Fossick and Find


Like many of the exceptional items in their Matakana store, Chris Devereaux and Barbara Harris have fascinating stories to tell. They bought a country house in Matakana in March 2015 and will soon move permanently from their penthouse apartment in Freemans Bay. This year they opened vintage and collectables shop ‘Fossick and Find’ in Matakana Village.“This is going to be Barb’s ‘soft landing’ when she retires,” Chris explains. Hard to figure how she’s finding the time now – she’s the Deputy Director of Trade and Honorary Vice-Consul at the British Consulate-General in Auckland. “I know – it’s a mouthful,” says Barb somewhat ruefully. “I have to walk a few steps behind her you know, when she’s working,” Chris puts in. “I’m fine with being ‘the handbag’ though… we take it in turns.” They look at each other and laugh. Barb was a geography teacher when she came across an ad at the Auckland University looking for researchers into the 1975 Royal Commission for Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion. She impulsively applied and got the job; it took her on quite a journey. Her next job, researching Pacific Island women’s health issues in South Auckland, was a springboard to work in the (then) South Pacific Trade Commission. Barbara’s mission was to track down South Pacific people who were producing anything that could be exported, and help them to expand their endeavours. This took Barb everywhere in the Pacific from Pohnpei to Kiribati, in bi-planes and dugout canoes. She once found herself on the back of a truck in Tuvalu being taken to the island’s only hotel, “with a guy in a suit who turned out to be a tribal art expert from the Geneva Museum.” Barb’s now working – still within the Consulate – in renewable energy solutions in the Islands. The British Government is running wind, solar and biofuel test sites and workshops in Samoa. “Many of the Islands are sometimes gifted useful technology by wealthier nations, but too often there is no follow-up with training or maintenance. I’ve seen incredibly expensive refrigeration units being used as chook houses due to a missing part.” Barb’s looking forward to spending more time in Matakana; she has a creative urge and there’s an art studio at their new home which is calling her name. But Fossick and Find is ramping up too: within an hour one recent Saturday a vintage French butcher’s block and an enormous replica ship went out the door. Chris’s contacts are handy, both for restocking the shop and finding buyers. Many will remember him from his TV series ‘Going, Going, Gone’ but the industry has held him in high regard long before that. He’s the country’s best-known auctioneer of fine jewellery and watches and worked as a consultant to Webb’s for over two decades, holding the NZ record for selling a 12.5 carat diamond ring that was sold for over $220,000. Chris lights up when he talks of the human histories behind the objects of virtu. He loves to research them and his science background comes in handy for this – he has a Masters Degree in Chemistry, of all things. “We were asked to sell a beautiful little gold box that belonged to an elderly lady in Epsom, a Miss Bird,” Chris says. “Some research on the inscription showed that it was given by King Otto of Greece to a British Lieutenant Bird, who had rescued the King from an attempted coup. Bird went on to become an Admiral and explored Antarctica with two ships, Erebus and Terror. Miss Bird turned out to be his great grand-niece.” Chris recently sold at Fossick and Find the full court dress of Sir William Hall-Jones, who was elected to Parliament in 1890 and eventually knighted in 1910. It was worn at both the funeral of King Edward VII and the coronation of King George V. He sold Jean Batten’s diamond brooch to passionate pilot Sir Paul Holmes; and a lapis lazuli, gold and rock crystal Fabergé box bought by Prince Kinski on Christmas Eve in 1910, possibly given as a love token to Churchill’s mother. His own collecting passion centres mainly on books. Among other things, he owns a rare original set of ‘Cook’s Voyages’, (published 1773-1784). They reside in his new library, his own mini gentleman’s club. But like Barb, Chris still doesn’t have a lot of time to spend in it. He’s previously held positions as vice-chair of the advisory board of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and as a member of the advisory board of Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. He’s excited about chairing the new Auckland Museum Foundation. “We’ll be raising the funds to provide an enduring legacy for generations to come,” he declares. The goal? To raise $50M in ten years. The pair hugely enjoy their new house, which overlooks Point Wells to the east and Mt Tamahunga to the west. It’s important that it’s single storey, since Chris has recently been diagnosed with a very rare muscular condition that may deteriorate. A friend said, “Trust Devereaux to get a bloody designer disease!” he laughs. He’s steadfastly positive; they both are. They love their art, too, and their home is full of beloved pieces. “We have a mad crossover of Barb’s contemporary taste and mine, which veers towards Edwardian clutter,” says Chris. They look at each other and laugh again; they do this a lot. Twenty-five years together and it seems that this relationship still has as much gloss as their beloved grand piano. Fossick and Find | T: 021 764 183 | 41 Matakana Valley Road