So, I went to collect these two square panels yesterday.
I have bought them to put the right proportions back onto the lower part of the main door into the salon.
They are perfect, the motifs echoing those of the decorative corner carvings already in situ on that door. I like the fact they are simple, they are not a “pair”, that you can see the carver’s marks and they are clearly quite old.
When I arrived to collect, I expressed my passion for these old fragments and explained that they were destined for our French house.The seller asked if I would like to see other pieces she had for sale and took me out to her husband’s old workshop in the back garden.
Sadly, her husband can no longer ply his niche trade. He spent his working life building, restoring and mending long case clocks; working on items brought to him from as far afield as America. My panels came from a pair of vernacular 18thc grandfather clocks.
The workshop was a memory, frozen in time. Long windows to capture the perfect light, the workbenches lined with carefully ordered specialist tools. shelves of mouldings, boxes of parts, stacks of carved panels. One clock sat alone by itself; clearly he had been working on that and had just stopped one day. And that was it.
She asked if there was anything else I would like to take. My decision making process was frozen by the step back in time, the achingly sad temple to a lost talent and the awareness that this stuff was going to eventually disappear, piece by piece on an internet auction site.
That’s how I found my pieces so who am I to judge? I seriously wanted to buy the lot, but the practicalites of where I would put it and what I could do with it, coupled with the thought of Trevor’s face if I did. So Practical Gill Kicked In.
He was sat outside in my small car unaware that I was mentally costing van hire prices!
I breathed in and dismissed it. I can’t rescue everything, though heaven knows I always want to. I paid for my pieces (peanuts) refused the change, met the husband who I can see is no longer the person who built and toiled in that beautiful workshop, but he understood that his panels were going for a new life in France. He was amazed at this.
This is the sad side of my treasure hunting bug. It always is. But I will always remember the artist and the story.