A Flying Start – Antiques Expert
by Northern Life
Northern Life’s popular antiques expert, Allan Blackburn, is celebrating his 25th anniversary of opening GB Antiques Centre at Lancaster Leisure Park on the former Hornsea Pottery site. In this article, Alan looks back on his quarter-century in business and the things that have made him smile. If you have any items you would like valued please send your letters and photos to email@example.com.
Allan and his wife Gloria share a passion for antiques. After visiting hundreds of antiques centres in the UK and abroad, they decided they could do better. In August 1990, they opened GB Antiques Centre at Lancaster Leisure Park and that same year, the couple were featured on Granada’s Flying Start programme.
Within eight years the centre grew from 8,000 square feet to more than 40,000 square feet, and it was extended again last year.
Allan now has 100 individual dealers, a long waiting list for stand space and more than 200,000 visitors a year. Intending to only open at weekends and run antiques fairs, Allan and Gloria were
surprised at how well GB Antiques Centre was received and it wasn’t long before they opened seven days a week.
In 1998 they bought the lease for Lancaster Leisure Park, wanting to develop it with a blend of leisure facilities and family attractions.
Over the last 25 years, the leisure park has under gone many changes, all for the better, and Allan is still keen to grow and improve the site.
He said “Since we took over the former Hornsea Pottery site we’ve had a garden centre, driving range, toboggan run, a pottery, café, motor shows and four food festivals on the site.
This year has been a particularly exciting year for us”
“This year has been a particularly exciting year for us. Miller Homes are well under way with their developments of 71 new houses, Cam Photography established themselves here recently and building work on the new restaurant is nearly finished.”
Allan is well known throughout the North West. He writes for Northern Life magazine as our resident valuations expert as well as a column every week in the Lancaster Guardian and an antiques feature in the Lancashire Evening Post. He also appears regularly on Radio Lancashire giving valuations of listeners’ collectables and is a self confessed workaholic, so you’ll no doubt see him somewhere on site if you visit.
At 43 when he started GB Antiques, he was older than most people starting out, but he’s still passionate about antiques, the site and loves working hard, so retirement will have to wait a bit longer!
So to what does Allan attribute his success?
“We are a family business and we all work hard. My son, Jimmy, manages the antiques centre and my daughter, Dawn, looks after the accounts and the office. We are just out of the town centre so there’s a quieter atmosphere here. The antiques centre is now one of the biggest in the country and people come and literally browse for hours as there is such a variety of furniture and smalls. We are constantly improving the site and now have nine superb attractions”.
Lancaster Leisure Park is also home to Lancaster Brewery, The Original Factory Shop, Countrystyle Meats Farm Shop, Cam Photography, Giggles Play and Adventure, Turning Point Theatre Arts,
Marshall Self Drive and soon The Countrystyle Kitchen.
At the end of August, to celebrate the 25 years, Allan and his team invited visitors to bring two items for valuation for just £5, with all the proceeds going to their nominated charities Cancer Care and Alexander House, where over £400 was raised. Afterwards there was a party for all their friends, family and dealers.
Passion for Piggies
Seeing these pigs reminded me of a lady I met a few years ago who was so passionate about piggies she had collected 450 of them! She invited me into her home to see her collection and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The modest semi-detached house in Longridge was literally covered in pottery pigs. They were all different shapes and sizes and filled every surface, every shelf and she even had display cabinets full of them.
They came from many different countries. Some were souvenirs from various travels, others her family and friends had bought for her when they went away. She had pigs from Spain, Germany, Italy and Greece.
Grandad’s Amazing Collection
It was my grandfather who was the book reader in our family. I have mentioned him previously in this column as we were very close and it is him, to which I owe my passion for antiques. He was a great collector. He used to love visiting me when I was at school at Cambridge as he loved the many second hand book shops there.
When he died in 1973 he had books in bookcases, under the stairs, under tables and piled against the walls.
In one of his houses the spare bedrooms were full of books; they were everywhere. In 1975 his collection was sold by Sotheby’s and fetched an amazing £85,000. He certainly had an eye for a book of importance and value… not a bad return for a hobby!