Lancashire antiques dealer and businessman dies after short illness

Allan Blackburn, with son Jimmy

Renowned Lancashire antiques dealer, Allan Blackburn, has died, aged 75, after a short illness.

Mr Blackburn, founder and owner of GB Antiques Centre and Lancaster Leisure Park at the former Hornsea Pottery on Wyresdale Road, Lancaster, passed away on Saturday, August 13, at the Royal Preston Hospital.

He was a well known local antiques writer and broadcaster for many years.

Born in Clitheroe in 1947, his middle name was Baird, after his famous great uncle, television pioneer John Logie Baird.

Inspired by his paternal grandfather Thomas Blackburn’s love for antiques, the young Allan treasured their trips to shops and fairs together.

Joining the family firm, started by Thomas, producing Lloyd Loom conservatory-style furniture, Allan worked at Somic in Preston for 25 years, becoming joint managing director. Marrying his beloved wife Gloria in 1971, Allan’s antiques-hunting trips became family affairs, soon joined by their three children.

In 1990, with Gloria’s support, Allan took the gamble of leaving his job and opening GB Antiques on the vacated Hornsea Pottery site. Named after Gloria, what started as a Sunday antiques market is now a seven days a week 40,000+ sq ft antiques centre welcoming more than 200,000 visitors a year.

In 1998 Allan acquired the lease and investment for the surrounding Leisure Park. The development was the largest Lancaster had seen at the time. Creating retail, restaurant, and leisure facilities, plus housing and employment, his legacy is a much loved resource for local people and visitors.

Knowledgeable and approachable with casual visitors and experts alike, Allan was the ideal host for topical TV programmes including Salvage Hunters and Antiques Road Trip. Also popular are his antique and collectable columns in local newspapers and on local radio.

Allan and Gloria Blackburn

Allan became a worldwide media celebrity in 2003 when an escaped bull went on the rampage inside the centre, an event commemorated by the life-size fibreglass bull commissioned by Allan which stands proudly on the roof, over its entrance.

A lover of hockey, golf and horse racing, Allan played in more than 1,000 games for Preston Hockey Club before moving into coaching. In his final season he played alongside his son in the first team. He also managed the Lancashire Men’s Hockey Team when they won the County Championships for the UK.

He was on the technical hockey committee organising several international games and a supervisory steward for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

A devoted dad to Jimmy, Dawn and Mel, he held the position of chairman of governors at both Scotforth House School and Kirkham Grammar School. Jimmy and Dawn both followed their father into the family business and will be continuing his legacy both in the centre and across the site.

Jimmy said: “Dad had us going to antique fairs before we could walk. While he was the ‘face’ of GB Antiques, it’s a real family business, and lots of our loyal team have been with us for many years, too. It’s a sad time for everyone, but having people coming into the centre and sharing their stories and regard for him is very moving.

He added: “We only persuaded dad to ‘retire’ a couple of weeks ago – I was honoured he asked me to take over his antiques column, so he could enjoy more well deserved time with mum. His spirit definitely remains in the centre, where we will continue with everything we were planning together, and, I hope, continue to make him proud.”

Allan Blackburn leaves behind wife Gloria, children Jimmy, Dawn and Melanie, and grandchildren Bethany, Jamie and Lucy.