‘Outpouring’ of tributes as former Camden Passage antiques dealer dies at 66
Brian Thompson – ‘a fantastic personality and a man with a lovely sense of humour’ – spent nearly 30 years working in Angel
12 October, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Brian Thompson (right) with lifelong partner Derek Rothera
ONE of London’s most respected antique dealers, who spent nearly three decades working in the iconic Camden Passage, has died aged 66.
Brian Thompson passed away suddenly last Thursday following a battle with cancer, six days before he was due to celebrate 48 years with lifelong partner Derek Rothera.
They had spent nearly 30 years in the picturesque row of antique shops in Angel before moving to their now renowned Millinery Works gallery, on the border of Islington and Hackney.
Mr Rothera, 75, said: “Brian was an avid reader and built up a massive knowledge of his subject and was a natural charmer when describing, often with his particular wit and understanding, the objects of a potential sale to one of the many customers who treasure the existence of The Millinery Works.”
Mr Thompson had moved to London from Sydney at the age of 17 and joined a group of travellers in a retired ambulance on a tour of Europe.
“He was unhappy that his country of birth was taking part in the Vietnam War,” said Mr Rothera.
“He was keen to explain that although he disapproved of war, in this case he was avoiding conscription because, as far as he was concerned, Australia was fighting on the wrong side.”
On returning from the Continent, he met and fell in love with then 27-year-old Mr Rothera at a party in Croydon. The couple shared passions for arts, travelling and politics.
“Even though I was older than him, he was well ahead of me in knowledge, he would get so excited about things,” said Mr Rothera.
Brian and Derek spent nearly 30 years at the iconic Camden Passage
In April 1970, Mr Rothera opened The Antique Trader in Camden Passage and six years later Mr Thompson quit his job at Total Oil to take on the daily running of the shop. This allowed Mr Rothera to concentrate on his chartered accountancy practice.
The shop dealt first in early English oak furniture, but in 1990 their shop was dedicated to the Arts and Crafts Movement.
“At that time Camden Passage was one of the most exciting and busy antique centres in the country and continued to be so until the 1990s, when the hike in rents made it impossible to trade profitably,” said Mr Rothera.
In 1996, after 26 years in Angel, the business moved to a former hat factory in Southgate Road, leading to its name The Antique Trader at The Millinery Works. It is well known for its extensive stock of antiques and for Arts and Crafts Movement and contemporary art exhibitions.
Mr Thompson was diagnosed with stomach cancer in April 2016. He had been on the road to complete recovery before he suffered an unexpected heart attack on October 4.
Since his partner’s death, Mr Rothera said he has received an “outpouring” of kind emails from customers, friends and strangers.
“He will be remembered as a fantastic personality and a man with a lovely sense of humour,” Mr Rothera added.