John Bly

John Bly

John Bly is an antique dealer specialising in old furniture, who is well known to viewers of The Antiques Roadshow.

The Bly family have been dealers in Tring, Hertfordshire, since the beginning of the 19 th century. An ancient letterhead proclaimed “John Bly – Antique Dealers since the reign of William IV”. The grandfather of the present John Bly first established his own business in the centre of Tring in 1891.

The present John Bly worked for four years at Sotheby's before joining the family firm. He is resident furniture expert on BBC Television's ‘Antiques Roadshow' since it started in 1978, and has his own ITV programme ‘Heirloom'. John Bly lectures in Britain , Europe and North America and writes for a variety of specialist magazines.


He has written and edited 14 books related to antiques including ‘Discovering English Furniture', ‘Discovering Hallmarks on English Silver' ‘Is It Genuine?' and ‘Miller's Silver and Sheffield Plate Marks'. His most recent is also for Miller's and is entitled ‘John Bly's Antiques Masterclass' .

In recent years John Bly has become an acclaimed and highly successful Charity Auctioneer achieving thousands of pounds -or dollars- more than expected for national and international charities with his warmth and quick wit.

From a background of naval seamen, pottery decorators, horse traders, fellmongers, American Civil War soldiers, priests, architects and antique dealers, John Bly's life has been as entertaining and varied as his ancestry. His in-depth knowledge, his enthusiasm and ability to draw has made him a popular and engaging speaker and raconteur.

John Bly is a Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was made Chairman of the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA) in July 1999. John has two sons, the fifth generation, in the business; Julian is an interior designer and consultant, and James manages John Bly Valuations and overseas operations.

Presentations by John Bly

(1)“John Bly's Antiques Masterclass”. John Bly brings to life selected passages from his recent book of the same title and explains the concept behind the publication. **

(2) The Other Side of the Antiques Road Show. JB discusses and illustrates how the experts recognise the genuine article from the fake in the contrasting environments of the television studio and one of England’s greatest Stately Homes, and shows some remarkable discoveries made in both. * Requires a flip chart. Includes some ‘behind the scenes’ anecdotes.

(3)The Antiques Detective. JB takes you behind the scenes and explains some of the basic rules on how to spot the furniture fake and the silver forgery on both sides of the Atlantic, Western Europe and the Orient. Forewarned is forearmed because it’s buyer beware out there. **

(4)The English Regency; Its Origins and Influences. JB illustrates the style and importance of this brief but exotic period, its ancient foundations and its ever-lasting affects on all walks of life in English and America. Later revivals of the style and how to recognise them.

(5)Dining with Antiques from 1600 to 1900. JB describes the changes in eating and drinking habits through the formative years of Western civilisation, wine and food related antiques, what to collect and how to use and enjoy. Did they really eat sixteen courses at dinner? and why is there no such thing as a Lunch Table?

(6)The Buyers Guide to Antique English Silver. JB traces the development of the style, manufacture and ancient hallmarking system of English silver and compares them to those of Europe and America. This talk includes details on how to spot the fake and is a must for the beginner and connoisseur alike.

(7)The Buyers Guide to Antique English Furniture. JB traces the development of the style, manufacture and incorporation of materials in this unique guide to the financial and aesthetic benefits and pitfalls of buying antique furniture. This talk also details fakes and alterations. This talk is a must for the beginner and connoisseur alike.

(8)A Day in the Life Of…….JB takes you through a day in the life of a Georgian Gentleman, illustrating the surprising similarities and the contrasts with life today through the everyday objects once considered novelties; today’s antiques many of which we now take for granted.

(9)The Importance of Music in Design. The 18th and 19th century homes were rarely silent. Music in one form or another was always to be heard. With a variety spanning the spectrum of the performing arts playing in the background JB takes us through the development of the Western European and American Interior. (This is best as part of a John Bly Country House Weekend)

(10)The Grand Tour and the first Great Collectors. JB visits some of the ports of call on a Mediterranean Cruise through the eyes of the 18thc English tourist and ponders the affects of their purchases on the English domestic scene then and now. This presentation centres on the influence of Italian design both ancient and modern (18th century) on the Englishman’s home, church and municipal buildings. Also the easy way to spot the old from the revival by means of simple drawings that explain the English Italianate Regency.
(11)Fine Antique English Furniture and the Decorative Arts as an Alternative Investment. This talk has proved especially popular as a corporate event.

Talks marked with ** Include drawing and require a flip-chart and a large black felt-tip marker pen as well as a slide projector and screen etc.
Talk marked with * Includes drawing and requires only a flip-chart as above and no projector etc.

(12)Show & Tell events are extremely popular and like the rest of the above can be given in people’s houses for a small gathering over lunch or dinner, or in theatre or hall environment for a large audience.

Another popular theme is association dating around the dining table where things in use, which we take for granted, are given their full history and origins. JB provides some fine antiques to be placed on the table and used during the meal. How to spot a fake comes into this presentation.