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The Collecting Visions of a Television Visionary

We often express how selling important personal collections is a privilege - but it truly is. This is especially so when items have significant meaning to the lives of those who owned them and act as symbols of special moments and memories in lives lived.

We are genuinely humbled when a family entrusts us with such collections. This privilege was felt acutely last year, when Sir Gareth Edwards and his family entered the greatest’s collection of match-worn international jerseys that he and his rugby union opponents had worn for huge rugby matches.

We are always proud to receive this faith from vendors and particularly when such consignments could have graced any of our competitors’ auctions across the UK,

or even overseas. The honour and privilege will be strongly felt by us again this spring with the entry of another collection which, item by item, meant so much to the lives of those who acquired it.

This time the collection is far more eclectic than Sir Gareth’s Edwards’ rugby jerseys. But there are similarities in that both collections come from very proud Welsh people who had the Midas touch in their chosen disciplines, and helped make stars of those around them. Similarly, both Sir Gareth’s collection and this new collection have Wales running through them like a stick of rock.

Patricia Llewellyn was born in Carmarthen in 1962 to Anne and Eric, who ran The Emlyn Arms, a hotel and restaurant in Newcastle Emlyn. This inspired her lifelong interest in, and love of, food. As a child, her mother used to sit her on a beer barrel outside the hotel kitchen door and keep her busy by giving her a quail to eat. Pat was educated at Netherwood Boarding School in Saundersfoot, before attending Westonbirt Girls’ School, near Tetbury, in Gloucestershire. After which she studied French and Film at Middlesex Polytechnic including a year at the Sorbonne, Paris, later completing an MA in Film Studies at the Polytechnic of Central London. Inspired by her studies, Pat went to the British Universities Film & Video Council before getting a job at Channel 4, as an assistant in the Education Department. There she was encouraged to get into production by a commissioning editor who recognised her burgeoning talent. In 1992, Llewellyn began working at the production company Wall To Wall and helped create the cookery show Eat Your Greens (1993) with Sophie Grigson. In 1994 she joined Optomen Television, where she created the pioneering programme Police, Camera, Action! Which was a ratings sensation for ITV.

Later, Pat became Managing Director of Optomen from 2005 until 2016. It was during the filming of Eat Your Greens - and its accompanying series Grow Your Greens - that Llewellyn first met Clarissa Dickson Wright, then a recovering alcoholic, working in a cookery bookshop in Edinburgh. Shortly afterwards, she lunched with Jennifer Paterson, a cook and columnist at The Spectator – Pat had a “eureka” moment when she saw Paterson speed off on a motorbike. Ignoring the advice of others, who believed there was no appetite for “large, posh middle-aged ladies” on television cooking old-fashioned dinner-party food, Llewellyn introduced the two cooks to one another, added a sidecar as a prop and, in 1996, Two Fat Ladies became TV gold. With emphasis on “suet and tipsy cake rather than rocket salad and sun-dried tomatoes”, four series were commissioned, and it became the most-watched cookery programme in the mid-Nineties, attracting more than 3.5 million viewers a week, as well as a global audience of 70 million. Its two stars charmed with their eccentricity, politically incorrect views and enthusiasm for cholesterol infused dinners. ‘You really want to get it well-greased. Did you see Last Tango in Paris? Something like that’, exclaimed Dickson Wright! The spin-off books became bestsellers; the shows and books went on to further success in America and Australia and around the globe.

After the incredible success of Two Fat Ladies, Pat embarked on something very different, when she spotted a young, fresh-faced Jamie Oliver chopping spinach in the background of a documentary about The River Café in London. “This is the guy,” she told colleagues at Optomen.

The BBC, however, was not easily convinced. The Naked Chef, in which Pat Llewellyn’s voice was heard in every episode asking Oliver questions about what he was cooking, sat shelved for five months before finally being broadcast, in 1999. By the end of the first few episodes of the first series audience figures rocketed and cooking-cool was born. Jamie Oliver soon became Optomen’s major earner, a situation which came to an end when, after the third series, Oliver decided to leave to set up his own production company. He later acknowledged Pat’s “huge impact” on his early TV career and called her “one of the most gifted matriarchs of the TV industry”. Llewellyn said Oliver’s departure taught her a valuable business lesson, aptly, “to not to put all the eggs in one basket”.

In 2004, Pat brought Gordon Ramsay to mainstream prominence on Channel 4’s Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, transforming the terrifying, sweary outspoken chef into the wise Godfather of the restaurant industry, troubleshooting struggling establishments. They would cofound One Potato Two Potato, a joint venture production company, to produce all of Ramsay’s television series, including The F Word. The company opened a Los Angeles office in 2010, which Llewellyn ran with her husband, Ben Adler. Pat’s other credits included Heston’s Feasts (2009), with experimental chef Heston Blumenthal. Llewellyn also acted as co-producer of several American cookery and reality television programmes, such as Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, MasterChef, Hotel Hell, and MasterChef Junior.

Pat also launched the BBC2 series Mary Queen Of Shops (2007) and the media career of Mary Portas - another ratings hit. She was executive producer of The F***ing Fulfords (2004), a BAFTA nominated documentary for Channel 4, which introduced bemused, horrified and entertained audiences to the foul-mouthed residents of Great Fulford, an 800-year old crumbling manor house in Devon. Llewellyn won her first BAFTA for The Naked Chef and two more (plus an International Emmy and a Grierson Award) for Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Heston’s Feasts won a Royal Television Society Award, and in 2002 she won the Independent Spirit Award at the annual Glenfiddich Food and Drink Awards.Former BBC2 controller Mark Thompson described The Naked Chef as “spectacularly influential in the development of factual TV” and said Pat Llewellyn was “the single most important creator of the new wave of food shows which eventually swept the world”.

I first came across Pat Llewellyn and her husband, Ben Adler, in the early years of our second saleroom in Cardiff, when they were enthusiastic bidders in our Welsh Sale auctions. I will always remember ‘Dylan Thomas’ garden gate which they eventually won after a protracted bidding battle in the room. The rusty iron gate from DT’s garden had been salvaged from Laugharne beach by actor Michael Sheen and the graffiti artist Pure Evil, together with his late father, the artist, John Uzzell Edwards. A fabulous provenance that you just couldn’t make up! Pat and Ben had the gate lovingly restored, and it now opens into the vegetable garden of their east London house.

Pat Llewellyn at home
Pat Llewellyn at home

Pat was fiercely proud of her Welsh roots, and together with Ben (who equally proudly described himself as “Welsh by marriage”) she curated a Welsh fine art and Welsh antique collection for their homes in west Wales, the Cotswolds and London. They approached collecting with the same freshness as they did the television industry – by avoiding the mainstream. They bought Welsh art and Welsh furniture from around the UK, always with the condition that the object must speak to them vernacularly. The age of the item was secondary to the item making a statement about Welsh heritage and Pat’s Welsh roots. A version of ‘Salem’ by Hywel Harries being one of those statement pieces. They also purchased, at The Welsh Sale, John Uzzell Edwards’ monumental Welsh quilt canvases, which are very much in the manner of 20th Century abstractionism but are inspired by the ancient tradition of Welsh quilt making. Two of these giants are in this April Welsh Sale.

Lot 80: The Welsh Sale, April 27th

Hywel Harries 'Salem Revisited'


Lot 80

Lot 82: The Welsh Sale, April 27th

David Humphreys 'Farm, St David's, Pembrokeshire'


Lot 82

Lot 90: The Welsh Sale, April 27th

John Knapp Fisher 'Llanwnda with Moon'


Lot 90

Lot 94: The Welsh Sale, April 27th

John Uzzell Edwards '


Lot 94

Also consigned is the haunting print ‘Soar y Mynydd’ by Ogwyn Davies, which portrays the spirit of the remotest chapel in Wales, which stands alone in the Cambrian Mountains (at the end of a “seemingly unending winding road” according to Ben, which Pat and Ben drove down together in winter 2015).

Lot 86: The Welsh Sale, April 27th

Ogwyn Davies 'Soar y Mynydd'



There is a trio of antique Welsh samplers, each worked by young girls of the period with the triumvirate of Welsh surnames - Jones, Davies and Thomas. Ben and Pat were also very fond of Welsh vernacular furniture and in particular stick-back chairs. These humble little chairs having only recently caught the imagination of the collector in a big way. There are eleven in the auction, all carefully selected by Pat and Ben on their buying missions in London and Wales.

Lot 54: The Welsh Sale, April 27

1825 Welsh & English language sampler



Lot 55 The Welsh Sale, April 27

1877 Welsh language sampler



Lot 56: The Welsh Sale, April 27

1890 Welsh sampler


56 1
A small selection of the Welsh vernacular furniture from the Pat Llewellyn Collection
A small selection of the Welsh vernacular furniture from the Pat Llewellyn Collection

Pat Llewellyn died in 2017 at the too young age of 55 years. All of us at Rogers Jones & Co were shocked and saddened to hear of the death of one of Wales’ greatest modern Cymraes. Pat was a television pioneer and one of the sharpest visionaries to have worked in the TV industry.

We are very grateful to Ben Adler for entrusting us to sell this wonderful collection, which has Pat and Ben’s personality stamped on every lot. Not only is it a privilege to auction this collection which will have meant so much to Ben and his life with Pat, it is also a privilege to be given access to the vision and leftfield approach of Pat through the Welsh objects that she loved.

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