I’VE got £100,000—surprise me.’ This might be the very best thing you could say to your craftsman of choice and, down side streets in Chelsea and in basements on Savile Row, these conversations are likely happening right now. This is the world of the ultra-bespoke makers.
Jeweller Theo Fennell opened his eponymous shop in 1982 at 177 Fulham Road. Almost 40 years later, with diamond and 18-carat gold Henry VIII brooches in his catalogue, he is an expert in bespoke work. ‘I’ve got very used to pre-guessing [what clients want],’ he notes. Life in the bespoke lane is a fantastically varied one. Where the Georgians might have commissioned full silver services complete with classical allusions, Mr Fennell’s clients can personalise their silver with emblems of their favourite hobbies. Almost nothing is off the menu: he has made personalised chess sets with the pieces ‘birds of prey, gamebirds or even, in one case, erotica—which gave a new slant to the word “pawn”’. Where his jewellery is concerned, even more doors can be opened— literally. One of Mr Fennell’s favourite bespoke pieces is the Yellow Brick Road ring, inspired by The Wizard of Oz, complete with an enamelled yellow brick road that led to a 13-carat emerald (city).
In Birmingham, Henry Deakin, managing director of Deakin & Francis, ‘the world’s oldest jewellers’ and purveyors of bespoke cufflinks, has had a busy pandemic. ‘We’re very bad at saying no to people,’ he says with a chuckle. One of his current projects is a bonnet sculpture for a classic Rolls-Royce—the familiar Spirit of Ecstasy, but in the form of a skeleton. ‘It’s not what you might expect from us,’ admits Mr Deakin. Nor are the bespoke platinum Monopoly pieces that Deakin & Francis made last year, to be played on a customer’s board: ‘The boat was his actual boat and the car was his Aston Martin.’ For another client’s long-wheelbase Range Rover, with its two aeroplane-style seats in the back and room in-between for refreshments, Deakin & Francis made a set of silver beakers. ‘Each passenger had their own and they were numbered so you’d know which was which,’ says Mr Deakin.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
In search of beauty
A publisher, innovator and shrewd businessman with strong connections to the Liberal political establishment, Edward Hudson was the visionary founder of COUNTRY LIFE 125 years ago. Clive Aslet revisits his remarkable life
The architectural conscience of the nation
Michael Hall, a former Architectural Editor and Deputy Editor of COUNTRY LIFE, looks back at the magazine’s formation of its architectural coverage from 1897 to 1939
The late blooming of a ‘saintly clergyman'
After a lifetime of quietly sketching wildflowers, parish priest William Keble Martin finally published the book every schoolboy wanted, says Matthew Dennison
Nowhere else can gardeners see rare named snowdrops growing in such measureless drifts as in the Rothschilds’ private garden at Eythrope in Buckinghamshire, finds Mary Keen
Loved back to life
Fulbeck House, Lincolnshire The home of Claire Van Cleave. This little-known house of about 1700 has been the subject of tactful restoration for a period of more than 20 years. Jeremy Musson looks at its fascinating history
The Queen's lost library
New research offers fresh insight into the splendid interiors of Queen Caroline’s library, a compact building by William Kent that once overlooked London’s Green Park, reveals Rufus Bird
Polly wants an apple
Ring-necked parakeets have made themselves at home across London and beyond, but how did these birds come to swap tropical climes for our grey shores, asks Claire Jackson
It's party time
From the smartest country estates to the capital’s most glamorous hotels, securing the dream wedding venue should be your first priority
Lost villages, factory villages, tourist villages, Georgian villages: these pieces of England all have their own story to tell. Archaeologist Ben Robinson chooses his top 10
Lands of plenty
From £2 million to £20 million properties, 2021 was a stellar year for sales of farms and estates