Tributes have been paid to a popular and well-respected shopkeeper who has died suddenly.

Duncan Skeels, described as 'authentic, honest and original' ran Bridport Antique Rugs in South Street.

Well-travelled and extremely knowledgeable, Mr Skeels ran a quality rug emporium – a shop one customer described as like 'entering another country, another culture'.

He died at his home in Symondsbury aged 70 'very suddenly and unexpectedly', his family said.

They said Mr Skeels was passionate about oriental rugs and built up a respected business with many of his customers becoming friends.

His shop was described as an 'open house for many people'; he loved talking about travel, music, politics and current affairs – and in the summer the discussion moved to the pavement outside.

Originally from Cambridgeshire, Mr Skeels was a geography graduate.

He lived and taught in Iran in the 1970s, before travelling extensively around India and Afghanistan. It was during these travels that he developed a passion for oriental rugs.

His link to west Dorset was through his cousins who lived in Bridport and whom Mr Skeels used to visit in the 1950s. But he didn't move to the area until the early 1980s, living first in Netherbury.

This is where his twin daughters, Anna and Zoe, grew up.

Mr Skeels first began trading in a building behind the South Street shop in 1988, and then moved into the main shop in 1992. It was previously known as Jack's Antiques, after Jack Abbott who had the shop before him.

Mr Skeels' daughter Anna said: "He began purchasing rugs on a trip to Quetta in Baluchistan, Pakistan in 1988, developing links with local carpet dealers. He shifted his focus to selling older and antique rugs, developing an expert eye when visiting local auction houses where he sourced much of his stock in recent years. He’d then research their history before cleaning them and using highly trained restorers. Any that were beyond complete repair he made into cushions and bags, using the pristine sections so the whole rug wasn’t wasted. He found the ‘magic’ of oriental rugs bound up in their individuality, and connection with culture and geography. Going against an increasingly homogenised world; they told stories of their origin/history and the people that made them.

"He was nationally respected within the field, and fellow dealers and experts would visit the shop from all over the country."

A customer and friend of Mr Skeels said: “He had a superb eye for rugs and an encyclopedic knowledge. Duncan was a man of high integrity but he didn’t take himself too seriously. He was immensely kind, though outspoken, enjoyed people’s company and loved his carpets."

The lockdown earlier this year forced Mr Skeels to temporarily close his shop and he was only starting to reopen just prior to his death.

Anna said: "My sister and I have been asked if we would take on the business; and whilst he has instilled in us a fraction of his vast knowledge and a strong appreciation, the shop was completely him and we’d never be able to recreate that."

She added: "He was the most authentic, honest and original person I’m sure I’ll ever meet. He was sharp, and could more than hold his own in the sometimes intimidating setting of an auction. He wasn’t motivated by money, much more his wish to share the joy he found in what he had in the shop. He’d often say to me ‘how can you be unhappy when you’re surrounded by stuff as beautiful as this’."