CHARLES Shaw – usually known as Charlie – was a charismatic, pioneering and influential antique dealer who has died at the age of 93.
He and his elder brother Jack – six years his senior – opened the first of the many antique shops which would turn Montpellier Parade in Harrogate into the town’s, and the region’s, pre-eminent centre of the retail antique business.
Their clientele included a number of Hollywood stars.
Their parents had fled with nothing from Riga, in Latvia, their father now making his living as a brush maker in Chapeltown, Leeds, by then – the 1920s – already established as the city’s immigrant quarter.
Charlie went to the local schools until he was 14, and from an early age was drawn to good quality when he came across it. He was fastidious as to his appearance, as well. Everything for Charlie had to be the best.
At the outbreak of war, Jack went into the RAF and Charlie joined the Army, serving in Belfast, Durban, Kenya and Mauritius. Every week he sent half his pay back to his mother.
When he was demobbed, he could not bring himself to wear the government-issued demob suit, and with his £60 gratuity, went straight to Brills – the most expensive menswear shop in Leeds – and spent the lot on shirt, tie, shoes and suit.
Then he went home and asked his mother if she had any money he could borrow. She had her £25 life savings in a cup at the back of a cupboard and with that, Charlie began buying good-quality second hand watches and other small personal items of high quality that he could purchase at a good price, clean up and sell on a market stall he and Jack ran at Knaresborough, and later, as the extent of his travels widened, in Doncaster, Ripon, Northallerton, Thirsk, Skipton and County Durham.
While he was on the road, Jack minded their stall. They were known then, and for the rest of their lives, as the Shaw brothers.
Charlie was travelling up to a 1,000 miles a week, calling on cash-strapped gentry, purchasing heirlooms that would never be missed. Personable and trustworthy, he cultivated a grateful clientele across the north of England that could rely on his discretion.
Porcelain, jewellery, enamels, watches – Charlie had an eye for the best – and what he did not know by instinct, he learnt through experience. He once said that if he had never made a mistake, the street outside his home would be filled with Bentleys.
In 1947, the Shaw brothers took a kiosk in the newly-opened Harrogate Market Hall, and from there it was a small step to the acquisition of their first shop at 5 James Street. It was a turning point because it established them as one of the major jewellery and silver dealers in the North.
It was not uncommon for silver vault dealers from London to queue outside the shop on a Monday for the chance to pick through his latest acquisitions.
Dora, the eldest of the family, helped mind the shop up until her early death in 1957.
In 1967, Charlie and Jack moved to 21 Montpellier Parade, just below Bettys tearooms, soon establishing this part of Harrogate as the centre for the growing antiques trade.
After antiques and business, Charlie’s other preoccupation was golf. He played off a six handicap and belonged to Moor Allerton Golf Club, Leeds
His agreeable manner meant that he readily made friends. He loved being in company, and had a Monday fixture with others for afternoon tea at the Queens Hotel in Leeds. Also there, every Monday, were Maureen Hill and her mother. Charlie and Maureen noticed each other, became friends, and they married in 1970.
Charlie retired in 1995, after nearly 50 years in the trade, selling his entire stock over two days at Tennants’ salerooms in Leyburn, drawing dealers from London, New York and Argentina among other places.
As he grew older, golf gave way to less active pastimes. He visited the town’s antique shops and Tennants’ office, and twice a day he headed to the Crown Hotel in Harrogate for a coffee and a chat. It was a routine he maintained until a year ago.
Charlie Shaw was ambitious; he did nothing by half measures, and the successes are testament to his determination to make an impact wherever he directed his energy.
He is survived by his wife Maureen.