Eric Knowles
Eric Knowles in front of The Corn Exchange in Tunbridge Wells.

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Opening this month as The Pantiles Arcade in The Corn Exchange, Tunbridge Wells, the venture will sell decorative arts as well as furniture, contemporary art, antique silver, numismatics and Tunbridge ware.

Knowles had begun working with Robert Woodmansey and his partner Germaine Knowles (no relation) on the website ScottishAntiques.com and via Eric Knowles’ company The Hoard.

Now the Grade II listed Corn Exchange will become a physical outlet for The Hoard and ScottishAntiques.com.

The arcade will also be a retail outlet for chandelier manufacturer and glass restorer Wilkinson and dealers John and Chrissie Masters of The Design Gallery of Westerham.

Other dealers will join the space in due course and Knowles is also in talks with art potters and other designers who may take space in the future.

Following a number of proposals of locations in the Kent spa town prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Knowles and Woodmansey discovered the availability of the Corn Exchange last year and were able to agree a deal with landlord The Marquis of Abergavenny.

The Corn Exchange building

Inside The Corn Exchange building before work began to create a selling space for The Pantiles Arcade.

Knowles, chairman of The Hoard, said: “I was at Bonhams for 30-odd years but I enjoy a new challenge and I have now gone from auctions to retail.

“I have to keep learning: I love to learn and to share and opening this emporium means we can meet some of the people we have been trading with online as well as meet new collectors.”

He said the space will feature items from “the classic to the contemporary” as well as hosting events such as valuation days.

The first event took place on July 4 – a charity valuation day in aid of The Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre. Knowles was joined by Charles Hanson of Hansons Auctioneers, picture specialist Grant Ford, jewellery expert John Benjamin and valuer Loraine Turner.