The National Glass Collectors Fair

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An Interview with Ian Turner

This article first appeared in The Glass Cone, Summer 2003, Issue 64, a periodic publication of the Glass Association and is reproduced with their permission.

How did your collection start?

Ian Turner with his first piece of Monart Glass.
Ian Turner with his first piece of Monart glass. Photo courtesy of
Very much by accident. Hilary and I started going to antiques fairs in the early 1980's when she was interested in Shelley porcelain. On one such occasion I wandered off and found a big mottled pink vase, which the dealer said he thought was Monart, but he wasn't sure because there was no label and nothing had been published about this sort of glass. I bought it because I liked it and then, at the next Stafford Bingley Hall Fair, I found myself standing next to an elderly man who was talking to a stall-holder about a piece of glass on her stand which she thought was Monart. The man she was talking to wasn't sure about it because the pontil mark "wasn't right". After he had moved on, I asked the dealer who he was. She said that his name was Cyril Manley and that 'what he doesn't know about glass isn't worth knowing'. She had sold glass to Cyril before, and so she gave me his telephone number.

I rang him, told him that I was interested in Monart Glass, and received an invitation to go to his house to have a look at his collection. When I got there I found not only that Cyril had a huge glass collection, which included some very nice pieces of Monart that are illustrated in his book 'Decorative Victorian Glass', but that Paul Ysart, its maker, was a personal friend. Friends for nearly 50 years, both were by then widowers who were almost housebound and lonely, and they used to call each other on alternate Fridays to chat about glass.

After a couple of very late night visits to Cyril’s home, by which time I had started to learn more about both the Ysart family and their glassware and paperweights, it was obvious to me that, unless someone researched its history by interviewing Paul Ysart and the other workmen at Moncrieffs in Perth where it had been made, the history of this glass would be lost forever. So, that’s what I did.

How did you go about that?

Well, I joined the Glass Association, and got a lot of encouragement and help from Charles Hajdamach and Roger Dodsworth at Broadfield House. Through the Association I got to meet other collectors who were into research. But in truth my greatest break came from Cyril Manley. He gave me an introduction to Paul Ysart, and during 1984 and 1985 I made several long journeys to Paul's home in Lyth near Wick.

I interviewed him at length about the whole of his life, including his childhood in France when his father worked at the Schneider factory, as well as his own working life at Moncrieffs in Perth and later at Caithness Glass in Wick. Without these personal reminiscences the facts about the French connection might have been lost. I also went back to the North British Glassworks in Perth and interviewed some of the people who had worked with Paul before he left Moncrieffs to become the Master Glassblower and Training Officer at Caithness in 1963. Betty Reid, who was the dispatch clerk at Moncrieffs from 1944 until 1982, was very helpful, and when she died in 1993 she left me all the factory pattern books and other Monart archives that she had been able to 'rescue' from a skip after Monart production ceased. Again, without people like her, this important part of Scotland’s manufacturing history would have been lost.

How did you put your collection together?

Ian Turner with part of his collection.

Ian Turner with part of his collection.
Photo courtesy of

For the first few years I bought a lot of pieces at antiques fairs and from antiques shops in Scotland, and then in 1985 I bought Cyril Manley's own collection just before he sold the rest at auction in 1986. I then wrote a couple of articles about Monart, one for the catalogue for the 'British Glass Between The Wars' Exhibition at Broadfield House in 1987.

There was such a big increase in prices that it almost forced me out of the Monart market for a few years, particularly when Michael Parkington fell in love with it and had dealers searching the length and breadth of the country for every good piece that came onto the market. This continued after the publication of the book 'Ysart Glass' (to which Ian was a major contributor), but after Michael Parkington's death I went to both his sales, at Christie’s, and selected some of the best pieces from his collection which complemented my own. I also bought selectively from Frank Andrews and later from Nigel Benson, the only two dealers who have specialised in this kind of glass.

Didn't you acquire some of your pieces from Paul Ysart himself?

Yes. I was very fortunate to be able to buy some of his personal pieces of Monart when he eventually moved from Lyth into a retirement home in Wick.

What will happen to the Monart archives?

I shall give the factory pattern books and the lamp catalogues to Perth Museum and Art Gallery in memory of Betty Reid, but there will be one or two of my own bits of Ysart memorabilia in the sale.

Are you keeping any back?

Only a few small and broken pieces which have no real value; I shall keep these to illustrate a lecture that I give on Twentieth Century Scottish Art Glass.

Why are you giving up your collection now?

For a combination of reasons: partly because I can't find any new pieces that I desperately want to buy at a price that I can afford, and partly because I've run out of space in which to display it all. Acquiring and owning such a large collection has given me a lot of pleasure, but I enjoy collecting, and when the collection has become static, as mine has been for the past few years, some of the fun has gone. So, very reluctantly, I've come to the conclusion that I should sell what I've got and start collecting something else.

How are you going to dispose of your collection?

It will be offered for sale by Christie's South Kensington on September 24 2003 as a single owner Monart sale. I shall be helping to compile the catalogue, so that I can attach a provenance to all the important pieces, including those from Cyril Manley's collection and the Parkington collection.

Will you miss it?

Very much so, but I've already started to collect twentieth century factory art pottery, and that will take my mind off it for a while.

End of Interview


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