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In mid-December owner and organiser Caroline Penman decided that she would not continue with the fair, which was founded in 1950 and is the second oldest antiques fair on the calendar. Only Grosvenor House, founded in 1934, is older.

The decision was forced upon Mrs Penman by ill-health, but the fair, which she bought in 1984, has been operating at a substantial loss for some time. It was apparent that she was increasingly disillusioned with an event which was well past its prime.

Exhibitor numbers, which hit a maximum of 42, was not conducive to profit and Health and Safety regulations have become a major obstacle. However, like many others, she has nostalgia for Chelsea. Its 102nd outing was scheduled for next September.

Mrs Penman has tried many ways to rejuvenate the fair. It has moved from being biannual to annual, she has balloted exhibitors on its duration, tried various combinations of stands and redesigns and relaunched it.

Mrs Penman made some significant changes to the personnel and look in a last-ditch attempt last September, but the fair did not flourish.

The organiser sent out a letter on December 16 to a band of people she feels may be interested in taking the fair over. She says it is there for the taking and she will hand over all past information budgets etc.

The venue, Chelsea Old Town Hall, is reserved until 2020. The dates are transferable to a new organiser if they put down deposits to secure them.

Among the recipients were fellow organisers Louise Walker, Sue Ede, Robert Bailey and Ingrid Nilson.

None showed any initial inclination to take over the event, with one of them saying if, after so much effort, Mrs Penman was losing money, then others would not want to do the same.

On January 3 the organiser plans to send out 15,000 season tickets to this yearÕs Penman Fairs. If no one has stepped forward to save it she will print CANCELLED over the Chelsea dates of September 18 to 21.

David Moss