tankards, jelly moulds jugs and other kitchen items.

Regular visitor

“Many years ago, Nicholas Parsons was a regular visitor to our antiques shop in Chalk Farm in London,” says proprietor David Harvey.

“He was then an aspiring actor and comedian who lived in Hampstead and shared with my father not only a love of English antique furniture but also the same model of car, an Alvis TE 21.

“Now I have been asked to find homes for a number of pieces from his estate for which his family no longer have space and these include his fascinating volumes of showbusiness diaries.

“I am sure he would have appreciated the collection going on sale in Buxton where he appeared on stage at the Buxton Opera House only a few years ago in his one-man show, A Laugh a Minute.”

Specialist line-up

A range of art and antiques, from furniture, ceramics and silver to jewellery, paintings and accessories, dating from the 16th to 20th century, fills the stands of 39 other specialist dealers. Prices range from less than £25 for a Victorian silver spoon to over £50,000 for an oil painting.

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Art Deco gilt bronze figure of a dancer by Lucien Alliot with foundry mark Unis France, French c.1925 – £2950 from Solo Antiques.

Another first timer at the fair is Solo Antiques, specialist in Art Nouveau and Art Deco sculpture and glass, owned and run by Janice Kehoe. She is taking an Art Deco gilt bronze figure of a dancer holding a hoop by Lucien Alliot (1877-1967) with a foundry mark for Unis France, c.1925, and priced at £2950.

Among the regular exhibitors are Mark Buckley Antiques and Brian Ashbee & Wes Wotruba with English furniture and accessories including a collection of late 19th-early 20th century candle snuffers priced between £10 and £600.

They also include art specialist Haynes Fine Art bringing British oil painting from the 18th & 19th centuries; Granta Fine Art with 20th century works; Art of the Imagination specialising in contemporary illustrative artists; and Jo Bennett with northern and contemporary oils and watercolours.

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'Daffodils, St Clement’s Hall, Mousehole' by Ken Howard 10 x 13in (26 x 34cm) oil on board, c.1980s – £4200 from Freya Mitton.

Meanwhile, returning exhibitor Rowles Fine Art offers fine English and Continental paintings and Freya Mitton brings Modern British works, including a Ken Howard (b.1932) oil, Daffodils, St Clement’s Hall, Mousehole, priced at £4200. Muse – The Sculpture Company returns with English antique and contemporary pieces.

Other dealers at Buxton include Roger de Ville with early English pottery, J Dickinson Antiquarian Maps & Prints; Kalms Antiques; The Antiques Bazaar specialising in silver; and jewellery experts Plaza, Shapiro & Co, and S Greenstein & Co.

While the fair remains one of the more traditional antiques events on the circuit catering to the well-heeled across the Midlands and north England, more recently it has increased the number of ‘decorative’ specialists. Decorative antiques and designer collectables will be shown by King George Antiques, Hispanic Antiques, Narissa Mather Antiques & Design and Paul Burnett Antiques & Interiors.

“We are delighted to be back after cancelling last year’s event,” said organiser Sue Ede of Cooper Events, who has staged the Buxton Fair at the Pavilion Gardens with her husband Peter since 2009.

“Visitors can be assured the fair will be fully compliant with the latest government Covid guidelines.”

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