Posted on: 4 January 2022

The Alison Barker Estate, A Lifetime of Collecting : January 2022

Alison Barker (1951 – 2021), a retired Barrister-at-law and lifetime collector of the curious, the carved and the archaic. 

Alison Barker (1951 – 2021)

Alison achieved a degree in Law from Birmingham University and was one of only a handful of women to graduate in her year.  Following her degree, she went on to practice law in London as a Barrister at the Temple.

Frequent family holidays as a child had ignited the historian in her, and Alison immersed herself in history with a hunger for knowledge.  Her collection gave her a vehicle for researching the historical eras which she truly loved, namely the Egyptian, Roman and Tudor periods.  If there was an exhibition or museum to be visited where she could expand her knowledge, she was there, taking notes.

By the tender age of 10 Alison was already collecting Roman coins and her subsequent lifetime passion for antiques built from there.  Throughout the years Alison amassed a study collection in her home which was almost a mirror image of herself: eclectic, varied, fun and with a wicked sense of humour. Many of the pieces in her collection reflect this.  Walking into her London home, and latterly her Chichester town house, was a little like walking into a carefully curated (and very full) private museum.

Lot 437: A late 15th century carved oak misericord

Her collection started with Roman and Egyptian pieces, latterly moving into carvings and furniture.  In 2016 Alison sold her collection of engraved coins through St James’s Auction.  In the preface to her collection they noted that ‘Sadly, not a single item comes with a provenance ticket’ and this is also the case with the remainder of her collection.  Paperwork was an inconvenience to Alison and took up valuable space which could be used for a new acquisition!

Lot 146: A worn marble male head carved with furrowed brow

Alison’s nephews fondly remember her antiquity collection at her home in London in the 1960’s and 70’s, as well as being given suits of armour and swords to play with when they visited – a little boys dream, a mothers nightmare!

Alison purchased pieces because they appealed to her, it didn’t matter if they were a little broken or chipped, if they filled a gap in her collection or her knowledge of the subject, she would excuse any damage.  As a result, many of the pieces in her collection have been repaired by Alison, or what has become known as ‘Alisoned’.  Who can ignore the nose repair she has given to lot 146 or the new chin she has carefully fashioned for lot 122?  Alison was never far from modellers clay and a tube of superglue.

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Alison in 2019 when she personally gave me a guided tour of her wonderful collection, and I can safely say it has been a joy and an honour to catalogue the contents of her home, in her memory.  Whatever else you find in the collection, you will undoubtedly find something that will make you smile, and what more fitting tribute to this larger than life, voraciously clever and witty woman.

Christina Trevanion

December 2021

View the fully illustrated catalogue here.