The story begins when Ann Squires’s youngest child, Patrick, started school. Ann took £10 from the housekeeping money, and took herself off to the weekly auction in Teynham, where she bought a box of bric-a-brac – ‘a nice assortment of early bits of china’. The following Friday, she put the kitchen table upside down on top of her Renault 4 and set forth to Faversham market. She paid £3 for a stall, put a cloth on the table and arranged her bits of china, making enough money to go back to the auction the next week. ‘Quite exciting it was, in those days,’ says Ann.
Ann grew up with antiques, in a small house in Hornchurch, filled with huge pieces of inherited Victorian furniture. ‘It all slotted in,’ she says, ‘and found a home. I’ve always loved old things, always found them interesting. I like to stroke an old piece of furniture.’ From her stall in the market she graduated to a space, formerly occupied by a junk shop, in the back part of Shelleys restaurant (now Saddlers) at 1 Market Place. When the owner sold that building, she found premises in Jacob Yard, where she has been now for more than 30 years.
The site had been bought and converted by two retired scientists, a Mr Highgate and his business partner. At the far end of the cobbled yard, which had not been open to the public, was a mill that made coffins, with buildings used as workshops along the left-hand side. These were converted into shop premises. The mill was to be a fine restaurant, but was not successful. There were five or six other initiatives over the years, but none took off until The Yard, Faversham’s most buzzy café, opened in February 2015. Squires Antiques currently occupies two floors of a fine Elizabethan building, probably once an inn, in which Ann’s fast-moving and covetable stock is comfortably at home. A spiral staircase leads up to a picturesque first floor lit by small mullion windows.
Ann runs the business with her elder son Conon. He joined her full time in the 1990s. Conon does all the restoration and the deliveries and is trusted with buying. ‘He’s just as good at it as I am and has the same feel,’ says Ann. Her husband Derek has always had a ‘proper’ job. He came from a well-off family in London, where his grandparents were horse dealers and horse cabbies. Derek was a member of Lloyd’s, and like many ‘names’ lost significant sums of money. Progressively frailer after a heart attack 20 years ago, Derek is rarely seen now in the shop. ‘He still has an instinct and knows what everything is.’
Ann buys at auctions, and also locally. ‘People inherit, but they already have a home full of stuff.’ She advises them to keep anything precious, but sell the rest. ‘Antiques are like buildings – you don’t own them for ever.’ Fashion changed, she says, two or three years ago. ‘Young ladies want shabby chic. They like rustic but they don’t want highly polished Victoriana. Faversham people like nice, proper things – bookcases and big, comfortable chairs. You can sell a good jug, but not a vase. They like lamps and mirrors.’ Ann gets satisfaction from matching up a piece with an appropriate owner. ‘It would be a waste if you have a beautiful thing and it went somewhere where people didn’t appreciate it.’
Ann says she likes country furniture best. We do a tour of current stock and are drawn to a dark-green-painted pine dresser, plain but with classical proportions and some restrained ornamentation. It is the perfect kitchen cupboard, with deep shelves below and glass-fronted doors for displaying choice china above. It has been in the shop for a week or too, fancied by all who spot it, but prominently displaying a ‘sold’ sticker. After we have contemplated it for a while, Ann reveals that she has sold it to herself and will be taking it home.
Ann pointed out other favourite items among current stock: an early oak coffer, an oval copper footbath, a little travelling iron (Ann likes little retro items), and a magnificent bicorne hat in its original metal tin bearing the name of its owner, ‘B Bachelor’. Furniture and ornaments are given a place in the shop where they look at home and at their best. Ann and Conon buy a piece because it prompts them to say: ‘Ooh, that’s nice.’ And that’s also why for many residents of Faversham, visits to Squires Antiques are a high spot in our social and shopping excursions around the town.
Telephone: 01795 531503
Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays
Text: Sarah. Photography: Lisa