Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Our wonderful writer of fabulous stories, Stuart Miller-Osborne has blessed us again with another gripping story and some fabulous illustrations.  Sit yourself down, with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit then when you are sitting comfortably, begin your journey with Stuart.

Things Often Found - (an occasional series) 

About three years ago my wife and I had tea with some close friends As they lived near Carlisle, they had not had occasion to visit Hungerford or even West Berkshire before. I showed them Hungerford with pride, a task which most people who live here must often do when relatives or friends come to the town. After a trip on The Rose towards Kintbury and a visit to Littlecote (Wild Will Darrell and all) we retired to the town once more. 

Before they left (they were lodging in Bath) both my friends expressed a wish to visit the antique establishments in the town. If I remember correctly they purchased some prints of Devizes and the Marlborough Downs and a rather delicate copy of a selection of poems which in their originality dated from the twelfth century. This was a gift for my wife and I. These poems were of course the much famed Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. 

As they departed to the city resting in a volcano, I thanked them again for our gift and Tom noted “ You will always find a copy of the Fitzgerald in any antiques shop”  and this is what prompted this short article. As we walked back to our cottage I thought about the remark and indeed when you visit most antique establishments you will find certain things without fail. In my experience The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is one of them. 

But what was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and why would you be so likely to find a copy and what does this chap named Fitzgerald have to do with the whole thing? 

A ruba’i is a two line stanza with two parts per line (Rubaiyat roughly in Arabic means four). These selection of poems were attributed to a certain Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) a Persian poet who in his spare time was also a mathematician and an astronomer. His collection of quatrains were very much like a selection of coloured shapes, they could be arranged in certain ways depending on the interpretation required. Some translations found a great deal of mysticism in the work, whilst others found degrees of atheism and others on the other side saw the works as very orthodox in the Islamic sense. 

Edward Fitzgerald for what ever reason is one of my favourite Victorians along with Richard Burton but they could not be more different. Whilst Burton was a larger than life character who did not really care who he offended. Edward was the opposite, he is remembered as being a very gentle man who as he came from a privileged background needed no employment. There was a degree of insanity in his family and he once memorably quipped “ that all his relatives were mad; further, that he was insane as well, but at least he was aware of the fact”  This I believe summed him up. He married the daughter (Lucy) of the Quaker poet Bernard Barton in 1856 after making a promise to look after her when Bernard died in 1849. The marriage did not last long although Lucy and Edward did collaborate on a book of her father’s work shortly after his death. Whilst Bernard Barton is all but forgotten, Edward Fitzgerald is not and forever associated with The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam .

As with a lot of things, it began quietly. In January 1859 a small rather anonymous pamphlet was issued. At first, apart from a few friends this publication attracted little attention. Its asking price was reduced from 4d to 1d at the bookstalls (if you find a copy of this work, then cherish it as it is quite valuable) and nothing really happened until 1861 when the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti discovered it and shortly after the even more eccentric poet Algernon Charles Swinburne also read and praised it. Slowly the work gained more gravity and the translation became even more famous, although it was not until 1868 that Edward produced his larger revised translation. The rest it might be said is history. 

As with any translation, it is the interpretation of the translator and Edward took many liberties, indeed the translation was mocked in some quarters as being The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar as he was accused of adding his own creation. Edward was aware of this and called it his “ transmogrification” . He took pieces of various quatrains and mixed them together (this is not true of the whole translation though) but he was writing in a style. If the work had been translated a few centuries earlier then it is likely it would have been viewed in the style of the day. There were five editions and Edward’s translation often varied from edition to edition as did the length. The first edition of 1859 contained seventy five quatrains, whilst the second edition of 1868 contained one hundred and ten quatrains. This was reduced in the following three editions to one hundred and one. 

Although by no means a scholar I have read Edward’s translation in contrast to Robert Graves controversial 1967 translation (there have been many others) and deep down I prefer Edward’s slightly fatalistic version. There is something dreamlike about Edward’s translation (it is very much of its era) and I can see what attracted Rossetti and Swinburne to it. I will not presume to offer my opinion of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam it is like a good meal, one should enjoy it for what it brings to the individual reader. My enjoyment will be different to yours. As a short taster I will include a sample of some of Edward’s work on the The Rubaiyat so that you may judge for yourself. 

Some for the glories of this world; and some
Sigh for The Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the cash and let the credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant drum

And much as Wine has played the Infidel
And robbed me of my robe of Honour, well ...
I often wonder what the vintners buy
One half so precious as the stuff they sell

For some we loved, the loveliest and best
That from His rolling vintage Time has pressed,
Have drunk their glass a round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest

But helpless pieces in the game He plays
Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days
He hither and thither moves, and checks ... and slays
Then one by one, back in the Closet lays

The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

These verses and others are freely available on the internet and well worth studying, but if you want to do something very special then pop into your local antiques shop or arcade and look for a copy. You may pay very little for a commonly produced one or if you are slightly more ambitious then there are some very nicely bound copies to be found. I actually like comparing the first and fifth translations as I think Edward’s translation matured as he went on, but again this is a matter of taste. If you are really hooked then compare Edward’s translation with others, the results are pretty interesting.

One thing that I will guarantee is that you will be in for an interesting read and unless the title of this piece is a fiction then you will not have much of a problem locating a copy.    
Stuart Miller-Osborne

Rubaiyat cover

Edward FitzGerald

Rossetti selbst

Algernon C. Swinburne

Coming Soon - Walking Sticks

Monday, 26 August 2013


The BBC was back at Hungerford Arcade with antiques expert, James Lewis, filming The Antiques Road Trip.  It was a total surprise when they turned up and of course, it caused great excitement.  Customers gathered around to watch the filming of a television programme they love to watch and were enthralled with the work the cameraman, sound man, director and producer do and what is involved in producing a television programme.  To top it all, they met and chatted to famous antiques expert, James Lewis which was the icing on the cake!  
Best of buddies
James Lewis and Hungerford Arade Owner, Adrian Gilmour

I love it and have got to buy it!
Deep in thought 
Decisions, decisions.  Can we afford it?
Stunning Victorian Monkey Match Striker bought by James

Saturday, 24 August 2013


Our Craft Day and the Thames Valley Farmers Market will be outside the Arcade tomorrow.  Do come along and bring the family for a great day out inside and outside Hungerford Arcade.  We look forward to seeing you!

Thursday, 22 August 2013


We had a lovely visitor to the Arcade.  She introduced herself as Annie Naughton, the new owner of The Polly Tea Rooms in Marlborough.  Annie came to the Arcade to buy china for the restaurant and was very excited at what she found!  As you will see, we could not let her leave without a photograph of some of the china she purchased. 

Anyone who has ever visited Marlborough, will be familiar with The Polly Tea Rooms which was established in 1912.  Its a very popular destination for tourists and local people not only for its beautiful olde worlde restaurant serving delicious home-made food, but also for its bakery which sells the most delicious mouth watering cakes.  The Polly Tea Rooms has more 'tricks up its sleeve' which you will see should you call in.

Very good luck to you Annie from all of us at Hungerford Arcade.

The Polly Tea Rooms, Marlborough

Monday, 19 August 2013


A regular customer and friend of the Arcade, Sarah, showed up in her own piece of automotive history!  This beautiful example of the very first £100 car is her pride and joy!  The 1931 Morris Sports Tourer features a blisteringly fast top speed of 40mph, which in the car’s heyday could have been enjoyed anywhere in the country, as all speed limits had been abolished the year before as “the existing speed limit was so universally disobeyed that its maintenance brought the law into contempt”.  The pedals might confuse a contemporary driver, as the accelerator is in the middle and the brake is on the right.  There are only three forward gears plus reverse.  The engine runs on a petrol mix, which Sarah said she still hasn’t got the hang of yet!  But on sunny days like the ones we’ve been having recently, there is nothing more enjoyable than taking the roof down and speeding through the countryside towards Hungerford Arcade!
Alex Rogers

Beautiful! 1931 Morris Sports Tourer
The First £100 Car!

Adrian and Sarah with the little Morris beauty!

Thursday, 15 August 2013


Six very brave, handsome young men stopped off at Hungerford Arcade on their 600 mile cycle ride from England to Ireland.  They started off from Southend-on-Sea and will finish the six day trip in Galway!  These are no ordinary cyclists......these are near naked cyclists!!!  The reason for this marathon cycle ride is to raise awareness of male cancer.  

The Male Cancer Awareness Campaign is a young and innovative charity committed to raising awareness of Male Cancers through their champions - Mr. Testicles, James Bum 002 and Near Naked Man. Their aim is to educate men and their partners the importance of early detection and hope to build a culture where embarrassment does not prevent them from addressing problems with intimate parts of their bodies.

These gentlemen are great fun and if you see them on their long, long journey, toot your horn, give them a wave and a cheer, show your support because by golly, they deserve it!

IF you are easily shocked, look away now as the photos are about to come up!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


One bright sunny morning, Hungerford Arcade had a phone call from Heather O'Connor a teacher at the Downsway Primary School, Tilehurst, Reading, asking if she could organise a trip to the Arcade for sixty 4 to 6 year old pupils from the school. The primary purpose of the visit was to teach the children history by letting them see objects from the past and explaining what they were used for. Also, many of the children had never been on a train before so the first thing for them to do was to arrive at Hungerford by train which was a brilliant start to their day!  Then of course, the Arcade being no stranger to school visits gladly welcomed the children.  Led by Mrs. Blackwell, the group listened to a short story about the origins and importance of the building, from a historic point of view, not to mention the rumours of ghostly goings on amongst the centuries old timbers of the Arcade.  The children had a lovely time exploring the nooks and crannies, discovering soldiers up on the rafters and model planes swooping from the ceilings.  A large congregation of 6 year olds didn’t move from the model cars and steam engines until it was time for them to move on. Of course, the Arcade could not let them leave without a small gift to take home and place in their treasure boxes and scrapbooks.  Each child received a pouch containing an old English coin and a slip explaining what the coin is and what it would be worth in today's money! Heather said,"the children absolutely loved the Arcade. It brought history to life for them!"


Foundation Year 1 Pupils supported by:
Donni Blackwell
Katina Mowl
and, of course, our very own Adrian



Here's a little story about one of our stallholders which I thought you might like. Chris (Moustache) Redford is a handsome young man with the most amazing moustache. Chris's moustache draws a lot of attention from the customers when he comes into the Arcade as he looks just like a young version of some old 'top brass' military chap! 

Chris had an amazing handlebar moustache which his girlfriend kept nagging him to get rid of!  Well, he wasn't going to get rid of it lightly since he was quite attached to it! After all, it had taken him three years to grow! So Chris decided that he would have it shaved off for charity.  Brad's Cancer Foundation.  

 Chris said, "The chop was done on stage at the 'Big Bang' VW festival at Santa Pod near Wellingborough in front of thousands of people.  I raised £550 for the charity. I'm now growing it back against my girlfriend's wishes"!  Well done Chris....what a hero!

Chris (Moustache) Redford's amazing moustache

Poor Chris - He can't bear to watch as his beloved moustache is about to hit the floor!

Ahhhh...Chris' face says it all!

Thursday, 8 August 2013



Well, our dear Stuart Miller-Osborne has once again shown us his genius!  Here we have a brilliant story on the cinema and film publicity.  I have certainly learned a lot from reading Stuart's article and I am sure a lot of you out there in 'Blog Land' will too.  Please enjoy this wonderful story and the fabulous pictures.

Oscar  Deutsch  Entertains Our Nation 

Whether we admit it or not cinema has always been a part of our lives. Each of us has a favourite film and have memories of the first film we saw, or our first date movie. Most couples have a soft spot for a certain film which was watched during those early days together. 

Cinema is all around us. We all live within travelling distance of a cinema. (Hungerford itself had a cinema The Regent until the early 1970s). Films are advertised on the internet, newspapers and magazines, everywhere in fact. When a new blockbuster is opening then billboards are filled at railway stations, the buses in our towns and villages carry advertisements for these films. 

We might think that all this publicity in new and is inspired by the overkill that invades our everyday life, but we could not be more wrong. If anything it is a little quieter these days. It is only that we have more information outlets that makes it seem busier.  

As you will have noted I have given this article the title of  Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation (ODEON) this was the result of his clever marketing teams promotion. This title shortened is very familiar to each of us. It is perhaps the best known chain of cinemas in the country. Although Odeon’s were actually amphitheatres in ancient Greece Oscar Deutsche (1893-1941) one of the initial founders of cinema chains in the country took the name and opened his first Odeon cinema in the Midlands in 1926 and by the mid thirties there were over two hundred around the country. Odeon’s were the last word in luxury and the ultimate film going experience. They were often favoured above the other chains of the time, the ABCs and the Gaumont’s. When we think of Odeon’s we think of Art Deco both inside and out.  

But what may you ask has this got do with antique collecting and visiting antique shops and arcades. It has a great deal in common. Whereas the cinema’s main aim was to show films and like any business make as much money as possible the methods they used to publicise these films were the expendables of the day and the collectables of today. 

Before the mass media we have today when films were about to be released  a publicity campaign was often launched. Each film had to have its own identity. This was done in the main by the use of posters and other publicity material. Films are above all visual and to sell this film then the general public had to be seduced. The film poster was the first step on the road to the cinema. 

Actual film posters pre-dated Oscar Deutsch by many years. They had been used since the early days of film. Rather like the music hall posters they originally listed the programme that was to be found inside of the theatre. As displays became more sophisticated,  illustrations from the actual films were shown or the film was artistically represented 

If the poster was poor then this could have an adverse effect on the number of people who went to see the film. If the poster was memorable then this helped the film immeasurably. This is a simplification but the impact of the poster was very important. 

What I did not know until I researched this article was how tightly the control of film posters was achieved. I supposed that the individual distributors created the posters and sent them to the cinemas and these were like other promotional material discarded after use. They were in fact sent back to the distributors after the films finished their runs. This is in part the reason why there are so many film posters in existence. Normally they were sent on to the next cinema and so on but as normal many found their way to collectors. 

As with a lots of pastimes collecting film posters is considerably more expensive these days than it used to be. The price is determined by the rarity and the condition of the actual poster. I have seen cinema posters being sold for between £250-£400 quite frequently. In the USA some rarer posters are sold for six figures. This is all very different from the early 1970s when film posters were sold for a song in outlets in London and elsewhere. One such dealer I knew was stationed on the edge of Soho near the Charing Cross Road. He had a small position at the end of a clothes shop that sold mostly hippy gear. Downstairs was a record outlet. The rest of the building was used for less mentionable purposes. 

This dealer sold posters and front of house stills for an absolute song. I remember him selling an original fifties poster of The Creature from the Black Lagoon for a couple of quid. He also was selling A Night to Remember for fifty pence. I have since seen these posters sold for considerably more. One could buy all three posters for the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns and still have change from a fiver. There were film fairs where one could buy various items of film memorabilia very cheaply. There was one memorable dealer who considered saucy pictures of Ursula Andress more valuable than an original poster of The Ladykillers in pristine condition. In a way these were the halcyon days of collecting.

This is not to say that you will not find copies of film posters without having to pay out a fortune. I do see them from time at jumble sales and boot fairs but these are normally for recent films (1990 to date) and quite often folded which decreases the value. You would be very very lucky to find a good copy of pre 1980s poster. This said, like everything else they are out there it is just about seeking them out.

A slightly cheaper option if you like collecting cinema memorabilia is the collecting of front of house stills. These were scenes from the film which were displayed in the foyer. Some were actually taken from the film, but many of these were actually posed during production. When going to the cinema one would see the stills from the movie showing at the cinema and also the following weeks attraction which would link in with the trailer which would be shown with the film. 

My favourites are the tinted 1950-1960s ones which in my view were always over the top. I remember seeing a set from The Fall of the Roman Empire a few years ago which colour wise were so heavily tinted that either the colourist was a frustrated Fauvist or he was the worse for wear when he tinted the stills. Nevertheless it was great fun. For some reason I have a few front of house still from Last Tango in Paris which were given to me by the manager of the Academy cinema in Oxford Street at the time of its troubled release. These could not be more different and really consist of photographs of Brando and his co-star Maria Schneider. 

Front of house stills (unlike publicity stills which were often photographs of film stars at home or at play) are reasonably easy to find but again (especially if you shop on the internet) you can pay a lot for a good set. It depends on the film and whether you are buying a full set. Usually with stills they came in sets of six but this was not always the case. Obviously individual stills are a lot cheaper that full sets. Stills by their very nature are hard wearing and did not suffer as much damage as film posters and are very much like comic books, you can pay a fortune or buy them cheaply.

Quite often these show up in antique outlets as well as jumble sales etc. It is like everything else, knowing how much you want to spend and what you might find them for elsewhere. If you are collecting film posters or front of house stills then I would as I have noted avoid the internet (the prices are often crazy) and I have noticed that the chic markets in London (Camden, Portobello Road etc) can be expensive. Recently a sole still from a James Bond film signed by one of the Bond girls was being sold for £200 which I thought was a little excessive.

Whilst I have concentrated on film posters and stills quite often other film memorabilia will turn up in antiques outlets. You might find general publicity material such as souvenir booklets or other film tie ins. One might find the actual production material itself, When I was in Kent last year I saw the film script of a Raquel Welch western called Hannie Caulder for sale at quite a reasonable price. At times props from the actual films show up but these can be expensive. You quite often see the costumes used by the stars of certain movies offered at auction. 

What I find more fascinating is when you see parts of the actual cinemas show up. I have seen a collection of cinema seats offered for sale in an antique shop (they looked a well used set of one and nines). Also more recently I saw some exquisite deco up lighters for sale as well as some of the direction indicators that would always glow in the corner of your eye when you were watching your film. When the beautiful Art Deco Odeon cinema in Uxbridge was tragically demolished twenty or so years ago I remember seeing some of the fixtures and fittings appearing in local junk shops a little later. In a way I wish I had purchased some of the smaller items for posterity.  

We have lost a lot of cinemas in the last thirty years or so, but thankfully a large number still exist. Some are still used as cinemas but others have found uses as churches (Northfields (Ealing) and Rayners Lane are examples) others are bingo halls or are used for a variety of events. The important thing is that they have survived. In these enlightened times we are less likely to ignore a demolition order on the local cinema. We have learnt our lessons painfully in the last few years.

This is one of the reasons I believe that collecting cinema posters and stills and other memorabilia is so popular. Whether you like romantic comedies or action films or four hour long black and white Hungarian films about washing machines the magic is there. The anticipation when the house lights dim is still the same. It is just that some people like to take it further and collect things connected with cinema. 

Whilst I love cinema, I do not collect posters or stills being more interested in the actual cinemas themselves. My favourite poster if I had a choice would be legendary poster for the French film Betty Blue made in 1986. It has adorned the walls of student digs ever since.                   

Stuart Miller-Osborne

Tuesday, 6 August 2013



How proud we were to wave off the brave cyclists, Kevin Stirzaker, Charles Weston, Mark Letsome, Matt Connor, Nick Connor and Mike Howie, from the Rotary Club of Hungerford on their journey to our twin town of Ligueil France.  In blistering heat, they set off on the 550 mile round trip to raise money for two charities, End Polio Now and local charity, the Bruce Trust, which provides holidays and days out for disabled, disadvantaged and elderly people,  The Hungerford Rotarians, the Town Twinning Committee and the Bruce family were out in force to give them a good send off!  

They rode off on their bikes heading for Portsmouth where they would board the ferry to St. Malo.  Upon arrival, they were allocated bunks and soon settled down for the night and a well earned sleep.  Upon arriving in St. Malo, Hungerford Rotarian and support crew member, Mr. Sinclair-Baines said "We were met at Montsoreau by cyclists from Ligueil, who rode in with us.  The reception at Liqueil was superb.  We were allocated hosts and went home with them to prepare ourselves for a grand barbecue where the wine flowed and a good time was had by us all!"  

Founder of the Bruce Trust, David Bruce said "This is a fantastic initiative by the Rotary Club of Hungerford, not only to raise funds for End Polio Now but also for the Bruce Trust which is currently trying to raise £100,000 towards the cost of the complete refurbishment of it first boat, The Rebecca"

The 550 mile round trip was completed in just seven days and raised more than £2000 plus more to come.  The five cyclists arrived back in Hungerford to a huge welcome home from the Rotary Club of Hungerford.

Plans are already underway for a charity cycle ride next year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

They're Off!

Welcome Home Boys
We are all very proud of you - well done!