Keynote speaker Lady Henrietta outside Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England.

Arts & Antiques

50th Annual Delaware Antiques Show

Sixty of the country’s most distinguished antique dealers return to present a stunning array of American accessories

By Terry Conway |

If the walls of Blenheim Palace could talk, what would they say?

“I think it would be like listening to an historical novel with lots of intrigue, drama, and fun depicting the life of the different family generations and their guests over the last 300 years,” responded Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill in an interview with Palm Beach Illustrated. “Sort of like a Blenheim ‘Downton Abbey.’ ”

Lady Henrietta grew up in the legendary Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, a 187-room palace considered one of the most important Baroque houses in England. The eldest daughter of the eleventh Duke of Marlborough and a descendant of Sir Winston Churchill, she specializes in renovating historic British country homes, including her family’s Blenheim estate. She is a noted authority on period homes and historic styles, author of 11 books, columnist for the Financial Times, and owner of two interior design firms, including Woodstock Designs, where she works on design projects worldwide.

Lady Henrietta is the keynote speaker and honorary chair of the 50th Delaware Antiques Show at the Chase Center on the Wilmington Riverfront November 8-10, where 60 of the country’s most distinguished antique dealers return to present a stunning array of American furniture, paintings, rugs, porcelain, silver, jewelry, and decorative arts– a spectacular showcase of art, antiques, and design.

A collection of Early American furniture and accessories

Blenheim is the birthplace of such notables as Winston Churchill, and also was occupied by Lady Henrietta’s colorful and illustrious great-grandmother Consuelo Vanderbilt, a close friend of Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont and his wife Ruth.

“I suppose I knew I was lucky enough to have been brought up in and around a lot of other really beautiful homes predominantly from the Georgian era,” Lady Henrietta related. “That probably started my love of architecture more so than Blenheim. I suppose as a child I sort of looked at Blenheim as being quite daunting and quite intimidating and certainly not a place where you wanted to bring your friends home for tea [laughing]. Well, you know, you were slightly embarrassed by that. I suppose it wasn’t really until later on when I started studying art history in school that I really began to appreciate it.”

Despite a title that some may find intimidating, Lady Henrietta is known as a warm, gracious, down-to-earth speaker with a deep passion for antiques, design, and historic architecture. In 2005, she wrote a best-selling historical and anecdotal account of her homestead and family, Blenheim and the Churchill Family: A Personal Portrait.

She will delight visitors to the Delaware Antiques Show with a lecture on Friday, November 8 at 10am, with tales of life in this legendary landmark, drawing on her personal experiences as a child and adult. A book signing follows the lecture.

On Sunday, November 10, lovers of the traditional English garden will be captivated by speaker Barbara Paul Robinson beginning at 2pm. While on sabbatical from her professional life as the first woman partner in the leading international law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, Robinson worked as a gardener for Rosemary Verey at Barnsley House, Gloucestershire, then for Penelope Hobhouse at Tintinhull, Somerset, experiences she found life transforming.

Speaker Rosemay Verey.

Robinson’s own home, Brush Hill, is an 18th-century farmhouse in northwestern Connecticut surrounded by her interpretation of the English garden. It is included in the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens, a testament to Robinson’s role as the hands-in-the-dirt gardener and her husband’s part as designer and builder of the garden structures.

Robinson’s lecture focuses on the fascinating life of English garden legend Rosemary Verey. Although she began gardening late in life, Verey achieved international recognition for her devotion to the “English style” on display at her home at Barnsley House in the Cotswolds of England. She was a garden adviser to clients from Prince Charles to Elton John and is a beloved and wildly popular lecturer in America. Robinson has written the first, and so far, only biography of Verey’s remarkable life, Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener.  A book signing follows the Robinson’s Sunday lecture.

The show also features a special exhibition, Collecting Treasures: Celebrating 50 years of the Delaware Antiques Show, featuring objects acquired by Winterthur Museum and friends of Winterthur during the half-century run of this highly acclaimed antiques show. From a gothic patterned bedcover and an armorial porcelain plate to an anti-slavery seal and an Uncle Sam figure, this exhibit highlights treasures that celebrate the joy of collecting for personal and public enjoyment.

Proceeds from the show benefit educational programming at Winterthur.

Other Weekend Lectures

Saturday, November 9 2pm-Guest lecturers Donald L. Fennimore and Frank L. Hohmann III introduce guests to the Stretch family, America’s first family of clockmakers. Book signing to follow. Sponsored by The Hunt.

5pm-The inaugural presentation of the Wendell D. Garrett Award, established to honor the memory of one of Winterthur’s most venerated alumni. The first recipient is Gerald W. R. Ward, senior consulting curator and the Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture Emeritus at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Sponsored in part by the Society of Winterthur Fellows and Freeman’s.

Sunday, November 10 2pm-Barbara Paul Robinson shares her personal insight into the fascinating life of renowned gardener, Rosemary Verey. Book signing to follow. Sponsored by The Hunt.

Show Hours: Friday, November 8 11am-7pm; Saturday, November 9 11am-6pm and Sunday, November 10 11am-5pm

For more information: winterthur.org.