Photo taken in 1970 of the late Lily Mitchell sitting on the right with Diana Huntley, who is crouching to her left.

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‘Lily Fest’ was a colourful informal tribute to her life. Her coffin was lined with photographs of her family and friends and poems and drawings.

Everyone was asked to turn up wearing colourful clothes so long as they were comfortable doing so. The service lasted 100 minutes, concluding with professional dancers moving to 50s music.

East End roots

My mother’s life journey began in Hackney on April 10, 1928. Her family were part of a wider Jewish community who immigrated to London’s East End at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.

The onset of the Second World War changed the course of Lily’s life when from 1940-42 she was evacuated to Bedford.

Here in one billet she had to cope with being a Jewish girl in a strictly Baptist household. She was forced to go to church on Sundays.

Tragedy and trauma struck the family during the London Blitz. On September 9, 1940, a bomb blasted the family home to rubble leaving an upturned bus on the adjoining house that became an iconic wartime photograph. The bomb claimed the lives of most of her immediate family. (See

For anyone who has an interest in what life was like in war-torn London during the Blitz, Lily recorded the following at the Imperial War Museum:

In 1942 she returned to London where her family was supported by cousin Professor Chimen Abramsky, a rare book collector who later became Sotheby’s main expert on Judaica for more than 50 years.

In 1944 Lily was introduced to the Communist Party where she stayed for a number of years before coming secretary of the Finchley branch of the Labour Party. In 1958 Lily supported her husband’s IT business while helping set up The Partisan Coffee Shop in Soho with Raphael Samuel.

Lily began her antiques-dealing journey in 1969 when she took a part-time job in an antiques shop in Finchley, north London.

The following year she took a stand in the Flea Market in London’s Camden Passage (now Kevin Page Oriental Art). There she made friends with the antique dealer Diana Huntley.

Within a short while she became known to specialise in writing boxes, English teasets, dinner services and glass. She later branched out to a larger shop in The Mall Antiques Centre, a former tram shed.

Unique talents

At the celebration of her life the congregation learned about her other unique talents.

She was one of only a very few women that could punch codes onto Elliott Automation computers. She then created a business making gigantic paper flowers that she sold at Harrods.

Where Lily was very well known was helping to organise the late-night opening in mid-summer and Christmas party where the market opened till late into the evening. She provided much of the food for the event.

Lily gave up her antiques business in 1990 to help my business, until 1998 when she retired to look after her husband’s ailing health.

Laurence Mitchell (The Meissen Man)