Robert was born on September 1, 1945, the third of four children. He attended Dartford Grammar school where he was befriended by Mick Jagger – who was so impressed by Robert’s ability to play two recorders simultaneously that he invited Robert to join his band!
However, quickly bored by this, Robert moved on to become an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
On leaving school he worked in various jobs but soon developed his love of buying at jumble sales and bric-a-brac stalls into his means of earning a living. I remember him telling me that he started with a suitcase to carry his goods in and £20 that he borrowed from his father.
Robert began trading at the Royal Standard in Blackheath, then at the Caledonian Road Market, eventually opening his shop in Fulham High Street. He also took a stand at Portobello Road Market where he continued to trade until his untimely death in 2018.
Besides being a leading antique dealer (‘antique royalty’, according to a recent TV show), he was a fine artist, producing extraordinary surrealist sculptures from found objects, precious stones, deconstructed antiques, bones, skulls, fossils, and shells – nothing boring.
Robert was a leading exhibitor at many of the London fairs and was on the vetting committee at Olympia and Battersea. He would often wear extraordinary outfits at these venues which would cause almost as much interest as his stock. His absence at future events will be sorely felt by his colleagues.
Above all, Robert was a kind and gentle man who was generous with his wide knowledge and his friendship. We shall all miss him and his occasional outrageousness.
The Robert Barley Collection is being sold within our East Anglian, Fine Art & Antiques Sale which will take place on 27th, 28th & 29th April 2021