Events: John English Gifts 2003

From Marilyn on 6th September 2003 and revised in 2006 and 2011. Please note that images of the Signing Event itself are only analogue scans of photos taken by Hazle and Stephen of Hazle Ceramics Limited.

Breakfast at Fortnums on 30th August 2003 from 10.30am

Front Jermyn Street
The Piccadilly frontage from
Duke & Jermyn Street corner from

As our train was running late I made a couple of pleas to Stephen from our mobile - Please Hold the Pastries. This was the only thing husband Chris was coming for! After a quick taxi dash across Central London, quiet for a Saturday, we caught up. At least one other couple at our table had a fraught journey. A bit like the Dickens Event... If I didn't know about our public transport, I'd think there was a jinx on Hazle Signings!

And so it was that we settled into the quiet opulence of St James' Restaurant on the Fourth Floor of Fortnum & Mason. A calm oasis of soft green and white. And being waited on by persons in uniform! It was breakfast or elevenses depending on your point of view - or the time you got up. I lost count of quite how many scrummy cakes Chris managed to eat - and so did he! Thank you Hazle and Stephen for laying on this treat.

Breakfast at Fortnums Breakfast at Fortnums

After ample opportunity to stuff and stare, it was time for The Talk, given by Robert Marsham who clearly relished the task. He has been at Fortnums since 1987 and is currently the Catering Manager. Many people think of Fortnums as a posh grocer. So it was fascinating to learn just how much The Story of Fortnum & Mason is interwoven with national and world events. A separate feature follows this.

Robert mentioned that Hazle might do a ceramic of Fortnum & Mason which brought the story back to us. After The Talk it was time for The Tour of the Store. The forty or so collectors were split into smaller groups each with a guide who showed us works of art and period features along the way (as in the photo below left).

In Gifts & Collectibles, we saw Russian trinket boxes with intricate hand paintings on gold and silver embossed lids. In Jewellery (photo below right) there was an unusual "star sapphire". All sapphires are polished first and any with an inner star are cut in a dome-shape rather than faceted, which would destroy it. We also saw an "emerald-cut" diamond. A snip at £120,000. Due to one very small area of misting under an electron microscope, it was classed as VVS1 and not "internally flawless". It was also colour E rather than a perfect D. That was the clincher - I decided not to buy! Chris, facing the camera below, could sigh with relief!!!

The Staircase Jewelry

Photo above: from fortnumandmasoncom. Everyone's inner child enjoyed the Toy Department with its emphasis on wooden and traditional. Christmas in full swing in August scared the adult in us! And then the Piece de Resistance - the Food Hall on the ground floor that collectors planned to return to after the Signing.

Fruit and Flowers
Fortnum's Fruit & Flowers © Andrew Dunn, 8 June 2005, Wikipedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Signing in Princes Arcade from 12.30pm

Signing Queueing to Pay

It was just a croissant throw to John English Gifts' temporary shop in Princes Arcade, above left. As forty people tried to squeeze in, the first hour or so was a sort of "feeding frenzy" of a far less genteel nature than Breakfast at Fortnums! Brian Pannaman had created special order forms in blue, pink and green. Trouble was neither Hazle (seated above), Stephen or Brian's helpers knew how to use them. Organised pandemonium... where eventually you carried your form/s to Brian, holding fort in his own tiny store at the far end of the arcade, above right, who took the money! The queue never quite stretched from one shop to the other...

From Marilyn in 2006 and 2011. With no digital camera on the day, we added some ceramics later:

Event Ceramics Selection

John English Gifts Megawear G Cox
John English Gifts 3 Mega Wear G Cox & Son
John English Gifts (No 3) LP100

This third version of John English, painted on London Prospect, was launched at the event. Hazle Ceramics and Staffordshire Enamels are intricately depicted inside the tiny window panes. The central top floor window has the John English logo - graphically hand-painted in italic script.

Mega Wear LP10

On Oxford St Giles, this is part of Iona's Camden Lock Series based on real-life funky shops in that area of London. There were other Camden Lock paintings including Fashion Frenzy, Boot World and World Foods.

G Cox & Son LP5

Until 2003 Hazle resisted the idea of doing specials on Liverpool M&S. Then that summer she accepted commissions for a Victorian grocer and a draper which turned out well. This painting combines both themes.

Police Pawnbroker Wool
Village Police Pawnbroker Wool Shop
Village Police LP10

Apart from a Police Station title on the Bury St Edmunds PO, this is the first piece on this theme. Painted on West Malvern with a traditional blue front as a Village Constabulary. Sadly these no longer exist.

Pawnbroker LP10

On Hay-on-Wye this is Hazle's second painting of the theme, with the first on Bath Chemist. The once familiar symbol of the Three Golden Balls, from the Italian Medici coat of arms, was brought to London by Lombard bankers. Positioning of the balls gives two chances to one that items at Uncle (slang from c1756) will be redeemed. There is a lot of gold paint on this piece, including the detailed windows, which really sparkles.

Wool Shop LP10

Again on West Malvern, this Wool Shop has a pretty window of knitted garments and wools.

Other Specials included a Shirtmakers on London Old Curiosity, the film In Which We Serve on the Smethwick cinema and a (London) Sandwich & Souvenirs Shop on London Small Shop with queue (aka Fish & Chips).

The Story of Fortnum & Mason continues on a separate page.

Last modified on 18 January, 2022
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