London's local hero: meet antique shop owner of 60 years Keith Fawkes

Keith Fawkes (Maryam Kara)
Keith Fawkes (Maryam Kara)

Introduce yourself...

My name is Keith Fawkes. I’ve had this shop on Flask Walk for around 60 years. I live in Hampstead and I’m very happy to be here.

What do you do?

I run the shop which deals with books, antiques and bric-a-brac. I’ve done this all my life and nothing else.

What sparked your curiosity in antiques?

I suppose I was always interested in archaeology and architecture and old things. And really, one thing led to another. I left school just before I turned 16 and went to work for a dealer for a couple of years in West Hampstead before deciding to go on my own. Of course, that meant working in a van back in those days. A couple of years later I moved to Hampstead.

What is the most interesting object you’ve come across?

There are so many, but I suppose one of the most interesting things is a late 18th century sale catalogue of Fonthill, a grand house owned by someone named Beckford. It turned out the sale catalogue was actually annotated by him. I put an estimate of £50 on it but it fetched £20,000 which in those days, what was a long time ago, cost a fortune. It was bought by the British Library.

We hear you are Guy Fawkes’ descendant. Is that true?

Yes, it is indeed. Our family were Turner’s Patrons and Francis Fawkes, another ancestor of mine, was one of them. The origin of the name Fawkes can be traced back to an illegitimate son of Henry II, des Faulkes. The surname became “corrupted” to Fawkes.

How have people responded to your work?

I would hope they’ve responded to it quite well. I feel fortunate to have made so many friends around here - and acquaintances. People greet me on the streets and at the King William IV pub across the road. It’s wonderful. Although I am one of the last remaining shops from about 60 years ago, Hampstead has sort of retained a local feeling which is very pleasant because I’ve dealt with multiple generations.

If you could take on a different profession, what would you do?

Another great passion of mine is Music Hall. If I could take on another profession it would be that, but as I can’t sing well enough it seems unlikely. I am very much involved in it though.

In what ways would you like to see London change?

I’d like something to be done about shops closing along the high street. It is horrifying that so many are closing everywhere. It even applies here to a certain extent. So many of the shops are closing down because local councils have imposed severe parking restrictions and its one of the reasons why business rates have been affected. People were helped by the Government during Covid, but shops have been hit by rent too. I think if I had to pay rent, I probably wouldn’t be here.

What is your London secret?

Well I don’t know if it’s a secret, but Sir John Soane’s Museum, and as I say, Music Hall where we put on shows at the Water Rats in Grays Inn Road. I sometimes give lectures on Music Hall and will do another in April. But there’s so much to enjoy in this area, too, such as Kenwood or Burgh House down the road - and Keats’.

Who is your local hero?

(Laughs) I think my long-suffering staff because they’re just marvellous. When I first started the shop my mother was there and she would help to run things but she died some years ago. We have had loyal, incredible staff who have carried on the shops tradition and continued caring for us. They’re great and have really been my local heroes for years!

Keith Fawkes (Maryam Kara)
Keith Fawkes (Maryam Kara)