Ann Brown obituary – a double life well lived

Images above: Photographs of Ann from the order of service and from her friend Elisabeth Whittaker

Antiques dealer Ann Brown, the owner of Strand Antiques, died on 30 May 2021. Her funeral took place at Mortlake Crematorium on Friday 25 June. She was 82.

Ann was a well known figure in Chiswick, having set up Strand Antiques at Strand on the Green in 1977 and moved to the current shop on Devonshire Rd, which she shared with several other dealers, in 1999. What was less known about her was that she worked for the Security Services in a senior role.

Ann Macrae Brown was brought up in the city of Durham, the elder of two sisters, whose parents were both dentists. With a humour that she inherited, the inscription on her father’s grave noted that he was ‘filling his last cavity’.

Ann’s own funeral showed a similar flair. She’d left notes for her sons around her house at Magnolia Wharf, Strand on the Green, describing what she wanted, which her family followed: a wicker coffin, delivered by bike, with friends following by bike if they wished. No dark and sombre colours, unless of course that’s how they preferred to dress normally.

Image above: Ann’s coffin en route 

A wicker coffin on the side of a bike is a slightly unusual sight on the South Circular. The little procession made its way from Magnolia Wharf along to Kew Bridge and round to the crematorium, where her sons Rory and Hugh received the coffin to take it the last bit of the journey. They and her sister Elspeth both spoke at the service and friends commented on what a special and celebratory service it was.

Ann had time to plan because she found out five years ago that she had an aneuryism which was too tricky to operate on, so she could die suddenly at any time. It didn’t stop her living life to the full. She made frequent trips to France, where she had a house. She’d been to the theatre three days before she died, worked in the shop the day before and was driving up to Cumbria when she stopped for petrol and died at the petrol pumps.

Journalist Julia Langdon, who’d known her for the best part of forty years, told The Chiswick Calendar she had “a gift for friendship.

“She was one of the most inclusive, embracing, amusing, warm people. She exuded charm, goodwill and kindness. She had such energy and enthusiasm and she had so many interests”.

One was her allotment, which she shared with Julia for many years. Another was travelling. She’d gone on big trips to India and round the world. She also enjoyed wild swimming. She used to swim in the Serpentine and also at the open air pools at Richmond.

Images above: Ann’s funeral; arriving at Mortlake crematorium

She was a linguist, studying at Edinburgh University and then Girton College, Cambridge, where she studied Russian. Her husband Oliver died suddenly when their two boys were young, so she was the breadwinner. It was after he died that she sold their house in Grove Park Terrace and moved to Magnolia Wharf at Strand on the Green.

Her first antiques shop, which she ran with a group of friends, had lots of rooms with different types of antiques in each. Another friend, fellow antiques dealer Elisabeth Whittaker, told The Chiswick Calendar of trips to France, where Ann loved to go to brocante markets, and to Covent Garden and Portobello Rd markets.

“She had a very good eye for small decorative objects in particular … she bought a lot of French things. She loved to travel and she lived life to the full, to the end”.

Her life was like her shop, compartmentalised. She was an excellent Russian speaker and never spoke about the other job, except that she would occasionally allude to it when put on the spot, like having to explain why she couldn’t go on holiday to St Petersburg. “I just can’t go there” she’d said.

Image above: Strand Antiques shop

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