Back in 1979 I recall my parents tuning in to a new programme one Sunday afternoon on BBC1. By the time the credits rolled they were hooked and the subsequent series became a "must-see" in our house. All these years later my parents are still watching and I too have become a keen viewer. The fact that the "Antiques Roadshow" has just embarked on its 40th series is testament to its enduring appeal and success. Like many objects featured on the programme, it has become a much-loved treasure and I think that is largely because it is so wonderfully and reassuringly British. Where else in the world would people queue patiently, in all weathers, to have their collectables and curiosities valued?
Apart from the changing presenters (Bruce Parker, Angela Rippon, Arthur Negus, Hugh Scully, Michael Aspel and Fiona Bruce) and experts, the programme has remained blissfully unaltered. (Why spoil a winning formula?) Bruce Parker recently said that, at the first "Roadshow", there was a fear that nobody would turn up. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case; the great British public loved the idea and the queues have grown longer each year.
The series has the ability to make an instant connection between the viewers (many of whom enjoy guessing the items' values), owners and experts, and it is also a marvellous celebration of exquisite artistry, craftsmanship, history and expert knowledge. Family heirlooms, fantastic finds and the occasional fake have all appeared in front of the cameras. From toys to tea sets, clocks to ceramics, militaria to manuscripts, figurines to furniture, portraits to pottery, and glassware to gems, objects of all shapes and sizes are brought along in boxes, shopping bags, wheelbarrows, jewellery caskets or, in some cases, vans and trailers. Perhaps you might have been along to a "Roadshow" in the past – I’d love to know if you have, and what the expert's verdict on your item was.
"How did you come by the object?" is a question frequently asked by the experts and the stories that emerge in response are often amusing as well as amazing. I love it when the £5 painting from a car-boot sale turns out to be worth thousands, or the much-maligned vase is revealed to be a rare and priceless artefact. One lady, many years ago, was using an 18th-century Chinese bowl, eventually valued at £25,000, as her dog’s water bowl! What a privileged pooch he was!
The "Roadshow" experts have become firm favourites with viewers and have included Arthur Negus, Henry Sandon, David Battie, Eric Knowles, Bunny Campione, Paul Atterbury, Philip Mould, Hilary Kay, Andy McConnell and many more. Among the recent experts to join the team is Ronnie Archer Morgan who, a couple of weeks ago, was clearly moved when some glove puppets and original sets from "The Sooty Show" were brought along by a lady whose father had worked with Harry Corbett. It emerged that Ronnie had grown up in a children’s home where he had no toys of his own, but one day Harry Corbett came to visit with his puppets and he allowed Ronnie to play with them. As he admitted, this kind gesture meant the world to him as a child who had very little in life. It was a particularly poignant story. As has been proved so often on the programme, the items don’t have to be worth a fortune to make them infinitely precious. Their greatest value lies in the stories, emotions and memories they contain.
The forthcoming edition of Evergreen features a story about a bargain online auction find, which a family lovingly restored. It wasn’t your usual antique, but it did have history, character and became a cherished addition to their home. Discover exactly what they bought in our winter issue, which is published on 22nd November, and you can order a subscription by clicking here.