• By Barry Aucott
  • 10 Aug, 2017


A little over a week later and The Personal Choice returns! I suppose this week is already somewhat different than last. These are items I was able to pick out and Photograph, so what better for the Personal Choice?

So I suppose Glass isn’t for everyone, and I wouldn’t even say it’s something for me entirely. The very idea of dropping or chipping one of these isn’t worth the thought. Unless you don’t own it then it’s almost free reign.

But it might actually be more of my “whimsy” side or “eccentric” – a word that gets thrown around when describing someone who is British. Or so says Frasier, so it’s up to debate on that one.

When I was presented with a cabinet of wears, large decorative Jugs, unusual Glass Bowls… a Harry Potter Toast Rack… Anyone who knows me would easily assume I’d pick out the Cockerel, Fish and Herons etc. To me, that’s interesting, nice craftsmanship, lovely mixture of colours. Did I mention it’s a Cockerel?

I suppose the beauty of Antiques is that there is something for everyone, I’m not sure what that says about me with Nostalgic Telephones and Glass Cockerels, throw in my obsession with Comic-books and Wrestling and it’s starting to paint a weird picture.

So what can I tell you about these nifty little and actually rather large pricey Antiques? They are made of glass, and shaped to represent creatures. They’re like timely expensive Balloon Animals. Something I don’t think the Antique world has yet opened its arms to relish in the beauty of that particular trade.

No, we have all kinds of Glass items, like the Italian Herons and Seooso Bird, the Retro “Murano” Fish, one of which is Lamp Base, yes that is in fact relevant information.

It’s not just the Glass Animals though, we have a vast array of Vase’s, sculptures and even a Sun-catcher.

Make sure to head on over to and browse them all and then come pay us a visit and put on your Rummage hats!

Astra Antiques - Blog

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

Astra Antiques’ much anticipated two-storey extension has had a breath of new life. The extension now stands proudly to the rear of the old World War 2 “H” Block, complete with its roof and windows. Though the “finished” product is still a ways off. No matter the planning or determination, trying to get a project of this size into a streamlined process is no easy feat. However having the extension built, and accessible is a brand new way to envision its sheer size and layout. The internal access points have also been opened up into Astra Antiques, so that we can get inside for measuring, planning, wiring and lighting.

It’s felt like the last few months have been a slow process, but anyone that is a regular visitor of Astra Antiques Centre will have no doubt noticed the number of changes that are taking place internally in the Centre. We have a whole list of jobs to have completed before we can even legally open the extension, so everything is a process, and every job has an order. It takes being able to focus on one project and turn it into multiple smaller projects. Not to mention, these custom built war time buildings, weren’t built with modifications in mind, trying to drill a hole turns into a day’s work with a new pack of drill bits in pieces on the floor.

The scaffolding remains to the outside of the extension, as more work is still due for completion. I believe the biggest job to be completed is the polished concrete floor that will be poured and levelled. This is just for the ground floor level, and then it is just a matter of tidying up and ticking off the remaining jobs.

That is to complete the builders part in this extension, which leaves the lighting, wiring, partitioning and decorating jobs all ready to be started.

There is a long road ahead before the extension can be officially ticked off the “completed” list, but it’s an exciting time for everyone involved, as it adds so much to the Centre on a whole, and will make Astra Antiques Centre the largest Centre in terms of selling space on site at Old RAF Hemswell.

For more information on the Extension – Or Available Space to Rent

Do get in touch with us on:

01427 668312 /

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

With the Steel Work in place it was only a matter of time before the shell of the extension started to take shape. The Brick work had begun although the traditional British weather decided to keep work to a minimum with heavy down pours. Though after a while, things started to come together.

At first it was just a few layers here and there which created the impression of the wall being built. Seeing the wall, no matter how small, is a strange thing to finally be observing. Despite every step on this journey leaving us all with the same feelings of awe, perhaps finally seeing the outside wall come to life, was the first time it really let you imagine the scope of this extension.

It felt like a long time to start seeing the extension take form, then all of a sudden, the entire wall was completed, including the gaps for the new windows and doors, all ready to move to the upper level.

As it is now, this blank face of a new building, built up with its entrance way and windows, with towering structures of scaffold makes it an intimidating, impressive sight. It’s easy now to start visualising exactly where spaces will be, how the walls all connect and fit together, yet it’s also easy to forget that there is still a lot of work to be completed.

When the floors are in, and the upper level starts appearing, I imagine it will be a whole different structure, with an entirely different perspective.

For more information on the Extension – Or Available Space to Rent

Do get in touch with us on:

01427 668312 /

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

The extension hit a couple of brick walls recently, which has delayed the project for the last month. A mixture of asbestos surveys, and delays on the steel work brought the entire building work to a sudden and unplanned stop.
Thankfully though, that was last month.Everything has picked up pace again and the project is moving forward, solidly aiming at that August completion date.

The steel was all ordered at the end of May & at the start of June was delivered promptly. The entire steel structure was built, constructed and up within days. Seeing the inner support of the extension really sheds new light on the build. It’s not until you see the sheer size of the project & think “are we mad? why are we doing this?” but it’s actually happening, & will soon be completed.

For more information on the Extension – Or Available Space to Rent

Do get in touch with us on:

01427 668312 /

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

It’s been a noisy couple of weeks, but the work has progressed nicely and on schedule. The first task for the builders was digging up the ground, prepping it for the new foundation and Extension. This resulted in 40x lorry loads of dirt and rubble being removed. Yet alas, no discovery of long buried and forgotten World War 2 treasures were found. Sorry to disappoint those enthusiasts.

Once the ground work had reached its initial completion, it was on to structural work, creating numerous holes in the walls and ground getting ready for the steel support structure. This in turn meant that a couple of the original windows needed to be removed and bricked up, but when the extension is completed this work will only enhance what the building has to offer.

For more information on the Extension – Or Available Space to Rent

Do get in touch with us on:

01427 668312 /

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

The planned two storey Extension at Astra Antiques Centre has now started.

This extension is to fill in the rear gap between the old “H” block design. Essentially making Astra Antiques Centre one full square shaped building. We are hoping to have the building work finished by late Summer 2016.

The plan has been going on for a while now waiting for that perfect time to get it off the ground and moving forward.

The first step was the mammoth task of emptying the original two out-buildings used as Storage space. No easy job given these were both filled to their limits over the course of the last ten years, packed to the ceiling with hidden treasures.

Now that the Out-Buildings have been dismantled and taken down, the next step in this journey is laying the footing for the new-build.

Looking at the back of Astra Antiques Centre now, without the out-buildings attached, suddenly brings to life the idea of just how big of a space it is going to create and how it will add so much to the Centre on a whole.

Inquiries have started coming and space / cabinets already let for the extension. So if you are a quality Antiques Dealer looking to sell in an established busy Antiques Centre – then Astra Antiques, one of the largest Independent Centres in the UK, on the biggest Antiques Hub in Europe with the best Rental Rates on site is the perfect place to set up shop.

For more information on the Extension – Or Available Space to Rent

Do get in touch with us on:

01427 668312 /

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

Welcome back to the Astra-Antiques Blog!

Today we’re going to do something a little bit different, don’t worry, The Personal Choice #5 is in the works, but today we are going to fully focus on just one item.

This particular item carries with it a rather interesting History, so it is easily worth the effort and worth a read.

The item in question and therefore the history associated to it goes by many names, but it best known as:

L’Inconnue de la Seine  –The Unknown Woman of the Seine”

A couple of days ago a Customer brought a rather unusual item into Astra Antiques.

A Plaster Cast Mask that “has a rather interesting Story attached to it”.

This story isn’t anything we had come across before, so it caught our attention and our curiosity.


The story, or at least as it is commonly told, takes place in the early 1880’s as a Young Woman’s body is pulled out of the Seine River in France.

This young woman seemingly came out of nowhere. No history to her face, no name to her legend. There were no marks found on her body to suggest any type of Murder or struggle, so the cause of Death has always been linked with Suicide.


The Pathologist who worked at the Paris Morgue was so taken by her beauty, her “Mona Lisa Smile” that he had a Wax Plaster Cast Death Mask made of her face.

To this day her identity remains unknown, all that is known about whoever she was, is that she was probably around the age of 16 years old, and suspected of committing suicide by drowning in the Seine River.

That’s the morbid part of the story over and done with. Well, not that replicas of her dead face is a cheery more uplifting topic, but you get the idea.


The unknown girl was soon to find a Fame in death, she couldn’t achieve in life as replicas of the Death Mask were produced, becoming quite the popular fixture in Artist’s homes in the early 1900’s.

Apparently her likeness was further popularised when young German girls started to model themselves after her. The Lady of the Seine’s reach didn’t stop there, as it is believed German Actress Elisabeth Bergner was also influenced by her style.

The Story of the unknown woman of the Seine would inspire those around her even more. The story slowly seep its way into various Literature. Not just French literature, but German, English, Russian and American literature.


If that wasn’t enough, her Legacy goes further. The Lady of the Seine is also known for having “the most kissed lips”.

To help emergency workers and the general public learn the basics of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), a Doll was to be created to teach such acts.

This doll would become Rescue Anne (Resusci Anne), developed by the Austrian-Czech physician Peter Safar and Norwegian toy maker Asmund Laerdal.

Recue Anne just needed a face, and who better than the likeness of the Lady of the Seine.

Now The Lady of the Seine – the Unknown Woman of the Seine the L’Inconnue de la Seine has a place at Astra Antiques.

You can view her in all her Glory over on our website –

Or if you’re coming into the centre, just let us know, and we shall happily introduce you.


As the person who took the photographs, I can tell you that the mask certainly holds a rather strange Atmosphere about it.

But then, it could be the fact it’s a little bit creepy.


Still, that’s the beauty of Antiques and the Antiques World! Nothing is off limits… even faces.


Till next time, head on over to our website and make sure to come visit our Centre!

If you would like to join our Mailing List for new content, shoot an e-mail across to – .

We’d love to hear from you!

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

With the 10 year anniversary of Astra Antiques, at least in the form it is now, we brought forward the “10 years on” blog post.

Many thanks to those who read it, it is something we are most proud of.

But like any idea, the seed that started it, isn’t the end, only the beginning.

Which brings us to this, our new Blog idea, collecting answers from those in the Antiques Trade and showing them to the world!

So a big thank you goes out to Charles Hanson from Hanson’s Auctioneers for being our first response!

Their weighty Auction magazine is probably something you are quite familiar with, but what about the man himself.

Much like Astra Antiques’ fearless leader, we were curious of how people started in the Trade, what was it that got them interested and hooked, to pursue Antiques as their chosen career.

“My interest was first sparked in antiques by my interest in history, visiting country houses and learning about life from times gone by, I knew I’d become an auctioneer by the age of fourteen”.

Something that always interests me, is where did the heart first want to go? Or perhaps you always imagined yourself in a different kind of career. I think it’s fascinating for those who have managed to achieve their goals and dreams, but yet still wonder what they might have been, should their cards be dealt in a different order.

“Should I not have become involved with antiques, I would have chosen a career as a lawyer”.

For those of you wondering, Antiques as a whole cover a vast array of different items. Almost anything could be classed as an Antique, something we at Astra are proud of, is our variety in our items. The Retro items and fashion to watches, military, glass, silver, furniture and all kinds of nifty little trinkets.

But what in this big midst of items, do people chose to specialise in, that choice I’m sure isn’t one you chose consciously, but one you are drawn to as an interest.

Charles Hanson has his chosen areas, and lets us know his greatest discovery!

“The areas (of) antiques I favour, are silver, ceramics and glass. My greatest discovery as an auctioneer was a Chinese vase selling for £192,000”.

As someone who has the responsibility of running an Antiques website, not to mention blog, it’s at times daunting to see these Historic items, and then match them up with the ever growing Digital Age of the present and future.

Everything is moving on the Internet, shops are shutting down, because the reach and trade is far greater at everyone’s fingertips the world over. Books are going digital, cheaper to produce, don’t take up the space, you can literally take hundreds of books everywhere on one tiny device.

How do Antiques live in this era? Can they even survive in this era? I certainly am a little stumped at how to take Antiques and mix them into podcasts, or Internet video, where is their slice of the market and can they thrive?

“Antiques will certainly survive the digital age, but we mustn’t forget the art of handling objects and going to auctions for the experience of seeing objects with like for like”. Says Charles Hanson, he adds “The Antiques world can be modernised by not complaining about how difficult the market is – you can succeed in any field if you work hard and take the opportunities offered”.

One of the biggest issues with this Digital Age, is that the new generations are born into it. They never knew life without the Internet, without being in touch with people constantly, without entertainment mere seconds away, anywhere.

Of course some people are interested in their select fields, and by observing our own Customers and those surrounding our Antiques Hub, there is a fairly large amount of the younger generation browsing the wares. But I wouldn’t be surprised to know they were still the majority of the Antiques target audience.

“I would encourage the younger generation to get involved and be interested in antiques by looking at the ‘green’ nature of antiques, their heritage, and the ‘life’ of an antique – if it could talk, what would it tell us”.

And last but not least, we hope and imagine, that if you are reading this very blog, you to have an interest in Antiques, maybe you’re a dealer, maybe you own your own centre, perhaps just a collector. However if you are looking to get involved in the Antiques trade, then Charles Hanson offers you his parting advice:

“My advice for anyone starting out in the antiques business – visit antiques shops, visit auction rooms, go to stately homes and invest time in considering the history and quality of items”.

So there you have it folks, hope you enjoyed our first entry in our Antiques Trade Personalities interviews.

A Big thank you goes out to Charles for getting involved, and if you too would like to help us out, do contact us on , we would be happy to hear from you.

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

Just over 10 years ago, Barry Aucott took over the Astra Antiques Centre. Which means the Astra that you all know and love, is now 10 years old.

So in light of the occasion, the manager himself has a few words to say on his start in the Trade, his passion for the business, and his look back on the last 10 years.

Our 10 Years at Astra Antiques Centre.

“My love of Antiques started as a child, I grew up in Leicester and close to where I lived was this old tip. To most it was a dumping ground, a way to get rid of that tat which cluttered up their homes. But kids being kids and boys being boys, I used to go down there and mess around with my friends. We would find old bottles and items people just dumped, either because it was old or just old fashioned. I enjoyed messing around and tinkering with some of these items or making something different with them, turning old prams into Go-Karts, fully kitted out dens / War Rooms to plot World-Domination, or at least that of the local area.

One of my first memories of dealing was when I was around 8 or 9 years old, I came across a Desk Blotter, with a carved Bear handle. My Mum took me into town that Saturday as it was market day and I remember selling the Desk Blotter to a dealer for around £6.50. Thus sparked my initial interest and passion to what would become my career. Despite a few deviations here and there, and falling in and out of love with the trade, my passion has always remained intact. To me, there is no better fix than finding that beautiful and unusual object.

I’ve been around and had dealings with Astra Antiques since 1998, and then owner Mick Frith. As luck would have it, in 2004 Mick decided to call it a day and sell the Centre, and so I packed up in the Building Trade and took on a whole different kind of venture. Literally overnight I went from being a part-time dealer, to a full Antiques Centre owner.

I had a vision, and a drive to achieve, wanting to take Astra Antiques, a Centre within the Hemswell Hub and make it one of the best Centres in the UK. Everything from pushing the advertising, expanding the business, being one of the first to go online in 2005 and have its own website to just sorting out the building itself. Re-painting and tidying from the floor to the ceiling and re-branding Astra by updating and modernising the business.

My background in the building trade obviously played a huge roll with the Centre too, our beautiful Decodence café was imagined, designed and built by myself. Our café is now a proud and popular attraction, growing by itself almost separately to our Antique’s trade.

Since I took over Astra in July of 2004, things have been a little bit different in how I view the trade. Sure that passion is still there, but it is increasingly harder to muster 10 years on. Astra has grown so much that the Business side takes over almost every minute of every day. I am constantly thinking of how to solve problems, how to expand, how to bring in new ideas, how do we take Antiques and present them in a new light in this digital age. This thinking and the general running of the business takes me out of the actual dealings of the Antiques trade and to an extent, drains the fun and enjoyment out of it.

However Astra is blessed to have some great customers, tenants and staff that help to get us through those bad times. Not losing that passion, and continuously pushing for that growth, is my dedication, and I hope that my enthusiasm and passion rubs off and makes their day better.

To mark the 10 year Anniversary, Astra Antiques is expanding. We have a brand new website, this very blog, and a large extension underway. The extension is the main one, not to just expand on our size and items, but to include a new Teaching facility, running courses in all the different aspects of Restoration and Conservation for Antiques.


In whatever way you view Antiques, old items, collectables, history, they have consumed my life from my passion to my business. Astra Antiques embodies my love for them, and has given me the gift to take that passion, and turn it into my gateway to meet new people, have a different outlook on life and a career I always wanted.


As somebody once said “Antiques are the silent witness to our History”, to me, Astra Antiques is the voice to my own.


A Big thank you to all for making it a really good 10 years.

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

Welcome back to The Personal Choice! Yes it’s time for Issue #5 and I know, it’s been longer than anticipated to get things done and been a fair gap since the Last Blog Post.

However we are here now and it is getting done.

I would like to take the time to ask those of you for read this, to just leave a Comment, join in on the Discussion and let’s start some memories! That sounded as lovely, convoluted and corny as could be!

…Just the way I like it.

This is a Subject I’m sure most will have a good “Two Cents” about. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it, which is a daft thing to say given that I know exactly how I feel about it. But then nothing makes me happier than confusing folk. Good thing I deal with Customers.

So what is it about Taxidermy that is appealing? It certainly dates back as long as you would imagine and is an Art born out of the pride of Hunters.

 “Preserving animal skins has been practiced for a long time. Embalmed animals have been found with Egyptian mummies.

Although embalming incorporates the use of lifelike poses, it is not considered taxidermy. In the Middle Ages, crude examples of taxidermy were displayed by astrologers and apothecaries. The earliest methods of preservation of birds for natural history cabinets were published in 1748 by Reaumur in France. Techniques for mounting were described in 1752 by M. B. Stollas. There were several pioneers of taxidermy in France, Germany, Denmark and England around this time. For a while, clay was used to shape some of the soft parts, but this made specimens heavy.” – Wikipedia

Though Taxidermy goes back a long way, it really became a Fixture during the Victorian Era – 1920’s. John Hancock is considered the “father” of Modern taxidermy, by reducing the more crude methods of the art and perfecting something that would look much more lifelike.

This new enhanced method of Taxidermy and the results it produced became rather popular. Not only to be exhibited, but to become something many would include in their own homes.


Taxidermy has gone through many variations as you would imagine, everything from just displaying your “prize” as a Trophy to then creating scenes as “Anthropomorphic taxidermy” like putting Animals in a Human context, such as a Rabbit School.

Rogue Taxidermy is something that peaks my interest, I don’t think it should. People would artificially add extras onto Animals, or indeed use various different Animals and put them together to create strange creatures, usually those of Myth and Legend.

The Jackalope, Griffin, Mermaids etc.

Though this isn’t viewed as true Taxidermy, it obviously is an Evolution of the Art.

Which brings us to Astra Antiques, we house many Taxidermy creatures through-out our Centre and Taxidermy items seems to be on the rise once more.

But as you would imagine, such a thing as Taxidermy is obviously met with a lot of controversy and dislike – rightfully so.

Where do I stand on Taxidermy?

Personally, I find it a little creepy. As someone who needs to handle the items and photograph them, I’m not a huge fan, but I am hugely fascinated.

How often do you get to see these Creatures, this close, in their almost truest glory? As someone who enjoys Photography and nature, being able to be that close and take those Photo’s was quite a treat.

So my final judgement comes down to where I believe most would be, I have no problems with Taxidermy, should the Animal died of natural causes. I don’t like Hunting and I dislike the idea that Animals would be hunted purely for this need, to me, that is an irrelevant, destructive cause.


Though what’s done is done, my personal favourite Taxidermy pieces we have here at Astra would be the Ferret (who is now sold) – though I dislike that he is portrayed aggressively, where Ferrets are actually rather tame, playful and loving creatures – should they be domesticated. If they are used for Hunting, then you might want to stay clear.

My absolute favourite would be the Genet – a create I actually wasn’t sure what it was, this took a little bit of Research and when you find them, see them, it’s hard not to love them.

Where do you stand on Taxidermy?

Do you have any?

Would you have any?


Let us know in the comments below and as always check out

By Barry Aucott 10 Aug, 2017

Welcome back to The Personal Choice.

Something that seems to be rather difficult is breaking through the “mainstream”. You would think an Antiques centre that is packed with items, packed with so much historic value that something would seem easier about it.

We can literally just walk and find old telephones, sun glasses, furniture, chess sets, lamps, you name it and we have it.

So why is it hard to try and do anything with it all? That is a conundrum I’m sure we and many other Centres face.

Yet we carry on in our stride, work through our woes and find solutions.

One might even say “find a light in the dark”.

Which of course is the nice little Segway to The Personal Choice….. Lamps!

Yes I went Lamp Crazy a little while back, finding a number of Figurine based Lamps from the vintage to the posh! But what is it about them that I personally found endearing?

Lighting is crucial, not to mention the perfect lit setting can achieve a number of results, emotions, effects and that little thing we all know as visibility.

So why wouldn’t the actual lamp itself, not only be the source of light, but the embodiment of its own self-created beauty.

The old Authentic Hurricane lamps as an example. I went on a recent purge to locate a fair number of these to put up on the website, there is literally just something about them.

As someone who enjoys a gritty tale, the Hurricane Lamps and Lanterns represent a certain image, a certain tone. They have been brought back by media and pop culture, those who might be familiar with Wrestling will know of their use for the Wyatt Family. The upcoming Video Game – The Order 1886 uses them in their own fictional Victorian setting.

There use as an emergency light source will obviously remain intact, but they have been able to create a certain mystique about themselves that I feel will last longer.

Modern (admittedly cheaper plastic / metal) variations are around more than ever to buy. Yet with the prices, age and dignity that these hold themselves after living and working through the events they were created for, wouldn’t you want one of those instead?

Just after photographing them and putting them on the website, the interest sparked up, a number of the lamps I chose have already been sold. So if you’re wanting to spice up your collection or find a certain style for the up and coming Halloween, the Hurricane Lamp might just do the trick!


You could make a fair argument about the Hurricane Lamps being a more “ugly” design, though not personally, I rather like the designs. Yet you can’t dispute the attractiveness of the Victorian Oil Lamps.

There are quite a number scattered around our Centre here at Astra Antiques, the ones I chose to put on the website though caught my eye with a certain something.

The Bristol Blue Oil Lamp, one of the tallest in the collection, a beautiful royal blue glass body makes a very decorative piece regardless of its functionality. The brass fluted chimney also has a similar effect, of course the brass itself is of a less striking colour, but the design on the flute is what makes it appealing.

Yet my personal favourite is the Turquoise Lamp, a smaller model with carry handle, not to mention the turquoise colouring gives it that little bit of an edge over the other models.

It is the main Lamps though that might perhaps hold something a little bit different.

Although some of these have stunning glass lamp shades filled with beautiful colours that I can only imagine how they would look once illuminated. But it might actually be the bases themselves that are what makes these interesting.

Fully crafted figurines or scenes, capturing a moment, telling a story and being illuminated like actors in the spotlight.

Lighting can make a house a home, and these add that certain spice of character and rather than just being a source, become a part of your décor.

So be sure to head on over to and check out all of our Lighting and Lamps range and as always, take a trip to our centre, because even we are amazed by what we find!

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Till next time!

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