Taking a Liberty with famous shop

Daryl Bennett perparing his little Liberty
Daryl Bennett perparing his little Liberty
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It is the famous London department store renowned for selling luxury goods to the rich and the royal since 1875.

Now a little bit of Liberty, the Regent Street shop which makes Harrods look a touch Ikea, is to be recreated in Sheffield. A city enthusiast is opening a pop-up shop in Ecclesall Road after deciding to sell his mammoth private collection of the famous store’s historic furniture.

Daryl Bennett’s range of more than 40 items includes wardrobes, desks, tables, chairs and a one-of-a-kind 19th century sideboard worth £10,000. That last piece currently sits in his living room. “I’d prefer it if you didn’t put your tea down on it,” he winces.

The 62-year-old will flog the lot – all of it wood and dating from between 1875 and 1914 – after deciding his Hunter’s Bar home had become a touch cluttered. He will do it by transforming The Porter Brook Art Gallery, in Ecclesall Road, into a mini Liberty furniture store from the turn of the century.

“Why sell?” ponders Daryl, a retired civil servant who has bought his collection from antique shops and auctions over the last 20 years. “It’s actually less about selling these things than putting them out on show for the people of Sheffield to see. If nothing gets bought and I have to take it home at the end of the month, that’s fine.

“But some of this furniture has to live in storage because we simply don’t have room for it. I thought it would be better in someone’s house than locked away.”

The unusual idea comes after the father-of-two spent the last three years researching and writing a book about the early years of the famous shop, opened by Arthur Liberty with a £2,000 loan.

“Furniture is just something that fascinates me,” says Daryl. “My love of Liberty started because I was interested in the arts and craft movement of the late 19th century, and this was a shop which commissioned talented designers to make beautiful things for people’s homes.”

He can’t remember his first buy but happily recalls his favourite.

While researching the book he paid £125 for a picture of a Liberty bureau kept at a Vienna museum and which was thought to be the only one of its kind in the world. Later he saw the same piece on sale in a Scottish auction. He picked it up for £300. “It’s probably worth about £3,000,” he notes.

Now he hopes plenty of people will drop by to look at the Arabian, Oriental and quintessentially English styles within the collection. Pieces range from £125 to several thousand pounds.

“Furniture is the new rock ’n’ roll,” he says.