David had collecting all sewn up in 1980

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Most of us have collected things at some point in our lives. Whether they were football stickers or stamps, they became something of an obsession.

David Sneller had no time for such tiny things. His collection was a lot more stylish and a lot more unusual. He collected sewing machines.

When he was interviewed by the Observer in 1980, Mr Sneller had 50 of the machines, many more than 100 years old and most still in working order, which was a true tribute to the craftsmen who made them.

He is pictured operating one of the older machines in his collection, a Wheeler and Wilson 1861 model.

Mr Sneller kept the machines above his drapery shop in Market Square, Petworth, having rescued many of them from tips and junk shops.

He said his favourite was an early Canadian machine made in 1880 at Guelph, Ontario, by a man whose great-granddaughter went to school with the descendant of a Petworth family which left the town with a boatload of pioneers in 1830.

According to the Observer, Mr Sneller’s collection was not confined to domestic sewing machines but included one for sewing boots and shoes, and another ingenious automatic button-sewing machine dating from the 1930s, which he acquired from a laundry.

His interest started with his first job, which was repairing sewing machines in a factory, though he did not start collecting them until he left the army in 1967.

Does anyone know if Mr Sneller is still living in the area and – more importantly – if he still has his fascinating collection?

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