Special feature: ‘My lifelong love affair with antiques’

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop
Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop
  • Sally Turner was born into the antiques trade and has remained in it all her life. She has run shops in London and Wendover and even met her husband through her love of antiques - at the Olympia fair

After a lifetime in the antique business, mixing with royalty, MPs and film stars, softly spoken Sally Turner is shutting up shop.

Well, almost.

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Her shop on Wendover High Street - selling ceramics and glass, furniture, antique and contemporary jewellery, paintings and silver - is closing, but after a short well deserved rest, Miss Turner will continue to work in the trade she loves via her website.

She will be 60 this year and says she is tired. She is holding a sale at her shop, selling a lot of stock at cost price or less, and people now know she is leaving the 
shop.

She said: “I’m completely bowled over by the kind comments I have had from people and it makes me feel quite emotional. I’ve tried to work hard and kept my head under the parapet.

“I’m looking forward to not working quite so hard, there was a time during all those years when I didn’t have a holiday for nine years.”

I’ve been asked to be on television lots, but I’ve never wanted to be famous. I like to just get on with things. But I know most of the experts on the Antiques Roadshow and they are a nice bunch.

Sally Turner

Despite her enormous success - she had her first shop at the age of 24, and it was in a very expensive part of London, and she currently resides in a period property on the Aylesbury Road in Wendover – she is modest.

And unlike the celebrity obsessed culture we live in where everyone wants their five minutes of fame, Miss Turner has rejected several overtures from television.

Miss Turner said: “I’ve been asked to be on television lots, but I’ve never wanted to be famous. I like to just get on with things. But I know most of the experts on the Antiques Roadshow and they are a nice bunch.”

Just getting on with things is probably the key to Miss Turner’s quite incredible success.

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Her career started early. While she was still at school she used to go to auctions and antique fairs with her parents, who ran an antique shop in Cheltenham. It was at one of these that she met Princess Margaret.

She later met Margaret Thatcher and Dustin Hoffman at other fairs.

As a schoolgirl she bought Goss souvenir crested china and set up a stall outside her parents shop on Saturdays.

She said: “I liked the interaction with the customers and finding rare examples.”

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

After leaving school she spent some time working with her parents, and also in London, before the chance came to lease her own small shop in Pimlico Road, Chelsea.

She was just 24-years-old and had to borrow stock to fill the shop, as well as getting a loan from the bank to buy the lease.

By this time she was living in Wendover, but didn’t always manage to get home at nights.

She said: “I slept in the basement of the shop sometimes because I didn’t have enough money to pay for the petrol to get back home to Wendover. It was so cold, there was no central heating.”

After a spell living and working in Haddenham the opportunity came to buy the lease on the shop in Wendover High Street where she still is to this day, and so she moved back to the village.

She said: “It was daunting but exciting and friends helped me to decorate the shop. I moved all my stock from the barn in Haddenham to here.”

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Soon after, at the age of 36, she met her future husband Robert Major at Olympia Antiques Fair. She said: “I fell in love with him immediately.

“He was drop dead gorgeous, I don’t know how I managed to collar him.

“He was a cross between Roger Moore and Robert Redford.”

The couple married and had their daughter Charlotte, who will be 21 in May this year. Although Miss Turner continued to run her shop in Wendover the family lived in Ealing.

Sadly, after just eight years of marriage, Mr Major died from pancreatic cancer in 2000, and Miss Turner later returned to live in Wendover with their daughter.

The most memorable item Miss Turner has dealt with during her career was an early 19th century painting by Gainsborough’s nephew Gainsborough Dupont, which was bought by the National Portrait Gallery.

For now there are plenty of bargains to be had in the shop sale before it closes for good on May 2, but Miss Turner will remain as a vital presence in the village.

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop

Sally Turner at her Wendover antiques shop