The thing with Beaulieu Autojumble is you never quite know what you will see. On the surface it all appears much the same year after year (It’s 31 since I first went there) the same piles of rusty old panels, tables of shining headlights, racks of car badges and rows and rows( and rows) of bits and pieces in plastic trays and cardboard boxes. These days the average stall probably has some form of marquee or gazebo to keep of the inevitable rain showers and/or sunshine, rather than being open to the elements or at best spilling out of an awning with attached caravan. The roadways through the site are mostly gravel or metal-links rather than the once-grassy mudbaths or yore and the queue for the toilets is not half a mile long… Otherwise it’s the same as it was. Maybe less visitors than in the 1980s heyday, certainly less money changing hands and fewer people towing some form of trailer laden with wheels or boxes of books (shame…) but at night there are still ’tilly lamps’ illuminating the stalls-that-never-close and the smoke from hundreds of BBQs still hangs in the cool air. And there’s wine. And beer. It’s as much a social event as ever. But you never know what you might find when you look close…
Last year there was a full size vintage biblane for example. This year there was a Curtiss OX5 aero engine, circa WW1, set up in a rig so you could see it running(right) . There was also a wonderful little Austin 7 Ulster pedal car (above) stuck up on a pole above the stand of one of the many visiting traders from northern Europe. You seem to hear as much Dutch and German spoken as English as you wander round. Aside from all the British and European automobilia was a display of ‘petroliana’ which included a glorious illuminated American petrol pump on what looked like a classic Roman column. It must have been 8 feet high. Another novelty was what must be the only ‘mini moto’ sidecar outfit. It was drawfed by the kart parked alongside yet it had a petrol engine and really yelled “You’re two children would love me!” in my direction but I had to acknowledge that however much I wanted to I couldn’t fit it in the car. And in any case I can imagine the number of grazed knees and broken flowerpots that would result if I let my daughters loose on it in the back garden! Not to mention the arguments about who drove and who would passenger… and why one or other fell off in the process… but at £400 it was tempting.
My friend John Rees, a man who loves his Lotus’ and wheels and deals in Coventry Climax engines and neon car showroom signs had found two downdraught SU carburettors with remote float chambers. What on earth were they from? He had no idea but they just looked at him and demanded he bought them. The price was right, so he did! Because… you never know, they would be a real gem from something exotic?
I found selling at the event as curious as the things you saw. I didn’t sell a large number of books but none of those I sold were at the lower end of the price range. Quality , it seemed, was selling. Bargains, were not. But either way the end result was acceptable. Normally Saturday is THE day and Sunday is widely detested by many as, the theory goes, all the serious money has been spent. This year it was the reverse. Sunday was far better for me although Paul Veysey of DrivePast, purveyors of movie posters with a car theme, said he found his “mediocrity was evenly spread” so you can never tell.
My neighbours, Berni and Rosie of Atelier Reeves kept me entertained all weekend and let me park my car (on it’s debut event) under their empty gazebo each night which kept it out of harm’s way. Berni’s a painter and comes from a long background in art direction on TV and magazine commercials for the likes of Ford and BL. He raced for years so knows many of the subject of his paintings(right). But after a good weekend he disliked the new Beaulieu requirement to be off site by Sunday night – he and Rosie like to chill with a glass of wine and clear out the following morning. Not this time. It was not permitted. The reason given was the need to get the place tidy in time for the recently departed Lord Montagu’s forthcoming funeral . “Well when is that?” asked Berni, not unreasonably, expecting them to say tomorrow… “Thursday” was the reply. He wasn’t impressed.
Neither were the Dutch surfer-types, in the VW Campervan (what else?) opposite. who had also got used to the routine of a relaxed Sunday evening prior to hitting the ferry home the following day. They complained, not unreasonably, that after a long weekend in the sunshine it wasn’t entirely ‘elf-n-safety’ to pack up in a rush at the last minute and drive off exhausted when you were not expecting it. They also objected to the need to find and pay for overnight camping. But then the Lord of the manor’s funeral is a one-off happening and the desire to tidy up well in advance after such an enormous event is understandable. Maybe a bit more communication from those in charge would have helped? No doubt next year it will revert to normal. But then ‘normal’ is something you seldom find at Beaulieu.
- Meanwhile, In Central France… Book Hunting In Montmorillon
- Sunbeams & Showers – Loton Park September 2015