Conroy collection to go under the hammer

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 2nd December, 2013

David Conroy was studying surgery in London more than 50 years ago when he first met the much older antiques expert and dealer Bill Johnston.

He and his wife Judith had only recently married and had not long arrived in England to further his medical studies.

During their four years in England they became firm friends and Bill Johnston was able to advise and mould what was to become a lifelong interest in antiques and collectibles.

“He helped us furnish our flat in Kent and I still have the dining table and chairs we bought at the time,” Judith explained. “At the same time, Bill was organising container loads of furniture to be brought to Melbourne for an auction room called Decoration and then Leonard Joel.”

David Conroy, who went on to become a highly successful surgeon, died several years ago and Judith (who now wishes to move into smaller premises) has asked E.J. Ainger Pty Ltd to auction the contents of her home at 21A Hill Street, Toorak on site from noon December 8.

Much of what the Conroys bought in England they were able to bring back to Australia and, under Bill’s guidance when he opened in Kent Antiques in High Street Armadale, they continued to purchase fine quality antiques for their home.

Bill was a renowned traveller, always on the lookout for the finer things in life – and in 1986 (aged 76) while on a trip to India he suddenly died.

Because of their friendship, Bill had appointed David executor of his will and trustee of the W.R. Johnston Trust. With his co trustees, David established the Johnston House Museum in East Melbourne and, on his retirement, Judith replaced him as trustee.

This auction contains much of what the Conroys collected with Bill’s advice.

It includes one of Judith’s great loves – 30 Mughal paintings of early 18th century figures from India – and a marble top centre pedestal table also from the sub-continent.

An 18th century portrait of Lady Anne Montague, daughter of the Earl of Manchester Robert Montague and wife of James the Earl of Suffolk, from the School of Sir Peter Lely should be a major attraction to auction goers.

Bill Johnston purchased this and another painting (that resides in his collection) from Kimbolton Castle. 

Another highlight is an Empire period gilt bronze figural mantel clock by Gaston Jolly, along with a pair of 19th century Louis XVI style walnut fauteuils from Lord Aster in Cleveden Country House.

Also featured is a Regence kingwood commode stamped by C. Lefaiver, appointed maître to the king in January 1738, and a George II mahogany bureau bookcase.


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