The History of Blairman's from 1884

Harris Blairmann came to England from Poland in the late 1870s. Little is known of his early life, but when he first arrived he worked for an antique dealer in Birmingham; shortly thereafter he set up on his own account.

The firm of Blairman was established in 1884, in Llandudno, on the North Wales coast. In those earliest days Harris Blairman dealt in contemporary, as well as old, decorative objects. He imported modern Dresden china, Noritake tea and coffee services, and sold ‘Grosvenor China’ supplied by Jackson & Gosling; there were also nineteenth-century Japanese ivories and other decorative oriental items, such as were popularised by Liberty’s in London.

In those early days, in addition to being a retailer, Harris Blairman, Martin Levy’s great grandfather, held auctions during the summer season, from premises at the end of the pier. The Llandudno shop is shown above with a parade passing the corner of Mostyn Street and Lloyd Street.

Harris was joined by his sons Philip and David. It is to Philip, shown here in his house in Cadogan Square towards the end of his life, that Blairman’s owes its development. At some point, probably the late 20s, having somewhat recovered from the traumas of active service in the Royal Flying Corp, Philip Blairman began to concentrate exclusively on what today would, in the main, pass as ‘genuine antique furniture and works of art’. By this stage not only had Philip set up premises in the northern spa town of Harrogate, but he had also established a showroom in London.

Among Philip Blairman’s greatest characteristics (apart from his love of fast cars) were his foresight and innovatory spirit. During the early decades of the twentieth century, considered wisdom had it that proper antique furniture more or less ceased to exist from any period after about 1800. But then individuals such as the playwright Edward Knoblock, and the architects Gerald Wellesley and Albert Richardson began to take seriously objects from the Regency period. They had all, for example, made purchases of furniture designed by the early nineteenth-century connoisseur and collector Thomas Hope, from the Deepdene sale. Philip Blairman must, in some way, have picked up on this trend, and became perhaps the first dealer to make a speciality of this area. In fact the firm was a buyer at the Hope Heirloom sales held in 1917 at Christie’s.

In 1949 Martin Levy’s father George decided to give up his burgeoning career as a cameraman with Ealing Studios. He joined Philip Blairman, a family friend, and from 1951 his father-in-law. Martin joined his father and mother (Philip’s daughter Wendy) in the mid-70s, and they enjoyed more than twenty years working together until George’s untimely death in 1996; Wendy died in 2006.

Blairman’s, which celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2014, is currently run by Martin Levy and his wife Patricia.