The David Smith collection - Featuring in our February Fine Art auction

The David Smith collection - Featuring in our February Fine Art auction

In 2012, David Smith purchased School House in a remote Suffolk village and proceeded to convert the run-down Victorian red brick building into an airy modern living space.

 

05/01/2024

David had been a passionate collector for decades and the converted School House became a canvas to showcase his eclectic collection of English, Welsh and Irish vernacular furniture, Modern British paintings, artefacts and curios. Many further additions have been made since, always with a discerning eye for scarcity and aesthetic. Collecting from auctions, leading dealers and with some winning discoveries rescued from local car boot sales, considered purchases, made with a clear focus on context within the existing collection and how they may ‘fit’ within School House. In April 2022 David wrote: “My home, School House, is a former 19th century school and teacher's residence, one of the products of the 1870 Elementary Education Act, which introduced the first national system of primary education for children in Britain. It was built in 1875 as a state of the art modern school in the popular gothic revival style, - just one of some 3 to 4 thousand new schools that were built between 1870 and 1880. It opened in 1876 and operated from then until it closed in 1964. It was at the centre of village life and attended by generations of local children for nearly 100 years. Since then it has been in private hands but, happily, has escaped intrusive modernisation. This makes it something of a rare survivor. I bought the school in a semi-derelict condition in 2012. The former Infant's classroom had been turned into a garage and the 40 foot long Main classroom was in a very poor state of repair, with rotten floors and joists, a leaning gable-end wall, and bare brickwork where a tongue and groove dado had been removed. Window frames were rotten and partly boarded over, the ceilings were in urgent need of attention, there was no insulation, and the only heating was provided by a multi-fuel stove, (in the Main classroom), and an open fire, (in the Teacher's Parlour). The rest of the building was a patchwork of repairs and redecoration over a period of many years and was also in need of a lot of work. On the other hand, (and the reason that I was attracted to the property), the school still retained much of the original features: 16 foot high vaulted ceilings, supported by chamfered wooden beams set on stone corbels; 9 foot high arched windows; iron ventilation panels in the ceilings; and most of the original windows and doors, complete with surrounds and door furniture. There were some original tiled floors, (others were uncovered during the restoration), stone window sills, and a lot of external gothic decoration, (iron finials, decorative brickwork, chimneys and the school bell). Significantly, the room plan and the general footprint of the building were unchanged from those set out in the original architect's plans, (circa 1874). I bought the school as a restoration project, but also as a home and a showcase for the display of various collections, of furniture, paintings and other collectibles. I have been collecting ‘country' furniture for more than thirty-five years and have quite a lot, ranging from 17th, (and some 16th), century oak, to 18th and 19th century fruitwood, mahogany and pine, including quite a lot of early/original paint. Other collections include 20th century paintings, oriental rugs, 20th century glass, and old, (mostly early 20th century), toys. Other themes have developed to meet the needs of the restoration, particularly the use of industrial and 'retro' 20th century lighting, and Bloomsbury/Omega Workshop fabric - designs by artists such as Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, (reproduced under licence by Charleston Enterprises), for upholstery and curtains.” The David Smith Collection was assembled with the same keen eye for detail and the same enthusiasm for history which is imbued in the sympathetic restoration of his historic property. In this fascinating collection original features are to the fore - the schemes of early paintwork on a Welsh stick back chair, the evident care of an unknown craftsman of a scratch-built barge. We are proud to offer The David Smith Collection, a wonderful curated selection of art and artefacts, with history and relevance which will chime with all connoisseur collectors.

    

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In 2012, David Smith purchased School House in a remote Suffolk village and proceeded to convert the run-down Victorian red brick building into an airy modern living space.

 

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