Leading Chinese porcelain producer to locate its European base and museum in Scottish Borders

 Greenlaw imposing facadeThe facade of A Listed Greenlaw Town Hall     Picture courtesy Scottish Heritage Buildings Trust 

One of the most important porcelain manufacturers in China, the Shanghai-based Hanguan Company, is to locate the base for its European operations in the Scottish Border region in the town of Greenlaw, in an iconic Grade A Listed Building.

Amongst its many activities the company, which is run my Master Ceramicist and Professor of Ceramics at Shanghai’s Fudan University, Li Youyu, produces some of the finest ceramics in the whole of China, which is borne out by the fact that it is used by the government of China to create the official gifts given out to foreign dignitaries. Many world leaders, including those of the UK and USA, have received wares crafted by Hanguan.

Greenlaw pub1 lr In the entrance hall of the building the bust of Sir Archibald Campbell, the original patron, looks down this week on the new investors. Left to right: Ms Huang Ping, Professor Master Li Youyu and Sulee Harris, Photo Paul Harris

At 11 am on Wednesday May 31, Scottish Borders company Coldingham Investments Ltd (controlled by Coldingham man Paul Harris and his Chinese wife, Sulee) bought the massive Grade A listed building Greenlaw Town Hall from The Scottish Heritage Buildings Trust. SHBT finished a £1.95m. restoration of the building in 2011, at which time it was re-opened by HRH Prince Charles.

The Coldingham-based company will continue to own the building and, although equity is being bought by the Chinese, the present ownership will retain a ‘significant’ shareholding in the new operation. The Coldingham duo Paul and Sulee recently launched Coldingham Borders Auctions, operate half a dozen websites selling Far Eastern art internationally, and have The Coldingham Gallery in the High Street and which was founded more than six years ago.

Greenlaw pub 3 lr Professor Master Li Youyu in the the Great Hall of the building this week. Photo Paul Harris

Paul Harris told the news website chineseart.co.uk , part of the Coldingham group of businesses, last night that he and his wife used to live and work in Shanghai. ‘We have a large network of contacts in China and we are delighted to be able to bring an important Chinese company to the Scottish Borders. We shared images of Greenlaw Town Hall when it came available for sale with Mr Li Youyu, principal figure in the Hanguang Company. He is primarily an artist with vision – not just a businessman – and, even from faraway in China, he was immediately struck by the amazing beauty of the building that is Greenlaw Town Hall.

‘The building won’t just be a collection of offices but the vast public hall will house an exhibition and museum area telling the story of Chinese porcelain – a product which was entirely the invention of the Chinese. The building will be open to the public and Mr Youyu aims to promote direct personal relations between Chinese and Scottish ceramicists through practical sessions, conferences and social events. There will be practical displays showing the creation of porcelain.’

Greenlaw Town Hall, built in 1831 as The County Hall of Berwickshire by local architect John Cunningham, is one of Scotland’s outstanding Greek Revival neo-classical buildings and its vast dome and pillared portico dominate the junction of two main roads through the Scottish Borders at Greenlaw. The building consists of a vast hall and two pavilions (wings) containing offices. In recent years The Scottish Heritage Buildings Trust has spent just under £2m. renovating what was then the derelict building in a high profile restoration.  Until now, though, a sympathetic new owner has not been found.

Greenlaw main hall The Great Hall in Greenlaw. Photo courtesy Scottish Heritage Buildings Trust

‘We are hopeful that the proposed use of Greenlaw Town Hall will help to build the local economy and bring tourists to the area, including many Chinese. The development may also encourage other Chinese businesses we are in touch with to come to the Scottish Borders,’ said Sulee Harris last night. Sulee, using her Chinese name Sun Yumei, is today listed at Companies House as a director of Coldingham Investments Ltd along with Ms Huang Ping who, it is understood, represents the interests of the Hanguang Company.

It is understood that Coldingham Investments Ltd is in active discussions with architectural advisers. A spokesman for the company said there will be an impact on local employment ‘but it is a little early to be specific’.

Greenlaw portico by night The iconic portico of Gfreenlaw Town Hall. Photo courtesy Scottish Heritage Buildings Trust

 

Paul Harris Asia Arts launches new auction house in Scottish Borders

The Paul Harris Asia Arts group has just launched a new auction house in the Scottish Borders near to Berwick upon Tweed. The new business is called Coldingham Borders Auctions (CBA) and is added to a portfolio of interests which includes the online retail businesses chineseartinscotland.co.uk and vietnamart.co.uk; the consultancy business Coldingham Investments Ltd; this website chineseart.co.uk; and the gallery and warehouse complex The Coldingham Gallery.

CBA Paul, Sulee 3

Paul & Sulee Harris with some of the items from their upcoming auction on May 13

Coldingham Borders Auctions will host its first auction on Saturday May 13 at 11am in Coldingham Hall, a public venue just 50 yards from the auction house 300 sq m store and offices. It is a venue which was outfitted seven years ago at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds and contains state of the art facilities including electrically operated seating. CBA events will be live on the internet courtesy of EasyLiveauction.com and the catalogue for the first sale of 230 lots is already live on the EasyLive platform at https://www.easyliveauction.com/catalogue/142754615ff77000b97cc951635a5761/0af8d24542e81eb9357e7ef448a6646f/sale-of-art-antiques-collectables-including-asian/

Although there are around 50 Chinese and Asian lots in the sale, there is also an intriguing array of collectables: a first UK edition of Vladimir Nabakov’s novel Lolita (1959); the brass shell casing from a German battleship dated 1917 and converted into an ice bucket; an 1840s French ‘Gavre & Champet’ iron cannon; a bronze of two female lovers signed J M Lambeaux; and a selection of 19th century artists’ easels.

The front runner in the Chinese art category has to be an 18th century horseshoe backed huanghuali folding chair estimated at £2,500-5,000. The auctioneers think it will get rather more. . .

jpg.118 Huanghuali horseshoe backed folding chair

Auctions will be held every three months and the next is scheduled for September 30. The auctioneer will be Paul Harris assisted by his Chinese born wife, Sulee. The appearance of Coldingham Borders Auctions follows upon the closure of other auction houses in the Scottish and English Borders regions: The Berwick Auction House has been trned into a night club and long-established Jedburgh auctioneers Swan Turner has closed with the reitrement of Mr Turner after more than thirty years in the business.

jpg.127 jpg.107                A couple of other Chinese items in the sale: a bronze Buddha 18th century; and a very large scroll