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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 4, December 1959



It was still possible for New Zealand to acquire antiques, brought in by newcomers to the country, Mrs Perrine Moncrieff told members of the Nelson Historical Society last night. Mrs Moncrieff gave a bright and informative talk on the subject and recalled episodes with dealers in the course of many years' experience as a collector.

Mrs Moncrieff said that although much of the old furniture brought in by the pioneers had been lost or destroyed, there was a new supply from the Old World building up, and nothing should be done to make it difficult for people to bring it into New Zealand.

Mrs Moncrieff said that a study of antiques and the articles used by man in the past was necessary for gaining a bolder outlook on life. It was important that those who knew the value of antiques should pass their knowledge on to the younger generation.

Taught By Mother

Mrs Moncrieff recalled that her mother had gained an unusual knowledge of old furniture by playing in the family attics as a child, and she had passed that knowledge on to the speaker.

Mrs Moncrieff said that she had gained an appreciation of old things by being taken early in life on expeditions to take monumental brass rubbings from the effigies on the tombs of knights of past centuries and their wives, and to Roman ruins to see coloured mosaics which had survived the centuries.

The speaker said that one of the unusual places she had been taken to was later proved to have been the site of a Phoenician colony in Britain. Other expeditions she had made had included regular visits to Westminster Abbey and other historic places in London.

Early Furniture

Speaking of early furniture, Mrs Moncrieff said that nothing was known of the types of furniture in use in the 13th century, and little of that of the two following centuries. One of the basic items of furniture in those times was the chest. Many of these were used for storing all sorts of possessions, from money to personal possessions of the lord of the manor. Boards on trestles served as tables, with rough benches to sit on.

Coming to later periods, Mrs Moncrieff said that one of the things the antique expert had to know was how to recognise fakes. The clues of these were provided by minor details. Collectors were helpless in the hands of expert fakers if the latter really knew their business.

At the conclusion of her address, Mrs Moncrieff exhibited an example of the 17th century Spanish leather work which she had acquired in Scotland: a ladder back chair made by the 18th century furniture maker George Hepplewhite; a chair made by Thomas Sheraton (1751–1806); and an 18th century miniature desk and bureau of the type which cabinet makers then showed clients in seeking orders for full size articles.

A vote of thanks to Mrs Moncrieff was moved by Mr G. Gould, who congratulated her on her expert knowledge of antiques.