Simon Frings’s Grandfather
My grandfather was born in Yorkshire and at some point moved to Leicester and married my grandmother. My grandmother’s family owned an antiques shop, Withers of Leicester and eventually Edward took over the running of the business.
There was also a Withers shop in London, on Orchard Street. Queen Mary was a regular visitor to the London shop and the photograph below shows the scene in the street outside during one of these visits. Apparently she expected to be given anything that caught her fancy in the shop and my grandfather started spiriting away the choicest items to prevent her bankrupting the business.
Immediately before and during the First World War antiques were hard to come by and my grandfather diversified into interior design. This was a very high end business and he did work in many of the large houses in the County. At some point Edward started doing work for David Beatty at Brooksby Hall. I’m not sure when this was, but the family has a signed photograph of Beatty dated 1918, so it may well have been immediately after the First World War when Brooksby Hall stopped being a convalescent home for sailors and needed a bit of refurbishment. At some point Earl Beatty had shares in Withers antiques but my grandfather eventually bought him out of the business.
My mother was Edward’s secretary and also helped with the interior design work. She told us that on one occasion she was up a ladder in the library at Brooksby when David Beatty came in and whilst engaging her in chit-chat he put his hand up her skirt. Despite being a very young woman at the time, my mother took exception to this, came down the ladder and slapped the Earl’s face. When my grandfather found out about this he played hell with her and accused her of jeopardising future business with the Beatty’s! Earl Beatty’s reaction is not recorded. Apparently my mother got on very well with Lady Beatty, who gave her pieces of jewellery and the odd knick-knack, so it seems that the incident did not sour relationships too much.
|The original exhibition display: Edward Frings|