Emma Samms: My antique obsession

PUBLISHED: 15:06 15 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:55 16 June 2015

The Malt House, near Stroud

The Malt House, near Stroud


My children were threatening to call Channel 4 and suggest me for one of their hoarding programs. The simple and obvious solution would be to stop buying antiques

The Malt House, near StroudThe Malt House, near Stroud

I’ve always been curious about people and their hobbies. I drive across Minchinhampton Common and see people playing golf and can’t help but calculate that in the time it takes to play 18 holes, I could mow the lawn, walk the dogs and pay a few bills. All things that usually get pushed down my To-Do list till the last possible minute, much to my dogs’ displeasure.

I’m really quite envious of people who do things ‘just for fun’. I can’t tell if it’s my busy life or merely a deep-seated lack of whimsy that prevents me from playing bridge, flower arranging or taking classes in candle making. No doubt a good psychotherapist would soon get to the bottom of this but in truth, even as a child, I was remarkably practical. I had no interest in fantastical stories such as The Lord of the Rings or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When asked at school to review a favourite book, I chose Dance Injuries and How to Avoid Them. Fun stuff.

If you looked at my life right now (and certainly anyone who follows me on Twitter would attest to this), it would appear that I have a hobby of collecting antiques. I regularly report on my visits to Wotton Auction Rooms and all the bargains I gleefully discover there. I would argue against this being defined as a hobby as it has a purpose beyond merely having fun. Firstly, I needed to furnish my house. This was also the justification I had for multiple trips to the Rose Bowl flea market in Los Angeles when I lived there. But now, with an old Cotswold house that would squirm with discomfort at being filled with Ikea products, I felt duty bound to source appropriate, yet inexpensive furniture.

I can’t deny that buying from Wotton Auctions (my favourite auction house) isn’t fun. This is due in equal measure to its idyllic location in Wotton-under-Edge, its reliable selection of unique and often jaw-droppingly inexpensive furniture, the home-made cakes and irresistible bacon sandwiches in its tea room, but mostly it’s the delightful people who run it that make viewing days at Wotton Auctions one of my very favourite things to do.

The Malt House, near StroudThe Malt House, near Stroud

I rarely trust myself to attend the actual auction, being well aware that the prospect of the hammer going down on a massive bargain would be enough to prompt me to make a bid, whether I had need or indeed room for said bargain. So I’ve become known for my ‘cheeky bids’. On the calm and rational day before the auction, I’ll leave a whole page of what they call commission bids, knowing that if I get anything, it will be both a bargain and something I actually need. I took a dear friend with me once. She was a little sceptical and probably a little bored by my evangelical enthusiasm, but I was delighted when she snagged a couple of items as birthday presents for her family claiming they were considerably more special and interesting than anything she could have bought in a store. As she tucked into a slice of their home-made cake I smugly notched the whole day up as a satisfying “I told you so”.

About six months ago, a huge problem arose regarding my trips to Wotton Auctions. My house filled up. Not just slightly either. I had one whole room designated as a Spare Furniture room, extra armchairs blocking corridors, etc. My children were threatening to call Channel 4 and suggest me for one of their hoarding programs. The simple and obvious solution would be to stop buying antiques. And surely, if the only reason I’d been buying them was because I needed to, now that there was no longer a need, this shouldn’t be a problem?

Apparently this was a problem. The thought of stopping my visits to the auction made me sad. Could it be that the uber-practical me was actually doing something purely for the fun of it? Luckily, the need for some serious soul-searching was ameliorated by the arrival in nearby Stroud of a brand new Antique Emporium.

The Malt House is on the A46, between Stroud and Painswick. A very lovely lady called Helen Tweddle boldly took on this huge building and rents out spaces to 80 or so dealers. With enormous good fortune, I walked in to have a look around before all the spaces were taken. So, to cut to the chase, I now have a little corner of the Malt House to sell my wares and the perfect excuse for any amount of antique shopping. It’s more than just productive, it’s business. Hooray!


This article is from the June 2015 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Emma, follow her on Twitter: @EmmaSamms1

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