TRIBUTES were paid to a popular and respected trader who passed away suddenly.
Duncan Skeels, described as “genuine, honest and original” ran Bridport Antique Rugs on South Street.
An avid traveler and extremely knowledgeable, Mr. Skeels ran a quality carpet store – a store that a customer described as “stepping into another country, another culture”.
He died at his home in Symondsbury at the age of 70 “very suddenly and unexpectedly”, his family said.
They said Mr. Skeels was passionate about oriental rugs and had created a respected business with many of his clients becoming friends.
His store was described as an “open door for many people”; he liked to talk about travel, music, politics and current affairs – and in the summer the discussion moved to the sidewalk outside.
Originally from Cambridgeshire, Mr Skeels had a degree in geography.
He lived and taught in Iran in the 1970s, before traveling extensively to India and Afghanistan. It was during these trips that he developed a passion for oriental rugs.
His connection to West Dorset was through his cousins who lived in Bridport and whom Mr Skeels used to visit in the 1950s. But he did not move to the area until in the early 1980s, first living in Netherbury.
This is where her twin daughters, Anna and Zoe, grew up.
Mr. Skeels started trading in a building behind the South Street store in 1988, then moved into the main store in 1992. It was previously known as Jack’s Antiques, after Jack Abbott who owned the store before. him.
Mr Skeels’ daughter, Anna, said: “He started buying rugs while traveling to Quetta in Balochistan, Pakistan in 1988, developing ties with local carpet merchants. He focused on the sale of older and antique rugs, developing an expert eye on his visits to local auctions houses where he has sourced much of his stock in recent years. He then researched their history before cleaning them and to call upon highly qualified restorers. He found the “magic” of oriental rugs linked to their individuality and their connection to culture and geography. told stories about their origin / history and the people who made them.
“He was nationally respected in the field, and his fellow dealers and experts visited the store from across the country.”
A client and friend of Mr Skeels said: “He had a superb eye for rugs and encyclopedic knowledge. Duncan was a man of great integrity, but he didn’t take himself too seriously. He was immensely kind, although outspoken, loved the company of people and loved his rugs. ”
The lockdown earlier this year forced Skeels to temporarily close his store and it was only starting to reopen just before his death.
Anna said: “My sister and I were asked if we would be willing to take over the business; and although he instilled in us a fraction of his vast knowledge and a strong appreciation, the store was completely him and we would never be able to recreate that. ”
She added: “He was the most genuine, honest and original person I will ever meet. He was quick and could more than hold up in the sometimes intimidating setting of an auction. He was not motivated by money, much more his desire to share the joy he found in what he had in the shop. He often told me “how can you be unhappy when you are surrounded by things as beautiful as that”. ”