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Nicki Holt at The Chelsea Antiques Fair with her great-grandfather’s work.

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Nicki Holt (pictured above) admires the work of her great-grandfather, master carver James Peake (c.1839-1918), at The Chelsea Antiques Fair in September.

The spray of detailed flowers and fruit on the stand of Wick Antiques of Lymington was created in 1895 from a single piece of lime wood in Lambeth where Peake lived and worked.

According to Holt, Peake described the piece as a “labour of love” but it vanished from the family after his death.

“It has always been a bit of a legend in the family and no one knew where it was. We think the work might have been gifted to the borough on Peake’s death and then sold into the market, but we can’t be sure,” she added.

Charles Wallrock of Wick Antiques spotted the carving in a UK auction earlier this year.

“It was signed and dated but such is the lack of awareness about Peake’s skill and ability that it didn’t attract the attention it should have,” he said.

“There may be many of his carvings that survive but the owners just don’t know what they’ve got.”

Called ‘the modern Grinling Gibbons’ in an account in a local newspaper, Peake was a wood carver’s son apprenticed to a Mr Gobell for five years from the age of 14. King Edward VII and Archbishop Temple are said to have been among his patrons and he won a medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1900.

The piece is still available for sale with an asking price of £38,500.

wickantiques.co.uk