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Who was Ronald Summerfield ?
Ronald Ernest Summerfield was born during the First World War in Derby, where his father ran a decorating business and his mother a hardware store. Unable to find work after leaving school, he displayed antiques in his mother’s shop before opening his own antiques shop in 1935.
In the early 1950s Ron moved to Cheltenham with his parents where his father bought him a shop in the Montpellier area of town (see photo, left, taken in 1978. Image courtesy of Terry Langhorn).
It did not take long before the flat above the shop became uninhabitable owing to surplus stock, so they purchased a large four-storey house in Bayshill Road which had previously been used as a nursing home. It was decided to let the rooms out, but as each room became vacant it was quickly filled by Ron with more stock, until only one tenant remained and the venture eventually folded.
After the death of his father the accumulation became more intense until his mother decided to return to live in Derby. Gradually he became less interested in selling the better pieces, keeping the best for his own pleasure and putting the lesser in his shop. Increasingly the shop was run for intellectual stimulation rather than reward. He developed a reputation of being a rather eccentric character, loving to haggle with customers and even refusing to sell at all if the mood took him.
He would often visit the local offices of Christie’s on the Promenade three or four times a day to discuss his latest finds or invite a member of staff to evaluate one of the many antiques he had stored at his home. The few people who were invited in to the house would find that getting through the front door was an adventure in itself. After squeezing along piles and piles of books and up the stairs, spotting valuable pieces half buried in the rubble, one would find the rooms were all full, the passages were impassable, and every piece of furniture was stuffed with small objects. There was no room for habitation. The obsession for collection lasted so long and had been so intense, that by the time Ron fully realised the problems he had caused himself, he no longer had the motivation to dispose of more than a fraction of it in his lifetime. NEXT > How Ron's collection came to benefit so many good causes in Gloucestershire and photographs of the house and shop contents