FOR the past 31 years people in south Lincolnshire have known where to head to when they wanted anything, from a set of golf clubs to concrete paving slabs.
It’s a rural spot, but those in the know would make their way to Brian’s Trading Post at Gosberton Clough where customers from his early days may recall the mountains of what Brian Payne refers to as “junk”.
“Years ago you wouldn’t have got in the yard because of the way it was stacked,” admits Brian, who, at 69, has decided it is time to slow down and so is gradually winding down the business with a series of auctions.
He is looking forward to a peaceful retirement and that is easy to understand when he explains part of the reason behind his decision to close.
“It’s to do with certain elements of the local community. I am getting a lot of thieving – up to £200 a week,” explained Brian. I have even had a knife pulled on me and I have decided enough is enough.”
The business too has had its ups and downs and Brian says at times it has been “hard”, but it is a sequence of events in Brian’s personal life that must have caused the greatest distress.
He and his former wife had bad luck with the house adjoining the old farm buildings used as Brian’s Trading Post. They’d only been in the house two years when part of it fell down as he was replacing a window. Two years later, when they were still living in a caravan on site, there was a fire, and because they hadn’t told the mortgage company they weren’t living in the house, it wasn’t covered by insurance. Finally, the hurricane of the 1980s took the roof off the house; that, thankfully, was covered by insurance.
Tragically, Brian’s step son, Gary Powell, was killed in a motorbike accident about five years ago, aged 38.
Despite his varying personal fortunes, Brian has made a living out other people’s junk over the years, mainly collected from house, shop and factory clearances, and he now has old buildings as well as his yard filled with things such as tools, toys, china, pegs, furniture, slabs, timber, walking sticks and wallpaper – this last from a shop clearance.
It all looks much more orderly these days and Brian is proud of the fact that he keeps an inventory of everything in his head and can point customers to whatever it is they are looking for. He is also pleased that some of his stuff has appeared on screen thanks to a contact who sources props for the film industry – the fish shop in Eastenders might look familiar to its former customers at Gosberton Risegate.
A weaker man might have given in at the first hurdle. Having sold three bedroom suites bought at a furniture auction in Spalding, Brian thought there was a gap in the market he could fill. However, when his first customer at Brian’s Trading Post jibbed at paying £1 for a Royal Albert tea cup, saucer and plate, Brian smashed them rather than discount them further.
In the intervening years, Brian has adapted to changing tastes and built up a loyal following, with the third generation of some families visiting him to look through the thousands of items stored in his maze of outbuildings. Brian, who is helped these days by his partner Jane Kingsnorth, says: “I would like to thank all my customers over the years because of the support they have given me. Some have turned into good friendships.”
Brian’s clearance sale finishes on Sunday, and auctioneers Longstaffs is including some of what’s left in its Tuesday auction of March 17 followed by a general sale on site on April 14. That will be followed by a three-day clearance sale over the May Bank Holiday weekend, with clothes, bedding, books, and bits of furniture. A final auction on site on May 26 will hopefully clear everything else.
Once it’s all gone, Brian, who carries the branch and area standard for the Royal Naval Association, can focus on his military museum which was begun in 2000. He has about 10,000 items, most of which were sourced at house clearances, and needs time to arrange them into themed rooms.
Brian is proud of his military role which has brought him into contact with Royalty and involved travel overseas. He adds: “That’s helped me, it’s given me something in life. I am going to focus on that now.”