It is a one off.
Standing on the shelf of a store just a stone’s throw from Doncaster market, is a little piece of history.
It is a barometer. But it is a barometer with a past.
It was fashioned around 100 years ago out of the middle of a propeller from a first world war aeroplane, known as a Farman pusher. It still bears the name of the manufacturer, Boulton Paul, and a serial number.
Yet the owner of the shop, Hughes’d antiques, says he will not be upset if no one buys it. He is happy to see it in his store, a treasure that he is happy to give houseroom too.
Items like this are the essence of Hughes’d, a shop which has the air of a mini-museum, packed with history of curious items.
If not one-offs , the items on its packed shelves are certain not the sort of thing that you will find on every high street up and town the country.
They hark back to previous times, often created by craftsmen from a different era. They range from matchbox cars to cricket bats, and brass warming pans to intricate jewellery.
Christian Hughes opened his shop on Bowers Fold, in Doncaster town centre, just over two years ago. Prior to that he had run a stall on Doncaster Market.
He started buying and selling antiques and collectables as a hobby, while he was working in a day job in education management, arranging training courses.
He used to sell items from a couple of cabinets he had at Elsecarr Heritage Centre, in Barnsley, in his spare time.
But when he left that job, he bought a van and started doing the markets. We became a familiar face at the Wednesday second hand and antiques market in Doncaster, and at the Friday market at Retford, as well as collectors fairs.
But as time went on, he found he had a lot of stock that he was unable to fit on the stalls, and decided he needed a shop.On top of that, he was getting tired of loading and unloading his van every day to move his wares from market to market, and wanted somewhere where the weather would not matter as much as it can on an outdoor market.
He found a site at Bowers fold. At the time, there were four to choose from, but most of those have subsequently been filled.
He said: “I’ve always bought and sold things. I think I’ve got a good understanding of history because of the amount of research I do when I’m buying something. I buy something because I like it, and then find out its history.
“I started selling vintage watches, but later decided I was cutting down my market by just doing watches, based on what I was doing at antiques fairs.
“It was high end vintage watches, and I could spend £1,000 on a watch to make £200. But I could make a lot more people happy by spending the £1,000 on more things.
“But there are things that I’m not bothered if they sell because they’re such wonderful objects. There is the propeller barometer. There is also a beautiful clock, from Bell Brothers, that was on a West Riding County Council building, which would have been from a school or a council building. Its’s a fusee clock, which means it runs off a chain, rather than a series of cogs.”
As a buyer, he has found some amazing items. An example was a Victorian brooch, dating back the the 1860s. He paid £4 for it from a market stall, because he liked it. It went on to fetch £400 at an auction.
A popular line in his shop is collectables. Some items are quite inexpensive, some less than £5.
He is aware that in many of these lines his customers know more than he does about items, and he learns from them, treating them as his experts.
There is no typical customer, but he says he likes to see young people looking round the shop. Some buying habits are unpredicable. “Quite a few young women have been in to buy taxidermy,” he said. “That surprised me.”
“Every customer is different. But I know a lot of the customers, and if you’ve not got something they want, its nice to try and find it for them. I get about quite a lot with fairs and dealers, and trips to antiques markets in France.
“I think people come here because they can pick up something that they have not seen before, and can’t get elsewhere on a high street. You can get something that no one else has got, something that is different.
“Where else could you get a taxidermy boar’s head, as well as a nice little silver ring, or an old picnic gramophone?”
TV and film producers agree. with him on that point. Some of them have turned to him to help with props in their shows.
Period furniture and projectors were used in a BBC2 mini-series called The City and the City, and other items have been used for other productions.
> We are running a series of features on shops to showcase the many types of store in Doncaster town centre as part of our Love Your High Street campaign.