Television presenter Esther Rantzen challenges her daughter, and fellow presenter, Rebecca Wilcox in a competition for antique glory in and around Reading.
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The nation's favourite celebrities.
We are special, then, are we?
Oh, that's excellent.
Paired up with an expert...
We're a very good team, you and me.
And a classic car.
Their mission, to scour Britain for antiques.
-I've no idea what it is.
-Oh, I love it!
The aim, to make the biggest profit at auction.
But it's no easy ride.
-There is no accounting for taste!
Who will find a hidden gem?
Who will take the biggest risks?
Will anybody follow expert advice?
-Do you like them?
There will be worthy winners and valiant losers.
-Are you happy?
Time to put your pedal to the metal,
this is Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.
We're in the Thames Valley for a celebrity road trip with TV aristocracy.
Oh, look, there it is.
Presenter Rebecca Wilcox and her mum, the iconic Esther Rantzen.
It promises to be the mother of all contests.
I am so competitive that I have actually made myself sick
playing Trivial Pursuit.
Do I get that from you, or do I get that from Dad?
I think you get that from yourself, Rebecca.
I don't think on this occasion you can blame either parent.
-I am horribly competitive.
I'm not, I just effortlessly win things.
MUSIC: Theme tune from That's Life
Esther Rantzen has been effortlessly gracing our
TV screens for over 40 years.
Most famously in That's Life.
She always combined fun with being the consumers' champion.
We get a great many letters every week on this
programme from people complaining...
But, perhaps, her greatest legacy is ChildLine,
the ground-breaking service for children and young people.
Today, Esther's a rather nervous passenger.
Keep your eye on the road.
My eye is on the road!
In a 1985 Mercedes convertible...
You will tell me if I'm heading off into a ditch, won't you?
Yes, darling, I will.
The child of Esther and her late husband documentary maker,
Desmond Wilcox, Rebecca's forged her own career in front of the cameras.
On consumer programmes like Watchdog, This Morning
and Your Money Their Tricks, for her presenting
is as easy as falling off...a sofa.
But, when it comes to antiques hunting,
she defers to Mum for advice.
Go for what you think is chic and stylish
and that you would want to live with in your home.
How do I know that you're not trying to give me misinformation?
Because I'm a warm and caring mother.
Esther and Rebecca each have £400 to spend in a battle to create
profits from antiques. They're going to need trustworthy advice.
Sounds like a job for experts, David Harper and Will Axon.
So as far as Esther's buying habits go,
do you think she's going to be looking for the ridiculous?
I know what you're going... I know where you're going.
Is she going to look for a piece of pottery in the shape
of a rude bit - a carrot!
That's the one. A misshapen spud.
Well, it would be the first on the show.
Auctioneer and valuer, Will, specialises in conventional pottery and furniture.
David pairs up specialist antiques with buyers and auctions.
He's also into classic cars,
preferably bigger than this 1966 Mini Cooper.
It's a good job we're both slim chaps.
Slim and trim, Will, slim and trim.
Today's road trip begins on the outskirts of Reading in Berkshire.
It nips briefly into Hampshire
and wanders through the Thames Valley in Oxfordshire
before heading to an auction at the village of Send,
near Woking in Surrey.
-Hello, how are you?
Hi, Rebecca, David. Nice to meet you.
Lovely to meet you.
How'd you do, I'm Will, nice to meet you.
As the celebrities arrive, it's time to declare the teams.
-I see you are in your cyclamen?
-Yes, thank you.
Nice to meet you.
-We're sort of matching.
-We complement each other.
-We do, don't we?
So, that's the pretty in pink team sorted.
What do you think of the cars?
I think you two are perfect for that little thing
and we are perfect for this rather stately one.
I feel slightly judged but I think that's great.
I think that's much cooler.
It's decided, Rebecca and Will will be zipping about in the Mini
while Esther and David cruise in the Merc,
their first stop will be in the centre of Reading
and the short journey is a chance to assess the opposition.
-We'll fight them to the death.
-Oh, my God!
-So I have said that I'm not competitive,
-I'm not competing with her.
Is that because there's no point in competing with her?
-Well, it's because I want to disarm her.
-Trap her into confidence.
And then see if I can win in spite of her.
Devious... And what about shopping style?
It's very difficult to judge who's going to be in the auction, etc.
I think the only thing to do is to go for things
that you would buy yourself.
It's a clear strategy.
The first place to test it is at Fanny's.
It's home to about 20 dealers with an eclectic mix of wares.
Today, Will's the man keeping an eye on it all.
-How do you do?
-I've watched you for many years.
How sweet you are.
Ah, and there's a lot to look at.
Do you do this, do you wander around places?
I haven't done this since my husband died.
-We used to do it a lot.
Did you do it like a hobby thing, or did you...
It's just when we had a lovely day out, we would go to
an antique shop and pick around, find something
and then that would always remind us of the day.
Esther's soon back in rummaging mode.
I've got to get me glasses.
And going for what she likes.
Oh, look, wait a minute, there's a pig.
-Now I'm very partial to pigs.
What is it that you're drawn to, though?
Well, it's got lots of animals.
God! There are animals everywhere I look.
It's another animal!
We've got a bit of an animal theme going here with Esther.
-What is that?
-It's a nut cracker.
With anything to do with animals, she's in there.
Stick your nuts in there.
I won't. Stick your own nuts in there.
It doesn't matter whether they are brand-new, or any age at all.
Look, I've found an elephant stool.
Now I need to try and turn this round and start focusing
on something with age and quality and distinction.
It could be an uphill battle, David.
Fortunately, it looks as if Esther's taste extend beyond animals.
Do you want me to help you there?
If I knock everything off this shelf, will we have to pay for it?
-Yes, well, you will.
That's lighter than I thought it was going to be. Well, well, well.
-OK, a piece of glass.
Do you like glass?
-Some glass, I like that bit.
-Do you speak French?
Can you pronounce that beautifully?
-Alors, qu'est-ce qu'on dit...
-Was that German?
Jean Noel Bouillet, Objet D'art Signe.
She's tres sophisticated!
This piece of Art Glass was made in 1999 by Frenchman,
Jean Noel Bouillet.
Ah, il y a quelque chose...
It comes with a signature, a certificate of authenticity
and a £55 price ticket.
I love it because all Art Glass is individual.
There is only one of these objects in...
It's a bit like you, Esther Rantzen.
There is only one Esther Rantzen in the whole world.
-You may say, "Thank the Lord!"
-I never said that.
-And there's only one of them.
-I think it's rather gorgeous.
-How much would you pay?
You're very hard, aren't you?
-You know, I've never haggled in my life.
-What do you think we could...
-I think that would be 20 to 30 in auction.
I think it's very, very stylish.
-Shall we get a price on it?
The Art Glass vase is a strong contender for Esther's first buy
but only if the price is right.
Esther, this is your opportunity to try, for your very first time,
some negotiating. Go for it.
That's 55, that's about 60% discount.
Well, I'm... I've never...
I think we need a little bit more than that
but I think we could go...
-You've weakened him nicely.
Somewhere in the middle, 30?
-You've done it, you've done the deal.
-There we are.
Well, you're wonderful, thank you very much.
-Our first purchase.
With a reduction from £55 to £30, Esther's bagged her first bargain.
It's modern but there's not an animal in sight. Phew!
Out on the road, antiques novice, Rebecca,
has a confession.
I'm the most indecisive person in the world!
-This I do not like.
We are going to have to make quick decisions today.
Rebecca and Will are heading 11 miles south
to the Hampshire village of Eversley.
It's the home of Eversley Barn Antiques,
a 16th century barn, filled with antiques and collectibles
from furniture to porcelain.
-Oh, my word.
-There's a lot here.
-I don't know where to start.
You have to start somewhere.
A first peek in the cabinets yields a possibility.
"Three pieces", it says.
Yes, he would stand on top of that, which is
where you'd put your little flowers.
Then you've got the bowl underneath,
which is quite stylish on its own.
-Do you like that?
-I don't know.
-You did say you were indecisive.
-I'm completely indecisive.
-Well, you're not indecisive about that?
"I'm completely indecisive!"
I don't know what I like.
I know that I don't know but I don't know what I know.
So, just to clarify, that's a known unknown.
-That's quite sweet.
-That's nice quality, actually.
-Is that painted, or printed?
Painted... Stop me when I'm right.
Well, it looks as if the lid on this glass tankard
uses a combination of both techniques.
It was probably made in Bohemia in the late 1800s.
With a ticket price of £30, could it provide a rhapsody?
I mean, it doesn't... It doesn't set my world on fire
I don't want it if it doesn't set your world on fire.
So it that a decision?
Are we saying no to that?
-We're not saying no.
-We'll keep it in mind.
-Keep it in mind.
Ah, a decision not to make a decision.
Back in Reading, Esther's still working on the principle
of buying what she likes, no matter what it is.
I have a two-year-old grandson...
-Oh, how he would love that.
That is brilliant...
in so many ways
and then abominable in another.
It is new and probably made in China.
I don't care.
On the day this was made, they also made 48,000 of them
in the same factory. For your grandchild...
Stick it on the floor down there.
-What am I, blinking Arnold Schwarzenegger?
It's that cyclamen shirt, you see.
Now, hang on.
Jump on, then. Let's see...
You're not going to, are you? You are.
I can't believe it!
Wait a minute.
-Oh, I say!
-Hang on, hang on.
-Esther, you'll never get out.
I'm there forever.
Well, it's not a sensation that I would do very often for fun.
You know, my life is complete.
Let's not go there, eh?
-Do you want a hand out?
-Call a doctor.
A little more searching turns up something
that really floats David's boat.
Something finally with a bit of age.
-Hang on. Esther?
Can I introduce you to something that we call in the business
-Yes, go on, then.
Would you like to try it out? It's this chair.
-It's safe but it does rock, so be prepared...
This American rocker dates from around the late 19th century.
The upholstery has seen better days
but the frame is made from durable beechwood.
-Tell me what your thoughts are?
-I think it's hideous.
Excellent, I'm loving that attitude.
-OK, it does get better.
-It would have to.
-I'm removing that.
-It's just a super piece of kit.
-I'm not convincing you, am I?
-It's just I think it's ugly
-but that's just me.
-What do you think it's worth?
I think it's worth about 35/40 quid.
-OK, would you pay that for it?
Unimpressed, Esther carries on browsing.
Undeterred, David tracks down Will.
Right, Will, the old American rocker there,
needing a little bit of restoration.
What's the absolute double-death best price?
The death on that would be £25.
-No, that's fine.
OK, leave that with me for a moment.
Right, there you are. OK, so you were meant to stay with the chair,
lusting after it.
-I'm sorry, darling.
-Japanese, yes, definitely.
-Very pretty. I like that.
-I like that.
-If someone gave me that as a present, I'd be thrilled.
-So you actually like it?
-I actually like it.
-I really do like it.
-And, guess what?
-It's an antique.
It's got no animals, it's genuine 19th century
and with a ticket price of £22, it's a possibility.
But, first, David has unfinished business with the rocker.
You said you would pay, if you went mad one day, 35.
-What if I said we can get it for 25?
-It's a steal.
It may be hideous in Esther's eyes
but at £25 even she can turn a blind eye.
All that's needed now is a deal on the Imari plate,
ticket price £22.
Erm, what could that be?
Bearing in mind, we've bought the chair - big spenders.
-Can it be ten quid?
My gosh, we're on a buying fest!
It's a buying tour de force, no less, with the rocker,
the Imari plate and the Art Glass vase,
all snapped up for a total of £67 in Esther's first shop.
Over at Eversley Barn, indecision is the name of the game.
Rebecca hasn't ruled out the Bohemian glass
and Will's diverted to another option.
They're very simple.
-Is that the style?
-Yeah, very much so.
I mean, they know who it's by, Keith Murray,
and it helps us that you can turn it over
and it tells you exactly who it's by under there.
-Keith Murray for Wedgwood.
-Is that somebody I should have heard of?
Well, Keith Murray was a very influential
architect and designer who worked at Wedgwood in the 1930s.
He's known for his very restrained take on Art Deco style.
-How much is it?
-Yeah, but look.
It was £195.
It has come down to £135 because, obviously, they can't sell it.
What do you reckon? Get it for 70?
I think if we could get that for £100, we could stand a chance.
Got to put the face on, got to put the face.
Rebecca's on the brink of a decision.
But it all hinges on her haggling skills...
Nobody get in my way!
..and how dealer Hillary reacts to them.
-What would be your best price?
-OK, let me see.
What about 75?
I'm tempted. 80, and then...
-80, as it's you?
Oh! She's good! I haven't even had a word.
-It's all your own work, this.
-Would you go for a nice even 77?
-77. We've got to, haven't we?
-Have we bought it?
-You've bought it.
-Good work. Well done.
-Thank you so much!
It's an impressive haggling debut with the Keith Murray set
reduced from £135 to 77.
On a roll, Rebecca decides to try for the Bohemian glass tankard, too.
-What's the best price?
-It's only got £30 on it.
-I know. It's not a lot to start with.
-You are going to go for 20.
He's thinking 20.
22 and I will. Don't push it.
She's playing you at your own game now. I think you should say yes.
77 and 22. That makes a lovely 99.
-Pay me 100 if you like!
-77, 22, 99.
-It's in the stars. Shake hands.
-Thank you very much.
With the Keith Murray set at £77 and the Bohemian glass tankard
reduced from £30 to £22, Rebecca and Will have two decisions made.
-No, thank you. It's been good fun.
Out on the road, Esther is itching to find out how her daughter
and opponent is getting on with her purchases.
She says she's only brought a Faberge egg and a Rolex.
-I like your style, Rebecca!
Esther and David are taking time out from shopping to find out more about
a subject close to Esther's heart - children going through tough times.
The Museum of English Rural Life in Reading has a collection
devoted to the upheaval endured by child evacuees during World War II.
-Hello. Martin Parsons. How do you do?
Professor Martin Parsons has studied their experiences.
Between September 1st and 4th 1939,
Operation Pied Piper evacuated 1.5 million children
thought to be in imminent danger from bombing of British cities.
They were only allowed to take the bare minimum.
"Boys - one vest, one pair of pants, one shirt and collars,
"one pair of trousers or shorts.
"Girls - one vest or combination..."
-You know what combinations are?
-I haven't got a clue.
-I can remember them well.
"One pair of knickers, tunic and blouse or dress.
Those children whose parents thought,
"You're going to need more than one change of clothing,"
decided to dress them up in two layers of clothing
when they got on the train with a gabardine mac.
-And that weekend was notoriously hot.
Also, they were given a 48-hour ration pack and of course,
some of these children were going down to Cornwall
and they were on the trains for nine, ten or twelve hours.
If you're sitting there with a bag of food, you're going to eat it.
-You're not going to say they threw up?
-Yeah, they did.
And so some of these children got to the other end and they were in a hell of a state.
Poor little things!
The journey was only the first part of a radical change
in the children's lives.
-So, was it a happy country holiday for...
We have this romantic notion that these working-class children
from the cities were taken in by middle-class people
in the countryside but that's actually not true.
The vast majority of people taking them in
were the labouring classes, the agricultural labouring classes.
And so what you get is a culture shock for the people
-who had come down from the cities.
-Would they have baths?
No, they would have had a tin bath in front of the fire
on a Friday night.
They would have had a privy at the bottom...earth privy at the bottom of the garden,
and they would have had candlelight.
For some children, the distances and the culture shock were even greater.
19,000 were sent overseas through private arrangements or by the government.
The museum has a particularly fine collection relating
to a young girl called Margaret Banyard who was placed with
-a prosperous South African family.
-How old was she there?
-Here's a telegram dated 3rd October 1940.
So, she had sent a telegram from South Africa?
Yes, to say she had arrived.
And this is her five years later...six years later,
-when she comes back at 17.
-Right. And was she happy?
-And did it change her life?
-It changed her life completely
because until recently, she wouldn't even talk about her experiences.
Margaret's hosts looked after her physical needs
but through her formative years she got no emotional support
and felt like a stranger in the house.
The headline says, "Haunted for life by the loneliness of war years
"away from her family".
-Is that about her?
-Yes, that's Margaret.
Margaret completed her school matriculation in South Africa
and had a long wait to be reunited with her family.
14th of January 1946. "Thursday. Cheers! Meet in Waterloo station.
-That's a reunion.
Although there were difficult experiences both abroad
and within the UK, there were many happy ones, too.
It's not insignificant, the number of ex-evacuees who have now
retired back to where they were evacuated to during the war.
-Well, that's a good thing.
-It's a good sign.
That's a very happy ending because that means that it's associated
with good memories for them.
That's lovely. Well, that's brilliant.
Thank you very, very much.
-I feel very privileged to have seen them all.
-You are very welcome.
We've learned so much, Martin, in such a short period of time,
-and it's been fascinating.
On the highways of Hampshire, Rebecca is explaining to Will
what it's like forging a career in the shadow of a famous mum.
I never used to tell people that she was my mum so I used to lie
and say she wasn't my mum and if somebody really pushed
-I'd say that it was Joanna Lumley.
-Which sometimes people believe, which is quite nice.
There is something, yeah, there's something of the Patsy about you.
I met her once, actually, and I said,
"I use to lie and pretend you were my mum." She looked horrified!
Rebecca and Will are making the three-mile hop
from Eversley to the village of Hartley Wintney
where they are hoping to find more booty at White Lion Antiques.
It's a centre offering everything from antiques to jewellery
and shabby chic.
With lots to look at, Rebecca and Will split up to search.
But Rebecca's not sure about going solo.
I'm a bit overwhelmed. Don't know where to start.
This place is enormous. Look, it goes on.
I have to make decisions.
Denby. Denby. I've heard of Denby.
Haven't I heard of Denby? Denby's good, isn't it?
Is it supposed to do that? OK.
I'm so musical(!)
Mum's probably doing brilliantly by now.
She probably bought everything in one shop
and she's haggled down the price.
It's as if you've known her all your life!
Bamboozled by all the options, Rebecca ropes in Will for advice.
Are you trying to suggest that I'll be your monkey while you grind it?
-Yes! You're my organ grinder!
That's the only problem with it.
-It's quite dramatic, isn't it?
-I think it's a horror movie.
It's made in Spain so it could be a well-known flamenco number.
-Yeah. How is your offbeat clapping?
-Oh, sweet Mary!
-I really wish I hadn't done that.
Ole! Will's rummaging has turned up a textured Art Deco style vase.
-I don't know. It just had a funky sort of finish to it.
-Look at that.
It's weird, isn't it? It's not signed, that's the only thing.
I'm wondering where it could be from.
-I mean, if...
-It could be an anonymous gem.
It's got £68 on the ticket.
-You need to get that for, like, £20, really.
-OK. Wow! £20.
-I can do that.
-I've seen you in action.
-If anyone can do it, the Becmeister can.
-I like the name!
Go on, the Becmeister!
The Becmeister will be pitting her haggling skills
-against centre owner, Jerry.
-We'd like to pay £20 for that.
-You hurt him! I felt that from here.
I mean, it's been there a while. It's very dusty.
-It's an antique!
-Tucked away in the corner there, unloved, it was.
-It's not signed.
-Well, it's up for 68. Why don't we say 50?
-Can't do that.
-You're not trying?
-No, I know.
I told you the truth. My upper limit was 20.
-25, and that will be...that is it.
-Shake his hand.
-Thank you! Thank you!
Having parted with the vase for £25,
Jerry sees an opportunity for another sale.
He has an Art Deco sterling silver dressing table set
with a mirror, hairbrush and clothes brush at £125.
-There's the mirror.
-That's not a sight anyone wants to see!
And I will give Will the hairbrush cos he'll be able
to see the hallmarks.
It's got something about it. It's not English.
-Do you like it?
-I do. I do think it's beautiful.
-What would be your best price on that?
-What about 85?
-Would you do 75?
-You get the better end of the deal at 75, Rebecca.
-Oh, my days!
-You are a lovely man.
-Is it sold?
Well done. She is good, isn't she? I told you.
Rebecca is a natural, landing a £50 discount with ease.
It's been a busy day and there's another one to come
so for now, teams, night-night.
It's a new day and Esther and Rebecca are comparing notes.
-I'm getting my eye in. Are you OK?
-Really? I feel like I know nothing.
I severely regret some purchases.
Now, funnily enough, I don't regret any of mine.
-I'm rather pleased with mine.
-You're sounding really supremely confident.
Some might say smug.
Well, let assess who's entitled to feel smug, eh?
Yesterday Rebecca had trouble deciding on anything.
-Do you like that?
-I don't know.
But in the end, she and Will spent £199 on a glass tankard,
a Wedgwood jug and tankards designed by Keith Murray,
a vase and a silver dressing table set,
and it leaves them with £201 still to spend.
Go on! Go on, the Becmeister!
Esther made a beeline for what she likes.
-What is that?
-It's a nutcracker.
-Hunting through modern, mass-produced goods.
I have a two-year-old grandson. How he would love that!
Eventually she and David compromised, buying a modern
Art Glass vase, a rocking chair and a 19th century Imari plate.
-And guess what?
-It's an antique!
They spent just £67 so they have a whopping £333 left to spend.
-I like that jacket, that's very smart.
-I like that shirt.
Mum has scared the life out of me. She's supremely confident.
-Come on, Esther! Put 'em up! DAVID:
-And how are you feeling then, today?
-Not confident. Sorry.
-WILL: Thanks(!) Love you too(!)
-Shall we hit the road?
Let's hit the road, come on!
David is wondering how Esther got into presenting.
I was 28 and it was a programme called Braden's Week
and I was the researcher and the producer decided
-to put the researchers into the programme so there I was.
So it was a shock, then? It was a surprise to you?
-And it was never planned.
Esther and David are starting their second day shopping
after a short drive along the Thames to Goring.
It is a pretty village on the Oxfordshire bank of the river
and the local scenery was the setting for
The Wind In The Willows and Three Men In A Boat. Speaking of which...
Esther and David have no time for such literary diversions
as they are heading for Barbara's, home to 25 dealers
and everything from antiques to bric-a-brac.
Esther's still set on buying what she likes
and now she needs help from owner, Mandy.
I've got a two-year-old grandson and my theory is that people who go
-to auctions have grandchildren.
So, if you have anything that might appeal to a grandparent,
this grandparent would be delighted.
So, what's here that's suitable for a grandchild?
I'm irresistibly... "Present from Morecambe".
-I'm irresistibly drawn to crap.
-Oi! Not that then.
A set of pictures looks far more appropriate
but it's hard to tell whether they are originals or prints.
I'm thinking it's a watercolour. I can see the pencil underneath.
Actually, I think I'm with you.
I think they're proper watercolours. And very, very sweet.
The pictures date from around 1930s
and depict a sequence of nursery scenes.
-The set of four is priced at £75.
-I think they're fun.
They would be lovely in a nursery. Wouldn't they be lovely in a nursery?
I think they're gorgeous. I think they are gorgeous, actually.
-Oh, my God.
-I know. I can't believe we are agreed on something.
-This is amazing. Alleluia!
-Don't get too enthusiastic.
-Because we've got to beat them down.
-Listen, we really don't like them.
Enthusiasm is a strategic error but at least they are agreed.
-Now it's all down to price.
-So, what are you thinking?
OK, I'll take £30 off. That's it.
-So, that'll be 45.
-For all four? 45?
Well, you know what? You pay...
How did that happen? I think we've just bought them. Well done.
-This is a new method of negotiating.
-Well, look, it's tenner each.
-It's a tenner each.
And thrice hooray! That's four pictures reduced from £75 to 45
and a priceless outbreak of harmony between Esther and David.
Meanwhile, Rebecca's still rueing yesterday's shopping.
I hate the glass tankard with the enamel that I made us buy.
I have no idea why I did that.
It was some weird possession of some nutty, bad taste spirit that got me.
Do you know what? I bet that makes the biggest profit.
Soothing words, Will. Happily, there is another distraction at hand.
Rebecca and Will are off to the University of Reading archives,
which has a collection of material relating to publishers Mills and Boon.
In the UK, one of their romance novels is bought every five seconds
and Rebecca is well qualified to enjoy them.
Well, I do have a Masters in English literature and language
and, of course, Mills and Boon
is superlatively wonderful literature(!)
Actually, I have read a ridiculously revolting number of them.
-Have you really?
-I used to try and write them with my sister.
All this about the stable boy who was in lust
-and love with the manor lady.
-Lady of the manor.
-Hello. Are you Judith?
Rebecca and Will's guide is Judith Watts,
a PhD student who is researching the archive.
Do you think they are unfairly disparaged?
-That they are actually high literature?
I wouldn't say, and I don't think the authors would claim,
and the publishers didn't say that it was high literature.
It was always entertainment.
The company was launched as a general publisher
in 1908 by Gerald Mills and Charles Boon.
When sales slumped in the Great Depression,
it hit on a winning formula of producing books cheaply
through tuppenny libraries
and focusing on escapist romances for women.
The readers took them very seriously.
Some of the readers you read about walked or went 60 miles
to buy a new copy.
They would go without a pair of nylons, there's kind of
in the readers' letters, to go and buy one.
So people were taking them very seriously, the writers took them very seriously.
I think what Mills and Boon were wanting to do was to publish the best romance that you could do.
The company always encouraged and nurtured female authors.
As the decades passed, the novels and the authors themselves
reflected the changing role of women in society.
When we reach the 1950s,
the women are starting to kind of have more professions.
So, this is a kind of really good example of an author writing then.
This is Betty Beaty. She was actually living the dream.
She went to Leeds University, she then trained as an air stewardess
and, of course, she met her husband, who was a very handsome pilot.
There were also a lot of other women who had dreamt about writing a novel.
Someone like Violet Winspear, who started writing in the 1960s.
Violet's first novel for the publishing house
appeared in 1961 and her books
earned a reputation for passionate stories and exotic locations.
She was actually unmarried and lived at home with her mother
but had strong views on what romance should be.
In some of the letters she talks about,
it shouldn't be like bacon and eggs on a plate.
She says that romance should be caviar and not cod,
and that's her view of it.
She was very kind of worried that in the '60s lots of realistic things
were creeping into romance and she really did believe in the...
-The fantasy side.
For many readers,
the permissive society of the '60s changed what was acceptable.
Violet tried hard to give readers all they wanted, but not too much.
She sent a questionnaire to Alan Boon,
which was wonderful because she asks things like,
are heroines still to be virtuous?
There's a lot of questions about the bedroom door
and how far it should be kind of left ajar, or should it be closed?
Whilst the business of writing was taken very seriously,
the publishers did allow themselves a bit of fun, too.
This book is really an equivalent of outtakes from the novels
and they've been a bit cheeky, the editors and the publisher,
because they've taken some of the things out of context.
But they are very, very amusing. One of my personal favourites is,
"I have never been intimate with a bear," she said with a sniff.
"There's always a first time."
So it's just full of wonderful things.
-I have no idea what that means.
"These lips are my sacramental wine," he murmured.
At least they drank it and made certain vows
that not even the blade of an espada may sever.
-A bit of Spanish in there as well. Romantic.
That's quite enough of that.
Can I just say, it's been very informative and good fun.
-And as a fan, I loved it.
-Thank you for letting me share it with you.
As our dashing hero and beautiful heroine
head out into the golden sunset of Reading,
Esther and David are making a slightly more prosaic journey
from Goring further up the River Thames
to the Oxfordshire town of Wallingford.
Back in 1135, it was an important place in the struggle
for the throne between Empress Matilda and her cousin, Stephen.
Nowadays it's more likely to witness a taste war
between Esther and David.
It'll be played out at Lamb Arcade,
an antique centre with over 40 shops and showcases,
where Siobhan is one of the dealers.
-I'm Esther. Hello, how do you do?
-Nice to meet you, Esther.
Esther and David still have £288 to spend.
That is a treasure trove, is it not?
After a little rummaging, David strikes gold.
Isn't that just gorgeous?
-That is one of the most...
..hideous pieces of china I've ever seen in my life!
This is the chalk and cheese team.
Perhaps Esther is better off finding her own treasures, hey?
-Here we go!
-Everything is collapsing!
She is feeling the pressure.
-The fiendish desire to win.
-The competitiveness is now coming out.
The real Esther Rantzen has arrived.
The real Esther Rantzen needs help, David. So, what do you suggest?
Here we have a cigarette case.
I know it's not that PC but it could be used as a card case.
but that's the interesting thing.
-Gilded interior and it's hallmarked for 1939.
-That's more than interesting, that's brilliant.
-It is quite brilliant, actually.
-I love it.
At last - unity.
It's got a fantastic history.
This is a Battle of Britain pilot,
aged 19, you know, with probably his little self-rolled cigarettes.
You're absolutely right.
-And because it's 1939, the beginning of the Second World War...
-..it more than likely saw action during the Second World War.
The case seems promising, but it's not priced.
What kind of figure can you do this for?
I could do that for £60.
-No, I'll do 55, and I think you'll do well.
At £55, it's tempting,
and for Esther, it's not all about profit this time.
I have met Battle of Britain pilots.
I have sat next to them at dinner
knowing that this man at age 19 had gone out on mission after mission,
losing friends each time,
and I'm Jewish, and I wouldn't be here if they had lost.
If that battle hadn't been won, I certainly wouldn't be here,
my family wouldn't be here.
-Oh, my gosh, well...
-So they mean a heck of a lot to me.
Well, I think we have to go for that.
That is so powerful that we have to have this.
So we've done it. That's our final object.
-Siobhan, please shake my hand.
-Thank you very much.
-I'm thrilled with that.
-That's our best object.
-That's our best object.
It's been a bumpy ride for Esther and David,
but at £55, their final lot is secured.
Rebecca and Will have emerged from between the covers of their
"romantic interlude" in Reading to meander down the river to Henley.
Of course, it's famous for rowing, but there's no time for posing
in straw boaters and stripy blazers today.
Rebecca and Will have £201 left to spend.
Tudor House Antiques could be the place to do it.
It may look tiny but it's packed to the rafters,
and Dave and Patrick are on hand to help.
-Hi, how you doing, all right?
-I'm Rebecca, hi.
-I'm Dave, pleased to meet you.
-Hi, Dave, I'm Will.
Adopting a divide-and-rule strategy,
Will scours the back yard while Rebecca searches indoors.
This is quite cool. This...
..coal scullet...skillet thing?
Ooh, it's got a... Oh, how nifty!
I think that's old. I'm going to get Will.
Gosh, a new decisive Rebecca!
-Come and have a look at this.
-Don't get your hopes up.
-Oh, a little purdonium.
is a type of coal scuttle named after its inventor, Mr Purdon.
This one is £85.
I'm just thinking, a saleroom...
-Bit of brass...
-In the middle of summer...
-Let's think about it.
It's a possibility.
As you were. No decision.
Let the rummaging continue.
That's a quirky item, isn't it?
Well, I was just thinking,
there I am telling Becca not to look at coal purdoniums
because it's high summer, and what am I looking at? A sledge.
If I give Will another musical item, he'll lose all faith in me.
But not any old sledge.
This is what they call a flexible flyer.
It's an American company that make these sledges
and they've got some great steering at the front there.
For me, that's a great thing,
but I don't know. How's she going to take it when I tell her?
-There's no time like the present to find out.
Have you ever seen...
..a sledge better than that?
You're not impressed, are you?
Can't say I'm feeling it.
It's a proper bit of American folk art.
You genuinely think we can make money on it?
I've seen them make the money,
-but it's just whether the market is there in Woking.
-In Woking in summer!
In summer, for a sledge.
No, we'll leave the sledge.
-I can tell you're not enamoured by the sledge.
-No! I'm not NOT...
If not, there is a lovely little box that I saw, a lacquered box.
Crikey. Rebecca's struggling to decide between two items
and Will's introducing a third?
This is it, look.
A little Japanese lacquered box.
-Look at the quality, look at the workmanship.
-That's all done by hand, you know.
The box probably dates from the 1920s or '30s, and it's £22.
Why don't I like it? What's wrong with me?
I think this at auction, if it's picked up by the right person,
could easily make 40, 50, maybe 60 quid.
OK, well, this is hard
-because now I really like the sled in comparison with that.
-And what about your coal bucket?
-No, I've gone off that.
Let's be clear. Rebecca has decided against the coal scuttle
and doesn't like the lacquer box,
but there's still trouble reaching a decision.
We're in a dilemma, aren't we?
-You said you were indecisive.
-I'm so indecisive.
See, I would never buy the box.
But now I would buy the sledge. I wouldn't have before.
-You wouldn't, would you?
-No. I was like, "What? Rubbish!"
-Oh, let's throw caution to the wind and buy the sled.
-Flick a coin?
-Let's do the sledge!
Yeah? Go on, then. You stay here, I'll go and get it.
Now, there's still the crucial matter of the £48 price ticket.
-I think so.
-Oh, that's the best item in the shop.
-I knew you'd say that.
But, it's the height of summer. We're trying to sell a sledge.
What's the best price you can do?
-I could do it for 40.
I was thinking 30.
I've played this game.
35 and we've got a deal.
Go for 33 and you'll make me really happy.
She's good, isn't she?
Well, I'll tell you what.
Half of this item belongs to my colleague here,
so what do you think?
-WILL: Oh! Good work!
-You're a sucker for a pretty face!
Rebecca and Will have clinched their fifth and final purchase,
reduced from £48 to £33,
but will the scrutiny of Esther and David provoke fresh doubts
as the teams reveal all?
Talk them through it, Becca.
So, beautiful vase, possibly 1920s.
-I like that, yeah.
-This is a Keith Murray for Wedgwood.
-And we paid for that...
-(That's a fortune.)
-Then this is all Becca's doing.
I see, you're passing the blame already, Will. Well done.
-I like your tactics.
-This is the one that's giving me nightmares.
Because it's not particularly beautiful and it's not worth much.
Did you pay much for it?
We paid, for that, £22.
- Oh, dear! - Then, down front...
It's a sledge!
-Oh, that looks good fun!
It's an American piece and I have seen them make good money.
Could I just make a point?
Esther Rantzen is so quiet, this is unbelievable.
-She thinks we're nuts.
-She's in shock.
-I know that expression.
-She's pulled that face
when I've brought certain men home. It's not good!
Come on, Esther, pass judgment on our treasure.
I think you've tried really hard.
-She's so polite.
-No, she's not!
-We all know what she really means.
-That's really quite rude.
Just take the opposite meaning of everything she's saying
and there's her honest truth.
I'm glad that is a well-known name
because otherwise I might think they were exceptionally dull.
I've no idea who madam is. But, but, I could be completely wrong.
-Yeah, it's time to show yours.
-Come on, then.
Get ready to be criticised now.
The gloves are off. Oh...
Oh, look, they went for art!
They've bought art.
What have we got down there?
-Military cigarette case.
-Even I'm impressed when we unroll this.
- OK, so... - Talk us through it.
Now, this, every picture tells a story...
And they're original, obviously, watercolours, and I took the view
there would be quite a lot of grandparents at the auction
and they might like to decorate a nursery and it would be perfect.
I think it would look lovely in your nursery, actually.
I'm supposed to be nasty, I'm supposed to be, "Oh, it's horrible!"
-That is a cigarette case but it would double as a card case.
It is sterling silver.
-Yeah, bang on, 55.
Well, I think it's a really eclectic, interesting mix of stuff.
-And we are now in the hands of...
With no punches pulled in public, what will they say in private?
ESTHER: The sledge would be fine in a hotel...
-Yeah, or in Scotland,
-Woking, in the summer - excellent news.
-Not so brilliant.
-The tankard was peculiar, wasn't it?
-I hate the tankard!
-That was your work.
-It's all my fault.
Would you swap all of their items for all of your items?
Oh, come on. Fist bump it out.
Yeah, man. Pow!
Loving your work!
Can't carry that off. Not street.
As auction day dawns, Esther's raring to go.
I am so excited about the auction. I absolutely adore auctions.
When your father and I used to go to charity events
and there was an auction, he had to hold me down and handcuff me
because I would bid for everything. How are you feeling about it all?
I've never been to an auction.
-It's huge fun.
-I am quite excited.
Our teams are travelling from the Thames Valley
down to a village called Send
near Woking in Surrey.
-It suits you.
Happily, David's taste in trousers doesn't send the celebs running,
so it's on with the show.
-Are you an auction...
This is your first time?
Anxious, because I fidget, I'm going to accidentally bid on something.
-Oh, don't! You've got to sit on your hands and don't blink.
Because if you blink, you spend money.
-Anything can happen. Come on.
-So very true.
The place where anything might happen today is Ewbank's
auctions which holds quarterly antique
and fine art auctions as well as a range of specialist sales.
Tim Duggan is the man wielding the gavel
so what does he think might happen?
I think the sleigh is going to be of interest.
It's a novelty item, it's well displayed.
The glass vase, I quite like. It's got the certificate there.
If I had to pick a lot - I like the silver dressing table set.
It's very nice, very stylised, very Art Deco and I hope to get
that away, certainly it should make 50 or £60. Tankard, yeah.
It's a bit boring, £10 would be lucky.
Each of our teams started with £400.
Esther listened to David's advice then followed her own instincts.
Somehow they managed to agree on five diverse lots
spending a paltry total of £167.
Rebecca convinced herself she had bad taste
but with help from Will eventually managed to decide on her five lots
shelling out a much heftier £232.
As the auction gets under way,
Will is doing nothing to soothe Rebecca's nerves.
This is the arena.
-Are we gladiators?
First up is the World War II RAF cigarette case that stirred
-Esther, this is us.
-Good luck, David. Good luck, Esther.
-RAF cigarette case hallmark for Birmingham 1939.
It's a gift from a proud mum to a 19-year-old who has just
joined the RAF in 1939 - just before the Battle of Britain.
-This is a very important lot.
-You sold it!
You weren't expecting that, were you?
Should I say "That's Life!"
At 35, 40, 45, with you, sir, in the doorway.
-Good, come on.
-65 and 70.
75. 80. 85. £80 in the doorway.
Standing. Looking for 85.
At £80 for the last time.
Aw! £80. It is a trickle.
Thank you for the trickle.
I call £25 profit a very reasonable start for Esther and David.
I can't believe you did that.
I tried to pull her down but almost got her trousers!
-That would have been brilliant!
-For the bids.
The second lot of silver is Rebecca's Art Deco brush
and mirror set fancied by auctioneer Tim.
£30 for it. £30 bid. And five.
45 now. 45. 50. 55. 60. 65.
Surely on the internet...
At £60. Are we all done?
-It's not as bad as you thought.
A classy choice but an unlucky debut for Rebecca.
Are you enjoying your auction experience?
Will and Rebecca's Keith Murray for Wedgwood set is next.
Will the bidders rate it delightful or dull?
£100 for it.
Don't bid! I thought you were bidding.
-30 if you like.
-It will go up.
At 50. Looking for 55.
-60. 65 online, if you want it.
-It's online bidding.
60 in the room. At 65.
-Get the hammer down.
-Come on, £70. Worth it. 75 online.
75 online if you want it.
It's gone quiet online now. At £70.
We've made a loss!
Yes, another small loss and a bumpy start for Rebecca.
But this still plenty of time to turn things around.
It's a bit of a loss, not much.
But we haggled hard for that.
Next up is the 19th century Imari plate found by Esther.
£10 for it.
-Go on, go on.
-It's Japanese. £10 for it.
He's working on their side.
-10 for it.
-Come on. Esther, do something.
15, I've got. And 20, madam.
-Come on! That's better.
-What did we pay?
-25. Battle of the ladies.
-Come on, you miserable lot.
At £25. With you, madam.
Selling to the room at £25.
As Esther and David consolidate their lead,
Rebecca has realised she's on the back foot.
It's because people love you. They don't know who the hell I am.
Rebecca and Will both liked the glass trumpet vase.
Now they need the bidders to feel the same.
You could use it for a hospital sample.
-It looks like it already has.
£20 for it. Bid me ten.
Come on, surely £10 at the back. 10 is bid, I'll take 15.
-This is criminal.
£10 at the back.
-Calm down, calm down.
The right people just weren't in the room, Rebecca.
Whoever bought that, you might get a quick profit in the car park.
After a series of losses comes the lot that worries Rebecca most.
-The Bohemian tankard she chose.
-£30. 10, if you like.
For goodness' sake!
-It's a nice thing.
25 online now. Battle at 30.
You've got a profit.
35. Looking for 40.
45 online. Want 50. You are out...
-I feel sick.
-Change of tune.
Rebecca's supposedly tasteless tankard comes up trumps
-and turns around her fortunes.
-Back in the game.
It's good now, isn't?
Ester discovered the French studio glass vase.
Will it be a oui or a non, from the bidders?
-£10 for it.
-Come on, come on.
25 now. 30 bid. 35.
Just a load of...
At 45, selling at £45.
Esther and David's profits are rising slowly but steadily.
-We are trickling all the way.
-We are leaking all the way.
Don't fret, Rebecca.
It may be summer in Surrey but Will has high hopes
-for the American sledge.
-£100 for it.
Come on, a nice item, this one. £100. 50 for it.
55, 60. 65. 70. 75.
Looking for 80.
It's a good lot.
Looking for 80 anywhere. At £75. The bids are out.
The back of the room, £75.
-We are pleased.
It's all right.
A spectacular £42 profit puts Rebecca
and Will right back in the running.
Now she's happy. Was she like this as a child?
Next up is the American rocker. Hideous, according to Esther.
-£30 for it. £30.
Don't be ridiculous.
You would have to pay me to buy that.
-£10. 10 bid.
-That was 20 he was bidding.
-You were cheating.
He said 20. I heard him say it.
-Come on. Come on. Come on.
-At £30, it is with you.
He just said 40!
Someone get security!
Yes! Go on. You realise it has no cushions.
But how much will it be worth with cushions?
-Selling at £40.
Hm, not so hideous when you consider that is a decent profit, Esther.
-Well done, you.
-Believing in the American rocker.
Look at that look.
Esther is banking on doting grandparents like herself to
snap up the final lot, the four nursery pictures.
-Good and decorative. £30. You pay that for the frame.
Bid me 20. 20 bid. 25 behind you.
Come on. Come on. Come on.
35 with the lady.
Looking for 40. At £35.
Stop looking down.
-Our first loss.
I'm glad you had one.
Late in the day, Esther and David joined the losers club
-but only a modest 10 down.
-Share the pain.
I wish they had had more pain.
Good stuff, shall we hit the burger van?
-Let's do it.
Let's check the ratio of pain to profit.
After the agonies of indecision, Rebecca
and Will did well with the sledge and the supposedly tacky tankard
but after paying auction costs they made a small loss of £18.80p.
It leaves them with a total of £381.20.
Despite their taste war,
Esther and David managed to acquire some solid lots
and their profits climbed slowly but surely to £17.50 giving them
a total of £417.50 and victory on this road trip.
All profits, no matter how small, go to Children in Need.
It's not about the winning or losing, it's the taking part...
No, you always thought that, Becca, all the way through.
I was fine. I am not at all competitive.
No, we noticed(!)
I think if you buy what you love it almost doesn't matter that you
-completely crush the opposition and win...
-She's going to be intolerable.
-She's now an expert. Teeny tiny win.
-Intolerable forever now.
-You know that, don't you?
-I've got to get in the car with her.
ALL TALK OVER EACH OTHER
Thanks for your help, David.
-Thank you, thank you.
-It has been fun.
-I've adored it.
If somebody asked me to do a whole week of this, I would jump at it.
So, I suppose the biggest profit we made...
Oh, stop it!
Television presenter Esther Rantzen challenges her daughter, and fellow presenter, Rebecca Wilcox in a competition for antique glory in and around Reading. Rebecca delights in diving into much-loved romance novels and Esther hears the moving stories of British evacuees during World War II.