Royal wedding memorabilia passion spans 40 years for Stockport collector
PUBLISHED: 12:22 28 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:39 20 February 2013
Royal wedding souvenirs are just one aspect of the huge collection of memorabilia that Robin Hunt has been collecting at his Stockport home for four decades WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
When the world was buying up William and Kate mugs, plates and associated royal wedding paraphernalia, Robin Hunt was in pursuit of something a little more unusual.
On his hit list were cat food, a bingo dabber, posters from shop windows, beer mats and even an afternoon tea menu from The Ritz , all designed to mark the big day. Hes not interested in the things you might expect a seasoned collector to go for. He loves items that show a picture of society at that point in time.
Its a window into the past, said Robin, who lives in Stockport with wife, Anne. Most people probably think Im a nutter and that no-one in their right mind would keep something like royal wedding cat food.
Its the same with things like the afternoon tea menu at The Ritz and the messages of support stuck on posters in shops, no one ever thinks of keeping them. In 20 years time, people will either still think that Im a nutter or think that I had incredible foresight.
But thats what makes it worthwhile. These items take you back in time and you can see how vastly society has changed.
Other than a childhood dalliance with stamp collecting Robin didnt start his unwavering search for ephemera until 1972. He was a Spanish and French teacher at Peel Moat Comprehensive School, now Stockport College, and had an interest in the Spanish Civil War. It was the discovery of a newspaper in a junk shop in the town, containing reports from the war, which got him started.
He said: I remember thinking how fascinating it was. It had cost me about 25p.To have this information, this window into that time in society was an incredible prospect for me. I was hooked.
My ears prick up if I hear a new book shop or antique shops has opened. I cant wait to get down there and see what I can find. I spend most of my time doing it.
Now, the 71-year-old possesses more than 20,000 items of ephemera including tickets, invitations, cards and brochures. But he also collects jigsaws, silver spoons, chocolate bars and biscuits, calendars, compact mirrors, tiles, medals, horse brasses and thousands of documents, letters, posters and newspapers.
He scours junk, book and antique shops for hidden treasures and sometimes he strikes lucky. Some of his collection has been bought when historic houses and libraries have been trimming their archives. But a lot of the rare, valuable finds usually come at specialist ephemera fairs held in London.
In his royal memorabilia collection there are items from Edward VII coronation, the wedding ceremonials from James II nuptials and lots of newspapers featuring stories of Bonny Prince Charlies invasion of Scotland. He also has a lock of hair of Louis VXI, taken and kept by his one-time barber who passed it down through his family. It would have eventually sold to a collector. Robin also has all the invitations, menus and cards from the wedding of George V and Queen Marys wedding in 1893.
Having items like this showed us how opulent the lives of the Victorians were, said Robin. On the menu were five courses which included lots of meat. There was also a buffet for those who were still feeling hungry after the huge meal.
Another one is when George IV visited Scotland. Every minister, lord and member of nobility went. Not attending wasnt an option. As they entered their ticket was torn in two. But there was one lord who was ill and didnt go so his ticket was kept intact. I have that ticket.
Things like the lock of hair from Louis VXI, these items would get passed down but then it would reach a member of the family who didnt have an interest so it would be sold on. Its happens but it is a great shame these heirlooms leave the families.
Robin also collects crime-related items, including everything from execution broadsides to the newspapers containing the story behind the grizzly acts committed. One that stands out for him is the story of Burke and Hare, two men who dug up fresh bodies to sell to surgeons who wanted to practise their skills.
This was of course illegal, Robin said. But it was very lucrative. Surgeons would order them. But then Burke and Hare ran out of options and started murdering to get the bodies. I have everything from the newspapers from when the murders first happened, through the indictment, prosecution and eventual hanging and execution broadsides. Burke was hanged but Hare got off.
It is a little morbid and grizzly but its all about filling in the gaps of history and finding out what happened back then.
His other collecting passion is memorabilia from the French Revolution. He possesses valuable items from the battle of Waterloo including a letter about horses and carriages ordered by Louis XVIII who, fearing the battle would be lost, wanted to make his escape. But Prussian ally, Blucher, arrived in the nick of time. The tide turned and Waterloo was won by the allies.
As you might expect, Robins Stockport home is brimming with items. Wife Anne has declared the morning room, lounge and kitchen memorabilia-free rooms. She doesnt share his passion for collecting and jokes the items are bound for the skip one day. But Robin has earmarked several pieces to be bequeathed to the Commemorative Collectors Society, something that gives him reassurance.
He said: I do see myself as a custodian of sorts, although it does sound a little too pompous. But I have kept them and looked after them and hope there will be someone to pass these on to, someone that will be just as interested in them as I am.