Westland London: Antiques in Spectacular Surroundings
Westland London is an antiques dealer specialising in prestige antique fireplaces, ranging from Gothic and Renaissance to Victorian and Art Deco, from Europe and beyond.
It’s the largest collection of antique chimneypieces in the country, numbering around 750 pieces in total.
The company’s clients come from all over the world and include rock stars and Hollywood actors.
As well as fireplaces, the company deals in antique fire grates, architectural elements, lighting, chandeliers and ornamentation.
The company was established by Geoff Westland in 1969, initially specialising in 18th and 19th Century English furniture and decorative elements.
In 1977 Westland moved into its Shoreditch home, following significant restoration work to the previously derelict church.
During the 1980s the company’s emphasis began to shift towards extraordinary antique fireplaces and other grand architectural items for the interior and exterior.
Since the 1990s Westland’s focus has been on finding, restoring and presenting an expansive collection of pieces of all styles, epochs and provenances.
The church setting evolved into a labyrinthine series of galleries whose vaulted ceilings and atmospheric corners displayed the collection to its best advantage.
Westland antiques now reside in Willesden Green, in North West London.
But where did this fascination with fireplaces spring from?
Director Maggie Westland says: “There is a deep human need to have some sort of focus in a room. A fireplace is a gathering place – a place to escape the busyness of outside and find calm.
“There’s something almost magical about staring into a fire. It always provides some cosiness or comfort.”
Each fireplace has its own character and is redolent of its historical and social origin.
Exploring Westland’s stunning collection, you can’t help wondering where these fireplaces might once have stood. Who might have sat in front of them, gazing into the flames?
One French Regency-style fireplace from the 19th Century was originally in the drawing-room of Brook House in Mayfair.
Brook House was built between 1867 and 1869 for Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Lord Tweedmouth, and was later home to Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and his wife, Edwina.
The interior of the house was strongly influenced by French design.
The magnificent fireplace was made to accommodate an intricate marble panel depicting the greek sea goddess Amphitrite riding a dolphin, surrounded by mermaids and mermen.
The staff of Westland London see themselves as custodians of history, preserving these remarkable pieces to be enjoyed by future generations.
The oldest piece in the collection is an extremely rare Venetian Gothic-Renaissance chimneypiece from around 1460. It’s made of Pietra d’Istria marble from the Istrian Peninsula near Venice and is attributed to sculptor Giorgio de Sebenico.
Delicate jambs support the exquisitely carved mantel, which has survived amazingly well considering its incredible age.
If clients request it, the company’s highly-skilled restoration department painstakingly repairs any damage to restore the pieces to their former glory.
Anthony Bridgman, Director and Head of Restoration, is a multi-skilled restorer who knows his way around wood, metal, marble, glass, ceramics – just about any material you can think of.
As well as conserving these important pieces of artistic and architectural history, Anthony believes his restoration department is conserving increasingly rare skills.
“Antique restoration is a dying art. Children don’t learn these sorts of skills in school anymore. We’re keeping them alive.”
Westland London’s collection has to be seen to be fully appreciated. You could easily lose hours exploring its sprawling reaches.
It’s open for visitors Monday to Saturday, and you can also browse its full collection online.
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