Uncovering stories behind antiques and how they relate to our lives today. Dr Lucy Worsley and expert Mark Hill examine objects from the world of entertaining.
Browse content similar to Entertainment. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Antiques. What do we really know about them?
Apart from being beautiful, exquisitely made
and often hugely valuable.
Look at the workmanship on this. This is really Georgian bling.
'But why were they made in the first place?
'And who were they made for?'
Candles were so expensive, it would have felt like
actually burning money to light them.
'Whether from a stately home or a two-up two-down,
'antiques unlock a fascinating history
'of the way we lived then and now.'
They're very amusing slides, but would have been terrifying if you'd never seen a moving picture.
'I'm historian Doctor Lucy Worsley.
'I'll uncover the stories behind some of these remarkable objects.'
'I'm antiques expert Mark Hill.
'I'll be looking at why some items have become priceless,
'while others are the collectables of tomorrow.'
You don't need to be an aristocrat to own this.
People may pay sort of £30-£40 for a teacup and saucer.
'We'll meet the historians and curators who preserve them.'
'The highly-skilled craftspeople who still make them.'
The Chinese and the Japanese would sour their clay
for up to 200 years.
'And the passionate people who collect them.'
Oh, my goodness gracious me!
The earliest one is 113 years old and it's still working.
We're going to put antiques in their historical and social context.
Today, we'll examine antiques from the world of entertaining.
We discover who made them, what they cost, how they changed our behaviour
and follow their journey
through history into our homes.
'We've come to Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire,
'the ancestral home of the Duke of Bedford.
'Over the centuries, it's been at the forefront of entertaining,
'so it's a really good place to start.'
This grand house is typical of the country houses
built during the golden age of the 18th century.
You're right. This is a real whopper.
But it's not just for one old duke sitting in there all by himself,
it's also for his family and his servants and his friends.
It's really built for entertaining.
Right at the heart of this, you'd have found the rooms used for entertainment
and the dining room, where he'd have been able to display his wealth and social status.
Now, what we're interested in is his kit, his paraphernalia.
He's got top-of-the-range, lavish stuff in there.
Over the next couple of centuries,
we're going to see that trickling down into everybody's houses.
'Our day starts with something very British indeed, a cup of tea.
'In the 17th century, green tea started being shipped from China to Europe,
'along with porcelain teacups.
'Exotic and delicate, this porcelain was so desirable
'that it became known as white gold.'
-You requested tea, my dear.
I've been called many things, but not that.
What have we got here, then?
We have porcelain tea bowls.
We're going to have a drink they've been having since the late 17th century.
-1660s, this caught on.
What actually came over with the tea from the East was porcelain.
This was originally not the key part of the whole transaction,
this was just the ballast for the ship.
In many instances, absolutely.
The Chinese developed porcelain in the 10th century.
And, of course, exported it. China-mania gripped Britain by the 18th century.
And there was a race on, effectively, who could produce this white gold.
This very valuable, very sought-after material.
It was translucent, but it held hot water.
People beforehand used pottery and stoneware that was opaque, you couldn't see through it.
It was heavy, it was brown.
And it was also the fact that it was complicated paraphernalia. I think we all rather like gadgets.
So as this new drink becomes introduced,
people tend to go for the accoutrements that go with it.
This has got a really wonderful, timeless, Oriental quality to it.
This particular design shows koi carp
swimming around forever in a blue and white world.
-But what you've got there isn't Chinese at all.
-No, it's not.
This is a tea bowl and saucer produced by the Worcester factory.
And this is about 1770, 1780.
And it's the mother and child pattern.
The big difference is many motifs in Chinese porcelain
are sort of iconographic. They have a meaning.
And this was sort of our Western view
of what we might think a Chinese scene might be.
And you can go out and buy one of these?
You can. I think you'd probably get change out of around £60 or £70.
But this one, you'd probably get change,
if you had to go to a dealers, out of £200.
It's a scarcer piece than that.
That's very much a mass-produced piece of export ware.
You can see the sort of democratisation of production.
You can also see the democratisation of tea.
If you're the mistress of the house, you keep your tea locked up in a caddy.
You don't let anyone else touch it, let alone your servants.
But as we go through the 18th century,
servants expect a tea allowance as part of their wages.
Everybody has become addicted to tea.
It's described as a fatal liquor that'll bring you to death's door.
-And I suppose it's fear of its addictive properties.
Because we do know that once you've had tea, you can't get enough of it.
'This cup was the culmination of decades of endeavour.'
Ever since Chinese porcelain arrived on these shores,
British potters had been trying to crack its secret formula.
In 1752, Benjamin Lund finally discovered the magic ingredient,
Cornish soapstone, otherwise known as talcum powder.
Worcester bought his formula,
and by 1755, was making the best
blue and white English porcelain money could buy.
So obsessed was the country with all things Chinese,
that even our porcelain was named after it.
I'm at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent
to meet master potter and historian Kevin Millward.
So, this was the secret ingredient that lead to Worcester's success.
And there was a great reason for that, wasn't there?
This gave them a quality that was desirable.
And that's thermal shock resistance.
And by thermal shock, you mean having the teacup there, on a table,
nice tea party, ladies come around to have a nice chat,
somebody picks up the hot teapot,
-pours boiling water in...
-And it would shatter. Yeah.
And obviously, that's supposedly the origin
of the two types of tea-drinking styles.
The poor people have to put the milk in first
so that the cup doesn't shatter,
and the aristocracy, who can afford the best-quality china,
they can pour their boiling tea straight into the cup.
-This was presumably quite secret.
-Oh! Um...incredibly so.
Because you are talking about pieces
that were selling for astronomical amounts of money.
Only the very wealthy could afford this.
I think a simple teacup or tea dish
would have cost somewhere in the region of £450 in today's money.
In 1794, that was about eight pounds.
-So, can you show us exactly how much of each would be included?
'To make the porcelain clay,
'Kevin mixes together china clay, silica,
'which is basically sand,
'glass cullet or frit and only 1% of soapstone.
'Surprisingly little, given it was the key ingredient.'
We need the water at this stage to get the materials
to mix together evenly.
And mix together as evenly as I can, is what I will now do.
My goodness! Making porcelain.
-The clay that we are mixing together is called the body.
But as you can see, we've gone from this sort of dry powder
into what looks a little bit like custard at this stage.
It's got to be dried out and the water taken out of it. What happens next?
Well, what we're going to do here is a very simple way
of reducing the water content,
and that is, we'll take some of this, and put it on a plaster bat.
-And the plaster is porous.
Ah! So that absorbs the water.
It takes a few seconds.
-But you can see the consistency changing now.
-Oh, lord! Yes.
-It's like thickening up gravy or something.
You can virtually scrape it off now. That's much more like clay.
You can see now we have a little nugget of plastic clay.
Now, to a potter, this is dead.
Dead? How do you mean?
It's raw materials brought together,
but it has no body to it.
So what we need to do to this now
is put it away for as long as possible,
which we call souring,
and that will induce bacterial growth.
And if you've ever found a sort of dish rag
that's been in water too long and it's going a little bit black,
when you touch it, it's slimy.
-Yeah? And that's exactly what we want in this.
And, in fact, one of my students quite a few years ago
was complaining about the lack of plasticity in the porcelain body,
and I said, "Why don't you do what the old makers would do?"
And he said, "What was that?" I said, "Pee on the clay."
-Oh, goodness gracious!
-So that's what he did.
Now, it's said that the Chinese and the Japanese
would sour their clay for up to 200 years.
So, clay that was prepared
-would only be used by great-great grandchildren.
Right. We've got the clay matured, soured, prepared.
-Ready to go.
-Ready to go on the wheel.
I think my job here is clear.
-I'm going to provide the power.
-You're going to provide the power.
-Which way do I turn?
-That's right, towards me. Towards me. OK.
Right. Just slow down a touch.
Who would have done this? I'm quite tall, but it's quite,
-I should imagine, backbreaking, after a day.
-Women and children.
-Women and children?
Presumably not very well paid.
Not very well paid at all.
So, were you under pressure, the potter?
Yes. You'd be working piecework,
so you were paid by the quantity that you produced.
So, how many would you have to produce in a day?
I would say somebody throwing a cup similar to this
could be expected to throw
anywhere between 750 and 1,000 of these a day.
'Creating decorative chinaware
'had always been a painstaking process done by hand.
'But the invention of transfer printing in the 1750s
'revolutionised the process,
'enabling mass production of images on ceramics.
'An engraved image on a copper plate is filled with ink,
'which is transferred onto tissue paper by passing it through rollers.
'The design is then placed onto the ceramic.
'Sometimes, as a final embellishment,
'hand-enamelling over the design would add colour and detail.
'This, coupled with Josiah Spode's creation
'of fine bone china in about 1800,
'took tea sets out of the realm of the few
'and brought them to the many.'
And these are very pretty little cups, aren't they?
They are. They date from around 1900.
They're by a well-known manufacturer called Spode.
And Spode, of course, developed bone china.
Bone china was to prove quite revolutionary
because it allowed all sorts of different social classes
to own a fine china or a porcelain tea set.
-So this is porcelain-for-the-people bone china.
-It's exactly that.
Now, tea, the meal, was invented by a duchess.
And I guess afternoon tea
still has quite classy, aristocratic connections, doesn't it?
If you're going out to tea, you'll have something quite fancy and will eat again later.
But, if you're a working-class person
and you say, "I'm going home for my tea," you don't mean that, do you?
-You mean your main evening meal.
-It's around 4 o'clock.
-The sun is going down.
-Let's get on with it.
Tea wasn't the only exotic import from foreign parts
that firmly established itself in our culture.
The sofa gets its name from suffah,
an Arabic word that means long, stuffed seat for reclining.
And it became popular, too.
Today, we usually find it in the living room,
but it started life as a piece of furniture in the bedroom.
This is a very lovely bedroom. Come and look at this.
Fit for a queen, I'd say.
But what we've really come to see is this piece of furniture,
which is...well, it's kind of flexible, isn't it?
-I would call this a chaise longue.
But it's related to the couch.
From coucher, the French word to recline or lie down.
Some people call them fainting sofas, and you can see why.
It's just made for the job.
Exactly. Tightly laced into your girdle,
you might need a moment to recline and relax.
It's very nice down here, actually.
Tudors had something like this, but they called it a daybed.
That's the term that Shakespeare uses.
The implication is that it's in the bedroom.
-But they move out into the living room.
And become known under a different term, sofa. From a Middle Eastern word, suffah.
But the key thing, sofa, couch, whatever,
is that these are sociable pieces of furniture.
-They're for you and a guest.
-Thank you very much.
This particular daybed is in the rococo style,
which flourished in western Europe from around 1700 to 1780.
Rococo wasn't a hard and fast style, but rather a mood.
There are several ways to spot a rococo piece when you see one.
Seashells and back-to-back C-shaped scrolls are always a big clue.
As are carved cabriole legs and light, flourishing, feminine lines.
Thomas Chippendale was a craftsman
whose name was not only universally associated
with English rococo furniture,
he was also the first designer
to have a furniture style named after him.
Thomas Chippendale must be the world's most famous furniture-maker.
But was this down to his craftsmanship, or was it
the promotion of his business in the form of this enormous book?
I've come to Dumfries House in Scotland,
home to one of the finest collections
of Chippendale furniture in the country.
Some of its pieces are worth a fortune.
The Chippendale historian David Jones
is going to show me what makes them so special.
So, here we've got about 10 pieces of proper Chippendale furniture,
and there's only 700 of them in the whole world!
That's right, yes.
-And 50 of them in this house.
-That's amazing, isn't it?
Why is he so influential, then?
He gives his name to a whole sort of - it's shorthand
for a particular type of Georgian furniture, isn't it?
Yes, and it's a brand name that people use from Mexico City to China,
really, and it's in everybody's consciousness.
I think that was largely because he was such a brilliant marketer -
he produced what was the first catalogue of furniture in 1754.
-It's called Chippendale's Director.
"A collection of elegant and useful designs of household furniture."
We take the phrase "household furniture" for granted,
but it was coined by Chippendale.
-That's the first use of the phrase.
And you can get bookcases, writing tables, breakfast tables, etc, etc,
but you can also get them in the Gothic, Chinese or the modern taste.
-It's like the IKEA catalogue, really.
that's the old joke, everybody says, yes.
So, it's wrong to think of Chippendale being this lonely,
tortured, creative genius sitting in his studio,
making everything himself by hand.
Really, he was picking up other people's ideas and amalgamating them
-and popularising them.
-That's right, yes.
-To have some in the 1750s was to be thoroughly modern.
But the Earl of Bute, who bought these for this house,
he thought they were a bit TOO modern...
We're used to this kind of thing,
but to the Earl of Dumfries, it was...so, er, rather strange
that he said to his lawyer, "Andrew, the furniture is monstrous."
-But he obviously stuck with it, because it's still here today.
So, how can you tell if your Chippendale is one of the 700?
You need the original documents - the bills, at least correspondence -
to verify that the furniture was supplied by Thomas Chippendale.
-And if you've got one of the 700, you're quids in, aren't you?
How much was this when it was for sale five years ago?
Similar chairs have gone for a million, er...
We're touching a £1 million chair!
Chippendale created a brand by publishing The Director,
a pattern book.
It won him many commissions, and meant that
people across the country could get their local carpenter
to make them a piece of furniture in the Chippendale style.
It was this that sealed his popularity.
The students here at the Chippendale School, just outside Edinburgh,
are learning to make furniture using traditional methods.
Anselm Fraser, who wears some really crazy braces, is going to show me
how to make a chair leg using Chippendale's original techniques.
We've got the original leg here, and my target
-is to show you how to make a leg like this.
'I'm using a tool called a scratch stock.
'It's got a curved metal blade inside it,
'and it will carve a straight line down the wooden leg.'
Oh, I've made a groove already!
-And that's what I'm aiming for...
-So, it's quite simple...
-There's a dignity in labour, isn't there?
TOOL SCRAPES ON WOOD
-Now, you're going to get fired, Lucy...
-Am I doing it wrong?
No, you're slipping all over the place.
But we can... If you hold it in here...
-What kind of wood are we using?
-We're using mahogany.
In Georgian times, it came in as ballast in the ships,
so you had the manufactured goods...
-..from Britain to the rest of Europe,
and then you trooped off down to the West Coast of Africa,
picked up your slaves, took them to the Caribbean,
offloaded them to the sugar plantations,
and then the ships would fall over, you see?
Because in those days, you had a lot of masts and ropes on the ships.
And unless you had a lot of weight in the bottom,
erm, it would capsize.
So, they put this mahogany in the bottom,
and the mahogany arrived in the Port of London,
and Chippendale would walk down there and see all this mahogany.
So, Georgian furniture is actually quite tied up with the slave trade.
That's right, you see?
'Chippendale's workshop in Saint Martin's Lane
'became one of the largest furniture manufacturers in London.
'It employed 50 staff
'including craftsmen, cabinet-makers and designers.'
How many years would it take an apprentice joiner to get good?
Well, you would only do one little bit all day, every day.
-Until they got good at it?
-Yeah, and you can see we aren't doing that well.
But it doesn't really matter - it gives you the kind of idea.
We'd cut the moulding on this side and on this side
and then we would use an old-fashioned thing
called a moulding plane to work it in the middle.
-This is not a science - it's an art.
-It's a total art, a total skill.
I'm just nibbling away at the wood very sensitively and gently...
-..and creating a lovely, round profile.
It just might take me 25 years.
'Thomas Chippendale was a Yorkshireman
'from quite humble origins and even with his success,
'he died a man of modest means
'because his aristocratic clients didn't always pay their bills.'
-Now go clockwise.
-OK. Now press hard.
I'm determined for you to get to the bottom there.
I'm going to get to the bottom of this.
Now, the next thing we would do is we'd find a mortise chisel.
This is brilliant. You can see how they actually did things.
Yeah, but to be honest, I wouldn't be employing you.
I mean, you'd have to have this finished by now.
And so we've got our 18th-century glue pot here
of just one candlepower.
Now, this would make a terrible smell, wouldn't it?
Terrible, terrible smell.
It was just animal bones and the legend was
that the apprentice would be made to pee in the glue pot.
What, to make it extra sticky?
Yes, the ammonia in the pee made it extra sticky.
Brush, brush, brush-brush-brush.
-And a little bit in there.
-Squadge it in there.
-Squidge it in there.
Fantastic. Put that back in the pot.
Isn't that good? Have I put it in the right way round?
Yeah, you've done everything perfectly. Of course you have.
-How long will that take to dry?
-You don't have to use clamps.
-This glue sets in about 30 seconds.
-It's stuck already.
-Of course, you made a good joint to begin with.
So, you know, you've done seven years of apprenticeship -
it's nice and snug inside.
Now you can see how it's going to look.
There - look at that!
And mortise-and-tenon construction is the way that old furniture works?
That's the way ALL of the old furniture of that time was made.
And so it became fashionable to own a household furniture
that wasn't just practical, but beautiful.
To find out about the evolution of the sofa -
once the status symbol for the middle-classes,
now an essential in every home -
I've come to the Geffrye Museum in London.
This museum has furniture ranging from the 17th
through to the 20th centuries.
The social historian, Eleanor John,
is going to guide me through the sofa's development.
We're starting in the Regency drawing room,
where people would entertain guests.
So, is this a middle-class person's sofa?
It is indeed, somebody who's reasonably well-off,
but not aristocratic.
They're probably earning their living, they are working.
Although it looks like you're supposed to sit upright and very properly on this,
sofas get a bit of a racy reputation, don't they?
They do, they do, and the evidence for this being that we can see them,
for example, in print culture that show... And this one is captioned,
"Captain Jessamy learning the proper discipline of the couch."
Look at her looking at him!
-She's going to show him a thing or two.
-Yeah, he is quite exposed.
He's lolling. It's not proper to loll, really, is it?
No, it's a familiar type of behaviour
that you can loll in your own home,
but you perhaps shouldn't loll if you've got guests.
-But this courtship is going rather badly, isn't it?
-Yes, it is.
This is brilliant - she's saying,
"Come and sit down, my dear little dandy,
"and I'll give you a bit of white sugar candy."
-She's essentially saying that she's feeling randy.
Yep, you know, offering a nibble of something to him.
So here we've got quite a formal, elegant piece of furniture,
but, actually, I love the fact that it's leading to new forms
of permissive behaviour, as Regency people see it.
We've got scenes of seduction, of domination,
of flirtation taking place on sofas - men and women sitting together.
The sofa was responsible for a whole new form of behaviour.
For the first time, men and women could sit
in close proximity to one another rather than on individual chairs.
In addition to that, the luxurious fabrics and upholstery
could be seen as titillating - even encouraging of adultery.
But despite its racy reputation,
the sofa had firmly established itself in the living room
by the early 20th century.
Right, now, we jumped forwards nearly 100 years.
-This is 1915, and this is very different, isn't it?
-It is, it is.
The sofa's much more comfortable, it's now got springs in it,
which is something that is developed, I think, in the 1840s.
-Can I boing it?
-Here we go.
We can't sit on this, we can't walk on the carpet,
it's all far too fragile - but I am going to feel
the fruits of mass production.
I'm going to boing the springs.
Ooh, that's comfortable.
It's like a huge leap forwards, isn't it,
from that uptight, stiff-looking regency thing?
And now we've got a modern piece of furniture.
-This is the 20th century, very clearly.
Informality and cosiness and comfort.
By the swinging '60s, though,
modern furniture from Scandinavia was all the rage.
Its focus was more on style than comfort.
And while the trend towards simple, clean, modern shapes continued,
there was something of a return to comfort in the 1990s.
So, to sum up four centuries of sofa history in a hand gesture,
it goes from like this, to like this.
There's a great, sort of, loosening of the moral fibres as time goes on.
The history of the sofa also encapsulates the history of design,
mass production - we see all these different styles coming and going -
but essentially it's from formality to relaxation,
and that's what everyone now has at home - a great, big, squashy thing.
But it's not just the sofa that has travelled through the centuries
into everyone's home.
An object that was once cutting-edge technology
and an essential when entertaining
is now in every kitchen drawer in the country.
I'm meeting Peter Borrett, who has an amazing collection of corkscrews.
Hello, Mark, good to see you. Are you all right?
One of which is the first patented corkscrew in the world,
and a British invention.
Well, I think when you start looking at all the diversity of design,
it becomes enchanting, in some respects.
So, 300? 400? How many are here?
Approximately 300 in the cabinets and then I've probably got another 300 as well,
so I have around about a collection of 600 pieces,
which is quite a lot in ten years of collecting.
I can immediately spot a fantastic collection of what was,
I believe, the first patent for the corkscrew?
That's right. From the Rev Samuel Henshall from Oxfordshire.
A man of the cloth - I always find that rather curious.
-Let me pull one out for you.
That looks like a special one.
Yes, it's the very first British patent for a corkscrew -
in fact, the first patent for a corkscrew in the world.
-And this was 1795, wasn't it?
And it's got a nicely turned handle and the brush is not replaced.
No, it looks like the original brush. Often you'll find
a corkscrew with a hole where the brush would have been,
but the brush was used to dust off the debris from the bottleneck,
clean off the labels to see what you're drinking...
So, what's a piece like this worth?
Between £1,200 and £1,500, so it's a desirable piece.
But, of course, you can get this type of corkscrew for a lot less.
Oh, yes, you can. You can get a simple Henshall type
for upwards of £25, £30.
Absolutely. It's the sort of thing you see
in lots of flea markets and antiques fairs.
So if this is the earliest, I'm going to choose my favourite
and I'm afraid it has to be these rather marvellous German,
what are they, later 19th-century,
early 20th-century corkscrews with the legs?
-I think they're sensational.
-Let me pull out a couple for you.
Now, what are these fetching? A couple of hundred quid?
-Yeah. The more flesh, the more desirable.
So the stripey ones you've got in your right hand
in good condition are fetching around about £200 currently. Right.
The half-flesh would be around about 250
and there's collectors out there that just look for ladies' legs.
So to speak. But I think something that's more familiar to us is this.
This is the sort of thing you would buy in a supermarket, isn't it?
I'd think a lot of people would recognise it.
But this one certainly didn't come from a supermarket.
No, this is, I believe, a very successful British patent
which dates to 1888 by a prolific manufacturer,
of course, called James Heeley and Sons,
and this is actually an improvement to an earlier patent.
-So that's this one.
-That's right, that's the Baker patent from 1880.
It looks very similar, but it seems the arms are not joined - they're separate.
That's right, and Neville Heeley just joined the two arms together with a fulcrum arm.
Developing a classic that's still with us today.
-Well, I've never seen one of these.
I've seen these a lot, and I suppose they're worth £30, £40.
Probably 40 to 60 is a fair reflection.
So if that's worth £40-£60 in nice condition, what's that worth?
£500, effectively, for a corkscrew that doesn't really work very well?
Well, it doesn't work very well.
But that's often the case in this market, isn't it?
It's the things that didn't necessarily work, that weren't commercially successful
and were withdrawn that have become scarce
and thus, in many instances, sought-after.
So, once you've uncorked your tipple of choice,
you need something to pour it into,
and the Georgians had a glass for every beverage.
Ale or claret for breakfast,
maybe a nip of brandy to get you going.
For the men, hock and soda to clear the mid-morning hang-over.
For the ladies, Madeira and biscuits.
A flask of brandy to survive a day's hunting,
then champagne, wine, port and brandy throughout dinner -
the pattern was repeated until gout, alcoholic poisoning
or death called a halt.
This is a lovely lot of glasses.
It is, and it would have been enjoyed by the Georgians,
-who did enjoy a drink, didn't they?
-Absolutely, yes. This one,
this lovely wine glass here,
-cos of the grapes, we can tell it was used for wine.
It looks quite small, doesn't it? You think, "Mm, not much in there,"
but the idea was that you had to drink that in one go
because perhaps there weren't enough glasses for all the guests,
so if there aren't enough glasses, no problem,
cos you say, "I'll have wine, please,"
you're brought your glass, you go... And then off it goes to be washed
and somebody else can use it immediately after you.
And it's quite interesting to see politics coming through
in wine consumption, because, for example,
when we were at war with France,
there's less Bordeaux being imported,
so they go for the sweet Spanish wines coming up through Bristol.
So if you guessed this one because of the engraving...?
What's that one got on it?
It's got pictures of... Are those hops?
-Yeah, I guess those could be hops.
-It's an ale glass.
-Any ideas about that one? Rather curious shape.
Does it have a particular function?
It does indeed. This is a toastmaster's glass,
and what's very interesting is this bowl here,
which is actually quite solid.
It gave the impression of being filled up so the toastmaster
could have toast after toast after toast after toast -
these things were repetitive - and after each one
he would bang it down on the table
and it gave its name - the Firing Glass.
-Is that cos it sounds like the shot of a gun?
So, this one's a lovely champagne glass, isn't it?
Much more familiar to our eyes, and, of course,
champagne can be drunk out of a coupe - which is a bowl shape - or a flute,
and the coupe, of course, reputedly and incorrectly
was apparently based on Marie Antoinette's breasts.
She must have been quite flat-chested if that's true.
I suppose she had, I'd never thought of that.
-Perhaps that might have been a more suitable glass.
These beautiful, intricate glasses are all made of lead crystal,
a substance that was accidentally discovered
by English glass-maker George Ravenscroft in 1674.
Wanting to extend the working time of molten glass,
he found that by adding lead oxide it became softer,
easier to cut, and also highly refractive and transparent.
This revolutionary discovery made Britain the world leaders
in glass production in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There were once 300 to 400 workshops
producing hand-blown glasses like these.
Now, there are less than 20.
Stephen Pollock-Hill, owner of one of the few remaining glasshouses,
is going to take me through the processes.
Presumably, here, now, they're blowing this bowl.
Yes, this is a Georgian glass made in lead crystal.
The English invented this - George Ravenscroft in 1674 -
and had a monopoly for over 100 years.
'Having gathered a mass of molten glass called "The Gob",
'the bit-gatherer places it in a mould and blows to create a bubble
'which will form the bowl of the glass.'
He's not blowing very much - I think that's one thing that surprises me.
-There is only a very gentle blow.
-It is, yes.
The glass, at this stage, it is still at about 800 degrees,
it's very malleable, so you only need a very slight bit of blowing.
Many people think it's like blowing a rubber balloon.
-But the pressure, just to expand it?
'Once the ball has been formed, the bit-gatherer
'passes it to the gaffer who will create the final piece.'
Watching them make this glass,
it's almost like an advanced form of choreography
-in a strange way, isn't it?
-It is, it is.
-Everybody knows their part.
-It's like a ballet, everybody has their role
and their particular skills, too.
I mean, how many of these would be made an hour?
-I would think you'd probably make about 15, 20 an hour.
-Good heavens above!
'This class is called a "cast-on" glass
'because the stem is added - or "cast on" -
'rather than being drawn out of the glass.'
And this is, of course, how it would have been made
-in the 18th and 19th centuries?
Incredible - I mean, we're in a great big warehouse here,
but with four or five of these furnaces on the go,
-it must have been like a vision from hell.
'Seeing the amount of work that went into producing Georgian glasses
'makes it easy to understand why they were so expensive to buy.
'But what's interesting now is that for many,
'their antique value is surprisingly low.'
If you'd like to spruce up your dining table
with some new wine glasses, don't head towards the High Street,
head towards an antique centre instead,
because you'll find you can add some unique charm to your dining table.
Made in the 1820s, this is hand-blown, hand-assembled
and hand-cut with this incredibly intricate pattern around the bowl.
You have the slice cut at the base,
these wonderful crosshatch diamonds in the middle -
you could have this handmade antique for less than £20.
There are hundreds of antique markets and fairs
where you can pick up antiques and collectables just like these.
Following on from the glass-making innovations of the 17th century,
spectacular new light fittings emerged.
They included the most luxurious of all -
the cut-glass, lead-crystal chandelier.
The light-scattering properties of its highly refractive glass
quickly became popular amongst the wealthy as a status symbol
to impress their guests whilst entertaining.
Now, people say that the hall of mirrors at Versailles
in the late 17th century is the first room in history
that would have had anything approaching reasonable light levels
after dark, and that was because it had a mirrors on the walls
and chandeliers all down the middle,
and all the glass is said to reflect the light of candles ten times more.
Absolutely, and a lot of that - in fact, all of that -
is owed to the development of lead crystal
by George Ravenscroft in the 1670s.
This allowed you to create these fantastically elaborate chandeliers,
each with drops which were cut with further facets
which reflected and refracted the light.
The first time we hear the word "chandelier"
being used in England is in 1714,
and I think the 18th century is the age of the chandelier?
It is, and chandelier, the term,
is derived from the French term "chandelle", which is tallow candle.
Makes sense. Often because the candles were so expensive
it would have felt like actually burning money to light them,
so you wanted them as low as possible
to provide as much light as possible,
and there are stories from the French court
of people walking around in big wigs and setting fire to them
on the low-hanging chandeliers.
But, yes, that's exactly it, it was a way of burning money,
but it was a way of showing your wealth and status.
Hanging one of these in the centre of a room
wasn't really all about enabling you to see what was going on,
it was also a display of your wealth and your status.
"Look at me, look at my wonderful chandeliers,
"aren't they brilliant?" Quite literally.
This handcrafted chandelier in Woburn has 102 glass drops,
102 glass stars and 24 candles.
To light it for just one evening
would have cost three quarters of a ploughboy's yearly wage.
And a workshop in Kent is one of the few places left in the country
where chandeliers like this are still made.
-What a treasure trove.
-So we've got all sorts here.
You know, a couple of hundred years' worth
of chandeliers, lanterns, all types.
Company owner David Wilkinson is showing me around.
Here they restore priceless antique chandeliers
and also make bespoke pieces.
A customer came to me and they'd seen a picture in my old brochure -
this is one we did back in the '80s - and it was this one.
It's a late Victorian, early 1900s chandelier by F&C Osler.
Well, we restored this chandelier 20 years ago
-and I don't know where it is now.
-So you know it intimately, in a way.
I remember it well, but we've got nothing to work to
so we've had to make everything from scratch.
-Just this photograph...
-..has led to this design?
So, really, you're continuing this fantastic tradition, this heritage,
that Britain and many other countries in the world have lost,
but had during 18th and 19th centuries.
-Fantastic. This is something I'd love to see.
A hand-blown lead-crystal bowl is sliced in two
with a precision-tipped diamond-bladed saw.
The desired pattern is then marked up by hand on to the bowl,
ready to begin cutting.
So this must be a pretty scary moment, then, that first cut?
Yes, the first cut is always the most difficult to do.
It's remarkably quick. It really eats into the glass, doesn't it?
Yes. We call it roughing, but it's full of chips and scratches,
but it does carve the glass away quickly.
In each chandelier, there are 50 hand-cut crystal pieces
and about 100 drops and buttons.
-So tell me what's going on here.
-This is the smoothing stage.
Tony is just going over the cuts now that he's roughed in
and it's putting that sharp definition in
and it's taking all that roughness out.
Well, I admire him - I can't even draw a straight line,
so the fact of holding this bowl there
and following that on a wheel spinning like that is incredible.
How long does it take to learn something like this?
I say that once my cutters have learnt...
They've been cutting for seven years,
they are really good cutters.
This pair of chandeliers will take ten craftsmen
well over a year to make and will cost over £100,000.
-So this is the final stage, then?
-Yes, this is the polishing.
This is caulking, and we use a mixture,
which is like a pumice powder and water.
That abrasion effectively creates the sparkle and brilliance
-that you would expect from a chandelier of this quality.
'Each chandelier has more than 200
'individual brass castings and turnings,
'many of which are handmade using this antique lathe.'
So, Ian is now...
There's a bare casting and he's hand-tracing it in this lathe,
which means he's using a chisel
and he's taking this roughness off the edge and it will all be smooth.
This piece, I'm sure, is very integral to the chandelier,
but what intrigues me at the moment is the lathe he's using. This is an antique machine.
It is, yeah. It's a lovely old Triumph lathe from about 1908.
My father bought it.
So if this was bought by your father,
how many generations of your family have been involved in this business?
Well, I'm the third generation.
And what about your children?
-Are they interested?
-Yes, I have three daughters,
they're all working in the business at the moment.
-My oldest daughter will take over the business from me.
Chandeliers were not the only objects
that demonstrated your status and position in society.
The well-off Georgian's dinner table
positively groaned under the weight of a new obsession - silverware.
This is all very sparkly and marvellous, isn't it?
You couldn't fail to be impressed when you came to dinner and saw this.
You've got to imagine seeing this by candlelight.
-All of this stuff is intended to sparkle and magnify what's available.
These are amazing, these early Georgian fruit containers.
They are indeed, and made by Paul de Lamerie, an incredibly...
In fact, perhaps one of Britain's best-ever silversmiths.
Just look at the workmanship - the chasing, the embossing -
everything about it is meant to show wealth and status.
-This is really Georgian bling.
Now, this table has been set out for a Georgian dinner,
which means that half of the food, essentially,
would all be on the table at the same time,
so it was like a buffet - you would take what you wanted from the different dishes.
What happens in the 19th century is that the new way of dining comes in,
and that's our modern idea of courses.
And as you get numerous courses,
you need more and more cutlery to eat them with,
-and cutlery-makers are delighted about this.
and they promote the idea that you need a set of butter knives
and fruit knives and dessert forks and fish knives,
but there is also something a bit nouveau riche about this
and the old aristocracy stick to their good Georgian silver
and so they are not so keen on this idea of the utensils,
and that's why there's something inherently middle-class about the fish knife.
But they didn't just stop there, did they?
There were plenty of other tools for every single task.
Oh, here we got an array of different utensils.
Ah, I guess the idea is
you put the individual bits of asparagus in there.
Absolutely. Pick it up and pull it along.
-Pick up a whole lot of them at once.
-Firmly gripped in the jaws.
-How about this? That's got to stump you.
-This is brilliant.
This is a cheese shovel. You shove it into the cheese
and then you press this little lever to push it off.
Absolutely. And what's remarkable, I think, about all this
is not only are the display pieces - the table centrepieces - made out of silver,
but each and every single one of these is made out of silver.
That really is quite a lavish event.
But, of course, another thing they would have done is mark
each and every piece of their cutlery with a family crest.
Like this one, which has a B on it for Duke Of Bedford.
There's his coronet.
And sometimes you can date spoons because all that family business
has been put on either the front or the back,
depending on the period,
because earlier spoons were placed that way up on the table.
And it was something to do with cuffs, wasn't it?
Yes, it's so you couldn't catch it and knock it over with your silly frilly cuff.
But later, they are placed that way up
so the family information migrates
and it appears on the top where we'd expect to see it today.
Not all silver will have a crest or a coat of arms,
but nearly every piece of British silver will carry a hallmark.
The term "hallmark" originates here
at the Goldsmith's Assay Office in London.
Since 1300, people have brought their gold and silver to this hall
to be assayed - which means tested - and marked.
10,000 objects pass through here every day,
to be verified using both the latest technology
and ancient methods dating back centuries.
I'm a meeting David Merry,
who has been an assayer here for over 40 years.
-Good morning, David.
-Nice to see you again.
Thank you for letting me interrupt your day. Tell me what you're doing.
This is actually known universally as The Touchstone.
Everybody knows the word, Touchstone pictures, for example.
This is exactly where it comes from, yeah.
And English phrases like "the acid test", "coming up to scratch",
all come from this process, believe it or not,
and they were injected into the English language,
as the word "hallmarking" is - coming into the hall to have your work hallmarked.
Good heavens above. So how does it work?
I notice little scratch marks on here,
presumably you scratch the item...?
Alongside the touchstone tests,
we have what we call touch needles or touch keys.
So these are known standards of different silvers.
We use these as a reference point
to know exactly what we're rubbing against it.
So if the reaction's exactly the same,
we can calculate that it's likely to be the same thing.
We're going to take this silver candlestick.
This is purported to be a higher standard -
this is actually not sterling,
this is the old British standard, Britannia silver.
That's 958 parts of silver within the alloy mix
as opposed to sterling which is an 925.
Yeah, well done, yeah. You've been doing your homework!
I'm just going to apply a silver sulphate
and that's probably the one that's best to judge.
If it's low standard, we very much get a grey stain,
but if it's OK - up to standard - we wouldn't get any stain at all.
And straightaway you probably can see
there's just a slight resemblance to the one on the right,
which shows me that it's at least below 925 standard.
'It's only after exacting scientific standards have been met
'that an object can be given its final stamp of approval -
And there it is. Can you tell us what they all mean?
Because each individual mark that makes up a hallmark
actually has its own meaning.
Exactly, yes. There are four parts to the English hallmark,
which is what we call a full hallmark.
We have the lion passant for sterling silver,
it was introduced in 1540, by a couple of workers that worked here from Henry VIII's reign,
because they didn't quite trust the assay master at the time,
so were sent to spy on him.
The second mark is actually the millesimal fineness.
This actually tells the consumer exactly the percentage of silver
they're getting in the article.
Then the original leopard's head, which was the old king's mark
from Edward I's reign and also has become the town mark for London,
and then the date letter for this year, which is an N this year,
which enables you guys to date silver to a specific date.
But Goldsmiths don't just assess new metal -
they also help the police track down illegal items.
This is the things that you'll be more interested in, I suppose.
Absolutely, this looks like a box of delights.
One of the oldest pieces in our collection,
this is dated from 1580, Elizabeth I's time.
Unfortunately, in 1580, coffee didn't exist in the UK,
so there's one problem for you.
Although adulterated, that's still scarce thing, isn't it? The body?
-Oh, definitely, yeah.
Well, this is what it would have looked like
before somebody decided to turn it into a coffee pot.
Which must have been related to fashion, I suppose.
Yeah, it was quite a normal process to do, and rather innocently.
Very few are actually what we call real, pure fakes
and this is a good example of that.
George II fruit basket,
but, unfortunately the only piece of the Georgian silver on here
-is actually that circle there with the hallmark on it.
Now, they used to do this and it was called duty dodging,
cos throughout the Georgian period and the Victorian period,
you used to have to pay a tax on the amount of silver weight.
So what they used to do is send small items in,
get them hallmarked, send them back. They'd pierce that hallmark out, inlet it into something much bigger.
So this part is Georgian silver and the rest of it is...?
Probably Victorian, I should imagine. And that is quite common.
The antique silver market is booming right now
because the price of silver is incredibly high,
but if you like the look but can't afford the price tag,
consider silver plate.
These two pieces are excellent examples.
This is a Walker & Hall entree dish
and at £29, it's remarkably good value
for a piece that revives the Georgian period during the early 20th century.
And if a modern look is more your thing,
this piece, made by Mappin & Webb, again silver-plated,
and for a price tag of £60,
it's a period piece that won't set you back a fortune.
For me, these both represent excellent value
and will just add that individual hallmark of quality.
As the evening draws to a close,
it's time for some after-dinner entertainment.
To succeed as a true Victorian lady,
I would have needed to be an accomplished pianist.
However, help in the form of new technology was on its way.
No piano tonight, then?
-Because, of course, before, you would have been singing.
I would have, yes. As a well-educated young lady,
that was one of my important skills,
entertaining the family after dinner on the pianoforte.
-But I guess I've been mechanised.
-I'm afraid you have.
The 19th-century saw the mechanisation of music.
This is known as the graphophone, which was developed
from Thomas Edison's phonograph, which was developed in 1877.
-What songs have you got then? How does it work?
-Let's have a look.
What have we got? You have a choice.
We have The Rainbow Song or we have Can't See You, by Albert Gumble.
Well, I'm going to reject Albert Gumble
and choose The Rainbow Song.
Well, he's not up there with the greats
like Mozart, Beethoven and the rest, so here we go.
On goes the wax cylinder.
We have to wind it up first, which I'm going to do very gently.
There we go.
TINNY MUSIC PLAYS
LAUGHING: Do you like it? Clearly.
Well, it's just sensational, isn't it? We have a whole band here in the room.
Well, that's it, that was the great innovation, of course.
You could mass-produce these things,
we could all enjoy music in our homes.
A piece like this would have cost about £2 in 1905.
In today's money, it's about £115,
so I suppose in many ways you could think of it as
a digital music player today
that we might go out and buy from the high Street.
-Let's make the most of it.
-SHE SINGS ALONG
I have two left feet, I think I might leave you to that.
I think you're 30 years too late,
you're getting a little bit art deco here.
SHE SINGS ALONG
After-dinner entertainment changed immeasurably
with the invention of the phonograph,
which went on to become the more familiar gramophone.
And a unique collection of these ground-breaking machines
are crammed into a semi in the Northeast.
I'm meeting Ken Priestley, the proud owner.
-Hello, Mark. Pleased to meet you.
-Thank you very much, thank you.
-Come in, young man.
Oh, my goodness, gracious me.
Oh, I don't believe it!
This forest of horns here - it's absolutely incredible.
What on earth started this fascination?
Oh, it's... Oh, nearly 40 years ago
I had an aunt who was living in a flat
and she asked if I could hire a van for her and move her.
And when we loaded the van up,
she brought out what I thought was a small sewing machine
which turned out to be an Edison Gem phonograph.
Oh, of course, because they had the little domed cases.
Absolutely, spot-on. In fact, that's the one over there.
-As I say, that I thought was a sewing machine.
And the Gem, of course, was one of the more popular models.
It was one of the less expensive models, something that was affordable
and one of the ones you find most commonly today.
And the value for this I'm thinking around £300, £400?
For a Black Gem, yeah, but if you go on to something like the Red Gem
then you're talking two or three times the price.
OK, so if that was your first one, what's the earliest one you've got?
Well, the earliest one is the Edison standard, there,
which is 1899, so it's 113 years old and it's still working.
But Edison's phonograph wasn't the format that actually perpetuated -
-it didn't last very long, did it?
-Because his major competitor had arisen...
-Which was the gramophone.
-Can you please show me one of those?
-Yeah, certainly, come on over here.
-Thank you very much.
We've got one that's typical of the period - the HMV horn machine.
This is what people recognise,
even if they don't know anything about gramophones
they'll recognise it.
You couldn't mistake it for anything else. What's the value for something like this?
It's a very nice oak case with some nice carving down here
and an original period brass horn.
-That one would probably be about £700, £800 worth.
If you look at the HMV sign, you'll see Nipper the dog
sat in front of a gramophone, which we call the dog model,
which was very, very early.
Now, on that one, you can pay probably £4,000 or £5,000 for.
You mentioned Nipper the dog...
-Come over here, I'll show you.
There's father and son here.
Yes, father and son, but very, very different dates,
-because I think he's quite new.
-I'm hoping you're going to tell me he's original.
-Absolutely spot-on, Mark.
-Not a common thing.
-Oh, no, no.
Very rare, actually,
cos these were only really made for shop display.
-So what's he worth?
-Probably about 400.
Of course, it's called His Master's Voice because the entire idea was...
He was listening to his master's voice.
But I see, like most collectors,
it's not just the objects themselves that interest you,
it's the whole paraphernalia.
Whatever is connected or associated with them.
Including the tins that you would buy to keep needles in.
They come in all shapes and sizes
and it's usually the shaped ones that are more collectable.
Edison Bell one. A lot more valuable.
Yeah, the average, run-of-the-mill price is probably £5-£10
for an HMV tin in good condition, but the Bell one today...
-In 30-some years, it's the only one I've got.
From the Victorian equivalent of the iPod
to a device as revolutionary as the television -
Magic lanterns were many people's
first experience of a moving image,
something that could be quite terrifying.
The collector Mervyn Heard is putting on a show for us.
-What is it?
-I don't know.
-MERVYN MOANS SPOOKILY
Look. Look who's there.
It's the dance of the skeletons.
Although the Magic Lantern was very popular during the Victorian era,
its origins go back to the middle of the 17th century
when it was used by conjuring priests
to literally put the fear of God into people
and during the 18th-century, there were a lot of people
travelling around doing shows at fairs, public hangings
and other places of festive merrymaking,
presenting horrific images like this, for example.
This is the oldest slide in my collection.
It dates from about 1790.
It's a French slide called The Dentist,
so I'll do this in French for you.
MERVYN MIMICS PAINED GROANING
Actually, it was during the French Revolution
that the magic lantern took off in a big way
with something called the Phantasmagoria.
Phantasmagors, as they were known, used not just one lantern,
but several lanterns so people didn't actually know
where the images were really coming from.
They also used electric shocks which they sent through the soles
of their audience's feet.
Here they come. A whole host of ghosts and goblins
rising up out of the smoke.
They're very amusing, these slides, but I guess they would have been
quite terrifying if you'd never seen a moving picture before.
Well, I think these are, yes, amusing to us,
but quite terrifying at the time.
It must've been fun to get a machine at home.
Yes, of course, because by the 19th century, you were able to buy these,
so perhaps the father would stand and operate the lantern itself -
oh, my goodness, that's a grin -
while the children would make sounds
and illustrate it and bring it to life.
-Fantastic show, Mervyn.
-Thank you very much.
That was super spooky! Tell us all about your machine.
OK, Well, this is a machine from around about the 1890s.
It's a typical Victorian Biunnial -
that is to say it's really two lanterns in one.
But with a machine like this you could do
all kinds of spectacular special effects
by cross fading and superimposing images and doing all those things
which we thought we'd invented in the 1960s and '70s.
In its own way, this is a precision instrument
and I'm presuming because it's such a fabulous quality,
it's going to be worth... I'm going to say around £3,000.
More or less, yes, three and a half, I would say.
But a small child's one can be picked up for under £100
with some nice printed slides in a box. They're not so expensive.
Oh, yes. Probably about £80, something like that.
From the first moving images to relaxing on a sofa.
From owning a set of cutlery to using the humble corkscrew -
all things we do today without a second thought.
And together, these objects tell a potent tale of our past.
They've informed the way we live and entertain today,
shaping not only how we behave, but who we aspire to be.
Next time on Antiques Uncovered,
I'll be ordering from a menu with a tragic past...
April 14 was when Titanic hit the iceberg.
..and discovering the lost art of globe-making.
'While I visit a train set with a difference...'
-It's a bit crazy, isn't it?
-It's totally mad.
'..as we look around the world of travel antiques.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Historian Dr Lucy Worsley and antiques expert Mark Hill examine objects from the world of entertaining. Lucy discovers how the sofa, over centuries, has changed our behaviour and finds out what makes Chippendale furniture such a household name. Mark discovers the secret ingredient of English porcelain and visits a passionate collector with some very rare objects indeed.