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BADA SALUTES FOUNDING MEMBER FRANK PARTRIDGE
For over a century, the Partridge family has been one of Britain’s foremost fine art & antiques dealers. Now, thanks to the current Frank Partridge, great grandson of family patriarch Frank Partridge Snr, we are able to share the family’s remarkable story.
Frank Snr began dealing in English antiques and Chinese porcelain, opening his first shop opposite Christies in King Street in 1900. Soon after, he was visited by William Lever, founder of Lever Brothers the Sunlight Soap manufacturers, and later to become Lord Leverhulme, who became a close friend and regular customer. Indeed, many of the fine items of furniture currently on display at the Port Sunlight Museum were acquired from Partridge’s.
Other notable clients included Scottish shipping magnate Sir William Burrell and eminent US lawyer Samuel Untermyer, who bought large quantities of items which can now be seen in the Burrell Museum, Glasgow and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
HRH Queen Mary was also a frequent visitor, regularly joining Frank for tea while she viewed the latest additions to his collection, and during this period Partridge’s received the Royal Warrant as Purveyors of Fine Art.
Frank, who lived at Potters Bar, maintained a fitness routine of swimming in his pond for 20 minutes daily and it was this practice which arguably saved his life in 1915. Travelling back from New York with a party of London antique dealers aboard the cruise liner Lusitania, Frank managed to survive for two hours in the freezing Atlantic Ocean, when the ship was torpedoed, before being rescued by an Irish trawler.
Just three years later Frank Partridge would play a pivotal role in the founding of BADA (The British Antique Dealers’ Association), joining forces with fellow leading figures in the fine art and antique community to successfully defeat Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s plans to introduce a tax on antiques.
Sadly, more misfortune befell Partridge’s during the blitz in 1942 when a bomb fell directly on the company’s King Street premises, destroying all the stock in the building. Fortunately, Frank had the foresight to keep some stock out of London and the business continued from rented premises.
In 1944, with the war almost at an end, Frank took out a lease on London’s first purpose built art Gallery at 144-146 New Bond Street, formerly the home of renowned picture dealers and fellow BADA members Colnaghi & Co.
The business continued to flourish with Frank’s eldest son Leo opening Partridge’s New York gallery, while younger son Claude remained in London, working with his father to introduce a new department dealing in French furniture.
Claude’s son John took over the business in 1958 and was joined by his eldest son Frank in 1980 as Partridge’s grow from strength to strength, adding a new department dealing in silver and becoming a public company listed on the stock exchange.
After acquiring the Thomas Gilding and Woodcarving firm, Partridge gained more acclaim when Thomas were awarded a contract to be one of the principal workshops involved in the restoration of Windsor Castle, which was extensively damaged by fire in 1992.
Thomas were able to make and restore all the missing parts to the set of Carlton House Trophies and were rewarded for their efforts with the Royal Warrant, while both Her Majesty the Queen and the Queen Mother made visits to the workshop.
By the year 2000, Partridge’s had dealt in over 26,000 works of art and had sold items to most of the world’s major Museums that have collections of decorative arts. After the sale of the company in 2004, Frank Snr’s great grandson Frank Partridge started his own business, exhibiting annually at the BADA Fair, Masterpiece and the International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show, New York.
Frank’s new premises at Frederic Mews are filled with many interesting treasures of 18th century English & French furniture and works of Art. The Gallery, which was created by Robin Kern of distinguished furniture dealers Hotspur, is open by appointment only.
Frank and Susan Partridge next to a portrait of Frank Partridge Snr.
Frank Partridge Gallery (Exterior)
Frank Partridge Gallery