Evolving tastes and challenging property markets mean that past generations’ possessions don’t fit into the homes of the next generation—aesthetically or physicallyby Hephzibah Anderson / March 29, 2019 / Leave a comment
Earlier this year, a Berkshire couple rummaging in the attic of their Victorian semi turned up a cache of Indian antiques that is expected to fetch millions of pounds at auction. Looted from the palace of Tipu Sultan by the British East India Company’s Major Thomas Hart in 1799, they were passed down through his family, consigned to increasing obscurity until they ended up wrapped in newspaper and shoved beneath the rafters.
I don’t know about you, but there is nothing that’s been in my family for two-plus centuries: we’re a clan whose time back then was spent either scrabbling underground or fleeing marauding Jew-haters. There must have been objects of beauty—scraps of Nottingham lace, silver candlesticks from the Old Country—but life was too unpredictable, too unsettled, to preserve them.
When I was a teenager, my grandmother’s death precipitated the arrival at our North London flat of a looming Welsh dresser that had been her pride and joy—and my mother’s bête noire, since her childhood chores had included keeping its wood gleaming. It was accompanied by an Oriental rug whose rich pong evoked generations of canine incontinence, but the dresser exuded an anti-social aura, refusing to sit comfortably anywhere. What’s more, on closer inspection, it revealed itself to have been cobbled together from two quite distinct pieces of furniture, its top half heavier than its delicate, more authentic, nether quarters. As a whole, it had a vaguely malevolent air about it, and when one day it toppled over and nearly flattened my mother, she summoned a creaky-jointed antiques dealer to cart both it and the rug away.
Even among those whose family tchotchkes and furniture haven’t been lost to dispossession or sold on due to being, perhaps, possessed (I’m only half joking—there was something very Shirley Jackson about that Welsh dresser), heirlooms are fast becoming a thing of the past. The underlying reasons span the gamut of changes social, economic and cultural, but they all boil down to the simple fact that nobody wants their parents’ and grandparents’ stuff any longer.
Evolving tastes and challenging property markets mean that past generations’ possessions don’t fit into the homes of the next generation—aesthetically…