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Blue Mountains Tourist : Autumn 2009
Of Teapots and Scones Y ou’d think that in a shop with more than 3,000 teapots you’d be able to get a good cup of tea – and you’d be right. Some say that Bygone Beautys Antique Centre & Tearoom at Leura sells the best Devonshire Teas in the Blue Mountains. And it isn’t by accident, either. Joint owners Ronald Hooper (top left) and Maurice Cooper (top right) are fastidious about the business – from everything to personally shopping for the best ingredients to preparing and maintaining the exceptional displays of antiques, jewellery and – of course – teapots. Maurice does the shopping while Ron gets the shop ready for visitors, and when they aren’t doing that, serving customers or selling antiques, they are always on the lookout for yet another teapot. “We have the world’s largest private collection of teapots,” says Maurice. “We have 3,000 on display and another 800 odd within the collection.” They include a 300-year-old cast iron Chinese teapot, an Australian pan teapot, and examples of Art Deco, Staffordshire and items of Wedgwood, one of which dates back to 1792. “Many people visit us specifically to see the collection and every now and then we get a chance to add a treasure.” Maurice tells the story of a particularly good piece picked up from a most unlikely source. “Ron comes in to tell me there’s a gentleman outside with some New Guinea artifacts for sale – would we be interested? ‘What would we do with them,’ I exclaim! ‘Very well,’ says Ron dryly, ‘I’ll send the gentleman away.’ Guilt overcomes me and I consent to go outside in the cold to have a look. “The artifacts, inherited from his grand-father, are on the back seat of a beat up Torana. Most are garage sale stuff at best – however, some of it could be valuable so I offer to give him the name and address of someone who might be interested. “I am about to go back inside and the fellow says: ‘The boot is full, too’ – so I get him to open it up. And there, among a collection of artifacts, many of them phallic, I spot a teapot! ‘Now, I’m interested in that,’ I tell him – pointing to the teapot. ‘It’s Royal Doulton,’ he says. ‘I know, I reply – a pity the lid is missing.’ ‘No, it’s somewhere in the boot,’ he says and after a quick search produces the lid. ‘How much do you want for it?’ I ask. ‘I would not sell it for any less than $...’ he says and named a figure. “I thought it was a little dear if I was reselling – but what the heck – am I a teapot collector or not? ‘Done!’ I said. “We completed the paperwork and the man went away happy with his price, but Ron raised his eyebrows when he heard what I’d paid for it. However, I saw it as a valuable addition to our collection and one whose market value was about twice what I had paid. “On further examination I discovered it was made in 1939, the year they ceased production because of the war. They made only 100 that year – it was worth 20 times what I had paid!” 16 www.bluemountainstouristnewspaper.com.au autumn 2009