Treasure hunter Tim Oulton is by his own admission a hoarder, with many Timothy Oulton furniture designs inspired by original antiques he’s collected over the years. Among the Victorian Chesterfields and Louis Vuitton luggage showcased at his antiques boutique, Rare by Oulton, lies one of his most prized possessions: a collection of rare Dunhill lighters.
In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post, Tim explains, “We have around 200. There’s one guy called Ben Shillingford who made them all. He started with Dunhill in the 50s and he died in 2000; and he only supplied Dunhill. There’s not a lot known about his work, and so over the last seven to eight years, I’ve bought every lighter that I can. I love them; I was spellbound the first time I saw one, and I’m still spellbound when I look at one of them.”
No one knows exactly how many Aquarium lighters Ben Shillingford made, and that’s part of the interest for Tim, to discover more about the master engraver. Shillingford started working for Dunhill in the late 1940s and was the first to produce miniature aquariums by carving lucite panels. The Aquarium Collection was launched in 1949, made entirely by hand, with no two lighters the same. Their production ceased at the end of the 1950s following Ben Shillingford’s retirement, simply because his mastery could never be equalled.
So what drives Tim to scour the corners of the earth in search of these beautiful lighters? He says, “The treasure hunt is part of it. Buying just one isn’t a story, but a collection is interesting. We sell the lighters occasionally. I’d like to sell them as a full collection, I’d be upset…but you have to sometimes let things go.”
Read the interview with the South China Morning Post for the full story of Tim’s quest to find out more about his beloved lighter collection.
The Dunhill Aquarium Lighter Collection is available exclusively at Harrods from February 2018 to June 2018 at the Rare by Oulton pop-up boutique.