This summer, the nation is celebrating HM the Queen’s 70 years on the throne, marking a dedication to a job that is rarely found. This got us thinking…there are businesses in our city which have been around almost as long (and some, even longer) than HM has been in the job!
Business: Saracen’s Lantern
Location: 9 The Borough, Canterbury
Years of service: 52
Bill Christophers has owned Antique Shop Saracen’s Lantern for over 50 years, on the same site in The Borough. Bill was always fascinated by old buildings and old things.
“My father took me to an auction when I was 7 and I bought my first item: a stuffed dog in a case. I was instantly bitten by the antique bug. I haunted the local antique shop at weekends and holidays…the owner must have been very patient.
I went to Christ Church College (as it was then) and trained as a maths teacher. After teaching for a short while I worked nights for 3 years at Kingsmans factory bakery in the Sturry Road, saving money towards buying my own antique shop.
Canterbury’s proximity to London and the South East has always provided a sound customer base, and it attracts a great variety of people from all parts of the world, both antique collectors and others who just want a unique memento of their visit. Many well-known people have been in here, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, some of the cast of Neighbours – even Paula Yates used to buy second-hand children’s book for her daughters.
I people-watch from my shop, the variety of people who come in or pass by are forever fascinating and I enjoy chatting.
Those who have gone past my door include President Mitterrand and Mrs Thatcher on the way to signing the Channel Tunnel agreement; the Pope on his visit; Prince Charles and Princess Diana and most recently the Olympic Torch bearer.
I would love someone to walk through the door who wants to continue the business. I am now well past retirement age, which is why for most of the year I only open on Saturdays.
Best sellers at Saracen’s Lantern?
Even in the antique trade things go in and out of fashion, but my best sellers at the moment are lithographic prints, with perhaps old plates also increasing in popularity.
What would you put into a time capsule to showcase your shop?
I would put the iron lamp bracket I bought when the 16th century Saracen’s Head pub (which was in Burgate) was demolished for the ring road. It was why I called my shop the Saracen’s Lantern, but I never got round to putting the lamp on the front of the shop!
The message to people who have yet (after 52 years) to visit my shop is there are always interesting items in the windows, even if old things are not your cup of tea. Who knows? They might bring you a love of antiques!”
Saracen’s Lantern contact: 01227 451968