The most memorable Antiques Roadshow items according to the show's experts
10 Antiques Roadshow experts recall their most memorable item from their time on the show...
Ronnie Archer Morgan
Item: Sooty Puppets
I was at Castle Howard in 2017 when I was shown some original Sooty and Sweep puppets. I had goosebumps filming them because, when I was five, living in a children’s home in Southport, I’d met their creator, Harry Corbett, and played with these same puppets. After the programme went out I was contacted by Anna, my best friend at the home. She now lives in New Zealand, but we were able to meet up the following year – after more than 60 years.
Item: Saxon Ring
In 2001 at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, I noticed a man walking around. He came up at the end of the day and produced a Saxon ring that was plaited from pure gold. He’d found it in a hedge. I told him that the person who owned the ring was a high-status individual, perhaps a king. We have to imagine him hurtling along on his horse; the ring falls to the earth and then, 1,500 years later, it comes out just as it went in, because gold is incorruptible.
Item: The Cottingley Fairy Camera and Photos
In 1917, the nation was transfixed by the story of two girls who claimed to have taken photographs of fairies in a wooded dell near Cottingley. It wasn’t until the 1980s that one of the girls admitted it had all been a hoax. In 2008, the daughter and granddaughter of one of those girls brought along one of the cameras used in the deception and a set of the famous fairy photographs. For me, this was the most magical moment in my three decades of Roadshow duty.
Item: Status Quo Embroidery
After a motorcycle accident left him paralysed, Colin Booth embroidered a tapestry with titles of Status Quo’s hits using a needle held in his teeth. He died aged 39 and his mother brought the tapestry to the Roadshow at Tredegar House, in Newport. It was an incredibly emotional moment and it left me in tears.
Item: Pen and Ink Illustrations by Donald Chaffin
I think one of my favourites is still definitely one of the first items I ever came across – at Bolsover Castle in 2015. They were original pen and ink illustrations by Donald Chaffin for the first edition of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox in 1970. I had never seen the original drawings before, but they were so recognisable and immediately brought back wonderful childhood memories of reading the story!
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- Lennox Cato on how he fell in love with the antiques trade
- The history of Czech glass with Mark Hill
- 10 antiques you need to own according to experts
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Item: Welsh Treen Love Spoon
At Erddig, near Wrexham, Wales, in 2018, a wonderful large treen love spoon came to me. For the owners it was an important family heirloom, but what made it especially memorable for me was the detailed history that had survived with it. They knew who had carved it, where it was carved, and for whom it was intended. Incredibly, they even had the very knife with which it was lovingly carved and pierced with all those rich symbols of love – including a strawberry.
Item: James Cromar Watt Silver Chalice
It was my first Roadshow and I was shown an incredible chalice by James Cromar Watt, a wonderful silversmith jeweller, who came from Aberdeen. The chalice was a private commission that was made c1910 and was a fabulous example of his craftsmanship. It was my first ever Antiques Roadshow, so I will always remember it.
Item: Clockwork Bird Trainer
At the Bognor Regis Antiques Roadshow in 1980, an amazing automaton by Gustave Vichy came in: a bird trainer lifts his flute to his mouth and plays a tune. His fingers move realistically over the holes on the flute and he moves his eyes. Then he raises the little bird sitting on his other hand and the bird sings, while flapping its wings and moving its head and beak – spectacular! It’s a super-complicated mechanical object from the golden age of automata, made by the best French maker of that era.
Item: Minton Art Pottery Studio Wall Charger
The charger came to me at Battle Abbey two years ago. Decorated with a portrait of a young girl wearing a hat with a peacock feather and dated for 1871 on the reverse, it was painted by Rebecca Coleman, who often used her nieces as sitters. This was a standout item for me, not just because of the vibrant Aesthetic Movement decoration, but because the owner’s grandfather used it to catch the dripping oil from the engine of his boss’s car – on his boss’s insistence, I should add!
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Item: 18th-century Robe à la Française
Also known as a sack-back gown, this amazing dress was filmed at Bodnant Garden last year. It was made from silk damask, probably woven in Spitalfields c1760, and had survived in incredibly good condition. It also stands out for me because one of the owners had been a tailor or couturier – he and his partner had a large collection of costume, and the Robe à la Française had been bequeathed to them by a friend who knew they’d appreciate it.
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