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Lipscombe, Stanley Robert (1918–1980)

by Alan Landis and Louise Landis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Stanley Robert Lipscombe (1918-1980), antique dealer, was born on 15 December 1918 at Paddington, Sydney. When he was 2 years old he and his twin brother Edwin were adopted by Samuel Edwin Lipscombe, an engine driver from England, and his Australian-born wife Ethel, née English. Stanley was educated at Villawood and Lidcombe Commercial public schools. In his youth he started to buy and sell furniture, quickly learning how to differentiate between antiques and reproductions.

After leaving school at the age of 16, Lipscombe was employed by Fred Naylor at the Antique Furniture Co., 40 Market Street, where he learned the art of French polishing. This skill became his entrée to many dealers' shops and their clientele. An avid reader with a photographic memory, he acquired enough knowledge to open his own shop in Goulburn Street in 1942. He dealt mainly in Victorian antiques and pieces of early Australiana—which came largely from outer Western Sydney—and restored most of the furniture that he received.

Lipscombe increased his knowledge of the Georgian period. In 1943 he moved to Castlereagh Street and built an attractive neo-Georgian façade on his shop. His courtly manners, quick wit and well-measured ways were business assets, and he took elocution lessons to correct his high-pitched speech. From 1946 his friend Arthur Grimwade of Christie's silver department acquired suitable pieces for him at English sales before new fiscal controls made the cost of importing silver almost prohibitive. By the late 1940s Lipscombe's clients included the prominent collector Gladys Penfold Hyland and her husband.

A generous man, Lipscombe donated prizes for raffles, helped to organize exhibitions, and initiated valuation days for the Australian Red Cross Society and other charities; he entranced the ladies with his wealth of knowledge, valuing and often buying their pieces. He was a Freemason, and belonged to St John Ambulance Brigade's auxiliary and the Rotary Club of Sydney. From 1960 to 1973 he answered questions in an irregular column, 'Collector's Corner', in the Australian Women's Weekly.

In 1962 Lipscombe visited England. There he was described as resembling a 'little boy in a lollipop shop'. Next year he opened another shop in Bathurst Street, Sydney. Many famous antiques passed through his hands, including a painting of foxhounds by George Stubbs (now in the Tate gallery, London) and the Caernarvon glass, a spectacular mirror. Lipscombe's knowledge spanned paintings, furniture, silver and porcelain. A founding member (1949) of the Ceramic Collectors' Society, he advised the Art Gallery of New South Wales on the purchase of antique Oriental ceramics and lectured (1970-79) on arts and crafts at the University of New South Wales.

In 1976 Lipscombe moved from Woollahra to the Park Regis apartments in the city. Very much a loner, he had a passion for horse-racing. On 6 September 1980 he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage at Rosehill Racecourse; he died that day at Westmead hospital and was cremated. In conducting his business Lipscombe rarely issued receipts: he knew who had given him stock on consignment or for repairs. On his death his executors found it difficult to determine what belonged to whom.

Select Bibliography

  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 29 Nov 1964
  • Daily Examiner (Grafton), 3 Aug 1971
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Apr 1973, 23 Feb 1979, 8 Sept 1980, 21 Dec 1991
  • Australian Financial Review, 23 Sept 1980, 2 Jan 1981, 7 Jan 1987
  • J. Pagan, obituary, 10 Sept 1980 (manuscript, privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Alan Landis and Louise Landis, 'Lipscombe, Stanley Robert (1918–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lipscombe-stanley-robert-10837/text19229, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 15 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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