Painter, photographer, antique dealer and now writer, LAURA LEA meets Rex Moreton who discusses his life of many talents.
I was born in Southwold in Suffolk in 1928. I was evacuated to Gloucestershire with my sister. My mother sent us off to Stroud, she didn’t know where we were going.
They took us up to the school playground for people to pick their evacuees. Being there was two of us, none of them wanted to take us so we got left to the last. We were put into semi-detached houses next door to each other - so it wasn’t too bad.
I went to Stroud school of art, where I met my wife. But first I joined the merchant navy instead of going to the army.
My first ship sailed from Newport. We were away for two years. We went everywhere - Canada, Australia, New Zealand, America, India.
After that I went and lived in Chelsea and started painting - posters and things - and I went to the embankment exhibition. That was an exciting time. I worked in an art studio.
Later I went freelance and I was working for the Radio Times - I used to do the headings for Christmas and Boxing Day. These used to have illustrations then not just photographs.
Somewhere along the line I got married. I was quite young. But Margaret, my wife - who I’d met at the art school in Stroud, I then met her again in London when she was working for the Covent Garden opera and we got married and have been together ever since - through thick and thin.
We couldn’t get anywhere to live - but I advertised a reward for information - so then we got a flat in Bromley which was owned by a monumental mason called Mr Grimstone.
Later on when I was working for Good Housekeeping, I met a photographer there. We had a bit of a chat and I found out they pay just as much money for photographs as they did for artwork, so I became a photographer.
I think my first camera was the Rolleiflex. I joined Croyden camera club to find out how to do it. I think I picked it up quite quickly because it’s quite similar really - compositions and perspective.
One of my biggest jobs as a photographer was for the Post Office Savings Bank. You had to think up the idea and take it in and they would say yes do it.
I don’t take any pictures anymore. I used to belong to Newport camera club but I can’t walk hardly now.
Our next move was to Picketts, Surrey. We had our fourth and last child here.
Through photographing antiques for auction, I became an antique lover and made friends with some local dealers.
There was a 9ft painting I picked up at at auction for £500. I took it on the Antiques Roadshow and when the experts looked at it he said it’s worth at least £10,000. It made just under that.
But one of our best deals was the American Chippendale desk. It was in a woodcutters cottage. When we saw it we almost didn’t recognise it. When we got this back we got the top drawer out and written on the back of the top drawer was Daniel Goddard.
We knew it was worth a good deal of money so we put it in the showroom but nobody took a blind bit of notice of it. Then a lady who used to take dealers from America around called her clients and they said they’d be on the first plane over. I think we got £20,000 for it. So that really set us up.
I’ve lived in Newport for about 20 years. It’s a wonderful place Newport. I reckon it’s got a lot going for it. We bought an old railway station at Pontrilas as a sort of holiday home really and it was when we were there we thought this is the area we would like to live in and open up a museum.
Our folk museum was at Wolves-Newton in a property known as ‘The Model Farm’. It had a lot of Victorian stuff - I had five garages full of stuff. Stuff that was interesting but not particularly saleable. What started it off - there was a small manor house in Surrey which opened up and you had to pay to get in and we thought that’s a good idea.
We could only open in summer and in the end it wasn’t worth doing so we thought we’d sell it and take it easy. It didn’t quite work out like that. I had an antiques shop in Newport and a photography studio attached to it.
There’s a few relics form the antique dealing here in my house too. I sold a few at Christie’s auctions in London. I never went to any of the sales - it was out of my league.
About 10 years ago I started writing and three years ago I wrote my life story, Was that it? I’ve always been interested in it, but it was only then that I retired and had time do it. Of course, with a computer instead of a typewriter it’s easy isn’t it? I’d had a couple of goes at writing short stories but never did anything with them.
It’s more for just the family really - I’ve sold a few, but I don’t market them really. It was exciting to get the first book, when it came back from the printer. Now it’s nice because Stow Park Church do the printing.
I did sell about 20 of my poetry books to a private school in Norfolk. They wrote a lot of cards to me and their favourite poem seemed to be: I hate my husband, his name is Carl, you should hear him bicker you should hear him snarl. We went for a walk on the white cliffs of Dover, when no one was looking I pushed him over.
I think my poetry is suitable for older people and children, it’s a real mix. I think they should be spoken.
Yes, I’ve done a lot of different things. It’s just when another interest comes to you I guess. But I think I’ll stick to writing now.