Upstairs Downstairs Flog It: Trade Secrets


Upstairs Downstairs

Tips on antiques and collectibles. This time there is a glimpse of how the other half lived with an array of collectibles from Britain's aristocratic past.


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Transcript


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'In the last 11 years, we've valued thousands of your items'

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and helped you sell

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around £1 million of antiques and collectables.

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-You've turned your £32 into at least £200 to £300.

-Yeah?

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-Happy?

-I'm very happy with that.

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-That is amazing!

-Cracking result.

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In this series, I want to pass on some of the knowledge we've learnt

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from having those wonderful objects pass through our hands.

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Welcome to Flog It! Trade Secrets.

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History tends to reflect the lives of the people who write it.

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Great generals, proud monarchs and intrepid explorers,

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and the houses and objects they leave behind,

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are a source of wonder and inspiration.

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It's not so much what this chair's worth, but whose bum sat on it.

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'Coming up: Our experts share their thoughts

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'about some of the poshest items we've seen on Flog It!'

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Two really nice quality decanters. It's a very posh thing, this.

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A really good example of how life used to be.

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-PHILIP:

-I think this is just about the business. It really is lovely.

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Tortoiseshell tea caddies are a red-letter day for an auctioneer.

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It could easily top the £1,000 mark.

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We have a collection of the most glorious gaming pieces.

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These are made for the upper classes.

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The Jane Austen crowd.

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-Where we were before.

-£3,600!

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-You didn't see that coming, did you?

-No.

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When you visit grand historic houses or castles

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it's usually the splendour and the grandness of the state rooms that you gravitate towards

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to admire the gorgeous tapestries and the priceless furniture.

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Because, let's face it, that's not how most of us live.

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'Over the years, objects from these places have been sold or gifted

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'and many have turned up at our valuation days.'

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Here's how the other half live.

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'Get ready for a tantalising array of quality items.

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'One of our experts who had an eye for the finer things in life

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'was the formidable David Barby, a true gentleman.'

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Of all the things that have been brought in today, Sheila,

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this is one that I wish to take home with me.

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-Is that right?

-Absolutely. It's in such lovely condition.

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And beautifully polished, as though you only did it this morning.

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-I bet you did, didn't you?

-LAUGHING: Yes!

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-It was brown.

-Was it brown?

-Yes.

-Not stuck in an attic?

-Yes.

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-Really?

-Yes, till last night.

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-So you've never used it?

-I used to use it.

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It used to be on a sideboard, but I'd got a big place then.

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Since I've moved, it's been up the loft.

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-Right. What do you use it for?

-Nothing, really. Just decoration.

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-Just decoration?

-Yes.

-It did have a purpose when it was made in 1806.

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It's solid silver and this would have come from a very affluent home.

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-Oh!

-If you read books by Mrs Gaskell...

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-Yes.

-North And South, Cranford, this fits into that sort of society.

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-Really?

-Yes. It really is quite an interesting piece.

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The design, if you look at it, it has a classical appearance.

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-It's a pedestal form.

-Yes. A nice shape.

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Let's think in terms of a Regency dining table.

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We'd have fresh cut chunks of bread in there.

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-Lovely.

-And passed round by the servant or the butler.

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'A quality piece, the serving basket was valued £350 to £500

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'and was sold at Adam Partridge's saleroom.'

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It wouldn't have been something that most of us would have had.

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You would have been a company owner or a politician or military man

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or a semi-aristo type to have owned something like that.

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You'd have never polished it yourself! You'd have someone to do that for you.

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'Are silver items with little practical use still sought after,

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'or are they bought for scrap?'

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People buy silver for condition, for what it is, for the maker, the age,

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various factors.

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The only things I imagine go for scrap are the ones that are damaged

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or the ones that no-one wants any more.

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'That was more for the serious collector.'

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I've got four bids. Shall we cut to the chase and say we've got 460?

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Is there 480? 460 bid. Is there 480 now?

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At 460. If you're all done. We'll sell it. Short and sweet at 460.

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Blink and you'll miss that one! £460. Well done, David.

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'And that wasn't the only fine item we've seen.'

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I think this is just about the business. It really is lovely.

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Tortoiseshell tea caddies are a red-letter day for an auctioneer.

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You have to be mindful with tortoiseshell and ivory.

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They have got to pre-date 1947, but that was a 19th-century caddy.

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I don't know which half of the family it's come down from.

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What often happened is you find that back at the latter end of the 19th century,

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someone might have been in service.

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When they retired, they were given a present for the house.

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I think, on my father's side of the family, they were in service.

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It's an area I've got to explore.

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So this could have been a present from a house that he worked at?

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'It's almost like a class thing.'

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Tea was an expensive commodity,

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so tea was locked up in this little box.

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The more elaborate and expensive the box was,

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the better the household that it came from.

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And you locked it up so those nasty servants couldn't get at your expensive tea!

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Regency tortoiseshell tea caddy.

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Silver wire mounts in here.

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Little silver escutcheon.

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There's just a hint of damage.

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-Can you see just there?

-Mm-hm.

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-And on that corner, a little bit missing.

-Right.

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A certain amount of minor blemishing I always think is acceptable.

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Some people would prefer to restore it.

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What happens then is you get...

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You clearly can't use modern ivory or tortoiseshell.

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So people will buy old items that are damaged

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and they will use them to repair other items.

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So, if you've got an old piano with ivory keys,

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you might be able to buy the piano for nothing, take the ivory keys

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and use that in the restoration of something else.

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What's it worth?

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-You don't know.

-Not a clue. No.

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-If it made over £100, you'd probably be quite pleased.

-Mm. I think so.

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Well, I think we ought to estimate that at...

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-£500 to £800.

-Really?

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Yeah. And I think...

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..that it could easily top the £1,000 mark.

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The thing about anything is that you're going to get different ends of the spectrum.

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You can buy a tea caddy today for £5 or £10.

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Tortoiseshell tea caddies are still massively collectable.

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They're not quite worth the money they were, but they're up there at the Rolls-Royce end.

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Things go in vogue in this business.

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At the minute, tortoiseshell tea caddies are the thing.

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Do you like it or not really? That's why you want to sell it?

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I don't dislike it, but I have...

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-You'd like £1,000 more?

-Yes, probably! Yes!

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PHILIP LAUGHS

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'It's off to the saleroom, but will quality always out?'

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You've done some research on this, haven't you?

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Talking to Philip, he said it was the kind of thing that would come from somebody in service.

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-Big grand house?

-Yes. I've started doing genealogy on my father's side of the family.

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I've discovered that my great-grandfather was a butler.

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The rumour within the family is that he worked for Sir Titus Salt junior,

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-the salt mill with the David Hockney exhibition.

-Yes.

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A great thing about Flog It! is that it sparks an interest.

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Someone comes to the valuation day, we tell them something,

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they take it home and, whether they sell it or not, they find out more about it.

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What we discovered is it could well have belonged to Sir Titus Salt.

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He would have come from that great age of Victorian invention and money.

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Industrialists set up businesses and made huge sums of money.

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What do you do with huge sums of money? You buy a very trendy, at the time, tortoiseshell tea caddy.

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A single caddy in very good condition.

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Very little to quarrel about with this.

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I have to start on my sheets at £900.

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Do we have £950 in the room? 950. 1,000. And 50.

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1,100. And 50. 1,200. And 50.

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1,300. And 50. 1,400. And 50.

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1,500. And 50. 1,600 in the room?

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1,600 on the phone?

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1,600 is it anywhere, then?

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We finish 1,550. All done and finished. All done.

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Fantastic!

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-I'll calm you down.

-I need a bottle of gin never mind a glass of gin!

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There are certain things that just go, "Ker-ching!"

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You get the three bells that light up across here.

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Tortoiseshell tea caddies are one of those things, but...

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When that was sold, and I can't remember exactly when,

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but it wouldn't make as much now because there are peaks and troughs.

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I think that we sold it at the peak and now it's probably a trough.

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'The trick of this business is to do your research.

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'If you can learn to pinpoint the peaks and the troughs,

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'you could be onto a winner.

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'Over the years, we've seen hundreds of decanters at our valuation days.

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'But in 2010, Adam found a rather striking set.'

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-Steve, welcome to Flog It!

-Thank you.

-How are you doing?

-Fine.

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-You've got a nice thing here.

-Yeah, it is.

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-Very precious.

-Is it?

-I hope so.

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-Is it precious to you, sentimentally?

-In a way, yeah.

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But it's been in the loft for 20-odd years, doing nothing.

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-So might as well...

-If we could clear every loft in the land,

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-I think we'd solve the economy!

-LAUGHS

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This pair of decanters in their wonderful coromandel fitted case

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are a really good example of how life used to be.

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With the divide of the upstairs and the downstairs

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in these country houses with their servants.

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How did it come to be in your family's possession?

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My grandfather and granny and me mother worked in a hall.

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-So they were in service?

-Service, yeah.

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Last of the upstairs and downstairs people.

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Me granny was a cook and me grandfather was a butler and me mother was a maid.

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-And where was that?

-That was in Thornby Hall.

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People watching now will wonder, "What's all this 'in service'?"

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It just doesn't happen any more. Very few people are butlers any more!

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I can't remember ever having met a butler or a maid.

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I've met a few cooks, but not private, really.

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All you get nowadays is the odd nanny here and there.

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-How do you think they got these?

-I think they were given to them.

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-As a thank-you gift or retirement gift?

-Could have been.

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Well, it's a very posh thing, this.

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It's made out of a... Look at the thickness of the wood!

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It's made out of coromandel, which is an exotic and expensive timber.

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It was mainly used to make small things.

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You don't see much furniture made out of it, it was all boxes

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and small things like this.

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Fitted with two really nice quality decanters.

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-Is it English-made, do you think?

-Yes, it is. Definitely.

-Yeah.

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Another sign of quality, you've also got the key, which is unusual.

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Most have lost their keys by now.

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And you've got this special type of lock, Bramah patent lock.

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These locks are a special secure lock.

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I remember you saying before we started, "Don't shut it because it's a terrible thing to open."

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That's because of this lock.

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It's wonderful quality, a Bramah's patent.

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You only see it on fine things, so it's another sign of quality.

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Decanters aren't the easiest things to sell any more.

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Of course, there are collectors, but there are many on the market

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which means, generally, prices are pretty low.

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You have to have something pretty special, in decanter terms, for it to have a considerable value.

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These were a nice decent pair in their fitted case.

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If you took those pair of decanters out of that coromandel box,

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they'd be worth £30.

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The value was as a parcel, I think.

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-What do you think it might be worth?

-What do YOU think it's worth?

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I haven't a clue, to be honest.

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Realistically, in that order - because the glass isn't perfect.

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-There's a few minor grazes, aren't there?

-Yeah.

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-I would have thought between £100 and £200 is your likely realised price.

-Oh, yeah.

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Bids all over the book on this one.

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453...

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-Whoa! Straight in!

-That's the lot number.

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The auctioneer read out the lot number, which I think was 450 or something.

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"Right, 450!" And Paul went, "Oh, my goodness! It's amazing!"

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I said, "Calm down, Paul. It's lot number 450."

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You've got to keep alert at auctions!

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70, if you like. 170. 170. 180. 180 bid.

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Is there 90? At 180. 90. 190.

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Phew! Better not fan. I might bid!

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Level money at 190.

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-That's a good result.

-Top of the estimate.

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At £190...

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-We'll settle for that. That's drinks all round, £190.

-Yeah.

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'Adam was right. It was the box that sold those decanters.

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'A top tip is look for complete sets of things in original boxes.

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'Bits missing will generally affect the value.'

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And here's another trade secret.

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'Look for fine, well-crafted items, no matter what it is.

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'Quality should always hold its value.'

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'In 2011, Flog It! visited the beautiful Bath Assembly Rooms.

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'In the Georgian era, they would have seen the aristocracy at play.

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'David Barby found a very appropriate object to value -

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'a set of George IV gaming boxes.'

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Janita, I was hoping when we were filming at Bath,

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that something would come along that would evoke

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the late Georgian Regency period.

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And these boxes fall into that category.

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-Where did these come from?

-My mother was a great collector

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of Victorian treasures and she particularly loved mother-of-pearl.

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Inside, we have a collection

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of the most glorious mother-of-pearl counters.

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When you had the Assembly Rooms like this in Bath,

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you would have an element of gaming or assignations for gaming later.

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These would have been the gaming pieces they'd have used.

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They date from, let's say about 1800, 1820, that sort of period.

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These are made for the upper classes.

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-The Jane Austen crowd.

-LAUGHING: Good.

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On the outside, they look as though they've suffered along the line.

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Of course, they would do. These are Oriental boxes.

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They're lacquer. Lacquer is not a stable material.

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Clearly, you never want to see damage.

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But I'm a great believer that if something's been around 150 years,

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then the damage that it has, it's the lines on its hands, it's the wrinkles on its face.

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It's patina, it's what we look for.

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'It was valued as two lots, but would the damage to the lid

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'put the bidders off as they went under the hammer?'

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320, my bid. 320. 340. 360.

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-Another bid in the room, look.

-400. 420.

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440. 460. 480. 500...

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'Clearly not.'

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Auctions. Don't you just love them?

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-..700. 750. 800...

-'And the bids kept coming.'

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..1,800. 1,900.

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-This is what auctions are all about.

-Wow!

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2,000.

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-2,100? 2,200?

-This is just the first lot.

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2,300?

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-2,400?

-LAUGHING:

-2,500!

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2,500? 2,600?

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And selling at £2,500, then.

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The hammer's gone down! Such a tiny tap. It should have been...

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£2,500. That's the first one. That is incredible.

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'And the other one did even better.'

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-2,700. 2,800.

-This one's even more desirable.

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2,900. 3,000.

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-Ooooh!

-£3,000!

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3,200.

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-3,400? 3,400.

-3,400. Late legs.

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3,600?

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3,800?

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-Oh, gosh!

-No. £3,600, then.

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-Where we were before.

-£3,600!

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-Plus your other. £6,100!

-That is marvellous.

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-That's beyond my expectations.

-You didn't see that coming, did you?

-No.

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'If two people have their eye on an item there can be real money made.

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'But if you're buying at auction, don't get carried away by the excitement.

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'Set yourself a budget and stick to it.'

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So here's what we've learned so far.

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'Always look for quality because quality always sells.

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'In some cases, damage will not deter a buyer.

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'But that's not always the case, so get some advice.

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'Provenance is important.

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'If you can trace an object to a particular stately home or a family,

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'it can seriously add to its value.'

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'Over the years, I've been to some wonderful historic homes.

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'From Arley in North Cheshire to Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.

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'One of the most interesting is a place I visited back in 2006.'

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One great thing about antiques is it's not just about appreciating the detail and beauty and craftsmanship,

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but it's also about the stories and history that lie behind them.

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That's why I brought you here to Lanhydrock House

0:19:100:19:13

set in 900 acres of parkland on the River Foy,

0:19:130:19:16

just a few miles up the road from St Austell.

0:19:160:19:19

This country mansion house

0:19:260:19:29

isn't just a stunning example of 17th and 19th-century architecture.

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With all the trappings and atmosphere,

0:19:330:19:35

its very fabric tells the story

0:19:350:19:37

of the socially and sexually divided life for the Victorian family.

0:19:370:19:41

In 1881, the house, which had stood for almost 250 years,

0:20:110:20:15

was severely damaged by fire.

0:20:150:20:17

The then owners, the Agar-Robartes, had the house rebuilt

0:20:170:20:20

by architect Richard Coad and he used this book on this table,

0:20:200:20:24

a book by Robert Kerr called The Gentleman's House,

0:20:240:20:27

to design a new layout,

0:20:270:20:29

based on the strict morals and principles of Victorian living.

0:20:290:20:33

-With me is curator for Lanhydrock, Paul Holden. Hi, there.

-Hello.

0:20:330:20:37

What did this book actually tell the architect to do?

0:20:370:20:41

The book acted as a guide to show how a house could be designed

0:20:410:20:45

and how it could be segregated.

0:20:450:20:47

For example, we're in the drawing room now

0:20:470:20:50

and the farthest room from this room is the nursery.

0:20:500:20:53

Children and adults didn't mix, apart from when the family were ready for them.

0:20:530:20:58

It's not even a case of "be seen and not heard" it's "not even be seen"!

0:20:580:21:02

-CHILD SINGS

-# Oranges and lemons

0:21:020:21:04

# Say the bells of St Clement's

0:21:040:21:07

# You owe me five farthings

0:21:070:21:11

# Say the bells of St Martin's. #

0:21:110:21:14

'This day room is one of several in the nursery quarters.

0:21:160:21:19

'Here, the children would play and eat their meals under the supervision of a nanny,

0:21:190:21:23

'only seeing their parents when they were sent for.'

0:21:230:21:27

That is a strict moral code. Surely, all houses weren't built like this?

0:21:280:21:32

I'm sure all houses weren't designed like that, but certain people picked up on Robert Kerr's ideals.

0:21:320:21:38

This family, being high Anglican, wanted to put those morals into this house.

0:21:380:21:42

I think it was very important for the High Victorian period

0:21:420:21:46

that they set those moral codes.

0:21:460:21:48

-We got gender separation in the house as well.

-Gender separation!

0:21:480:21:51

That is such a harsh word! Tell me what you mean by that.

0:21:510:21:55

Obviously, you're talking about the family.

0:21:550:21:58

It was very important for the High Victorians.

0:21:580:22:00

The drawing room was a very feminine space.

0:22:000:22:03

We have very masculine spaces,

0:22:030:22:05

particularly the dining room downstairs and the billiard room,

0:22:050:22:09

and smoking room in the male quarters.

0:22:090:22:12

I've come to the smoking room, which Paul was telling me about.

0:22:230:22:27

As soon as you walk in, you can tell it's a man's room.

0:22:270:22:31

You can imagine them sitting here, supping a glass of brandy

0:22:310:22:35

and reminiscing over a recent shoot or a bygone hunting party.

0:22:350:22:40

All the rooms we've seen so far would have been used by the Agar-Robartes family themselves.

0:22:520:22:58

What was life like for the servants?

0:22:580:23:00

Did the segregation of the sexes apply below stairs?

0:23:000:23:03

I'm in the kitchen to ask the question to Paul. What was life like for the servants?

0:23:030:23:08

Life was very good, in general, they had their own accommodation.

0:23:080:23:12

But compared to the opulence of the main house, it was very different.

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Mind you, looking around this marvellous kitchen, there's a wow factor. Look at the size of it.

0:23:160:23:21

It's gorgeous. Surely, males and females worked together here?

0:23:210:23:26

It was an area where male and female mixed in the kitchen.

0:23:260:23:29

But the servants' hall was the only place they could relax together,

0:23:290:23:34

talk generally and have their annual servants' ball.

0:23:340:23:37

There were two separate staircases away from the servants' hall.

0:23:370:23:41

We had a wooden staircase leading up first to the females' accommodation on the top floor

0:23:410:23:46

and secondly the male servants' accommodation on the top floor.

0:23:460:23:49

Male and female servants' accommodation met at a right angle,

0:23:490:23:53

and the butler had the key for that door in between.

0:23:530:23:56

Quite a few mod cons. You've got hot and cold running water.

0:24:060:24:09

Very modern tiling for its day, and grouting, and a steam oven.

0:24:090:24:14

Mm. The tiling was for hygiene. It could just be wiped clean.

0:24:140:24:18

-But there is steam equipment in this kitchen.

-Look at that apparatus.

0:24:180:24:23

-What a fireplace! What an oven.

-It is an amazing spit.

0:24:230:24:26

It is, isn't it? Look at the size of it!

0:24:260:24:29

The pulley system involved, and all the linkage.

0:24:290:24:33

It's all generated by this smoke jack,

0:24:330:24:35

which is generated by the heat of the fire

0:24:350:24:38

and the smoke going up the chimney that would revolve the apparatus.

0:24:380:24:42

You would have had roasts on there, your rotisserie for your chickens.

0:24:420:24:46

You've got mechanical jacks, so the whole thing would turn by its own momentum.

0:24:460:24:51

Gosh. It's wonderfully preserved. It really does take you back in time.

0:24:510:24:55

-You can just imagine a spit roast going on now.

-Definitely.

0:24:550:24:59

This beautiful house perfectly evokes a bygone era of class divide,

0:25:050:25:10

and the wealth and the power of the upper crust.

0:25:100:25:13

If you could choose any beautiful antique, what would it be?

0:25:190:25:23

I put that question to our experts.

0:25:230:25:26

'And today, it's Philip Serrell.'

0:25:270:25:29

It's funny, you think about all the things you see in Flog It! One thing keeps homing back to me.

0:25:290:25:35

It was a country house stationery box or letter box.

0:25:350:25:38

It was in rosewood lattice, like a lattice box with open panels

0:25:380:25:44

or open gaps, so you'd post your letter into it.

0:25:440:25:48

I think it's absolutely lovely.

0:25:480:25:50

Answered postcards in this side. Unanswered in this side.

0:25:500:25:55

Just lift that flap up, there's a maker's name, Thompson.

0:25:550:25:59

I think that refers to the maker of this hidden brass handle,

0:25:590:26:05

rather than the whole lot.

0:26:050:26:07

I would think it's about 1840 and it's made out of rosewood...

0:26:070:26:11

'This is a box that would have sat'

0:26:110:26:13

on a table in the hall of a large country house.

0:26:130:26:16

When you were stopping there, you'd put your letters in it.

0:26:160:26:19

A footman would have opened it up and taken the contents to the post for you.

0:26:190:26:24

You've got a great bit of social history, almost like Downton Abbey.

0:26:240:26:28

It's all there for you.

0:26:280:26:30

This was just clean. It hadn't been touched or stripped clean.

0:26:300:26:33

It was just honest. It was just absolutely lovely.

0:26:330:26:37

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

0:26:370:26:40

Have you any idea what it might be worth?

0:26:400:26:42

Well, I thought, possibly, £50 or £60.

0:26:420:26:46

-Would you take a cheque?

-Oh, I see! LAUGHS

0:26:460:26:49

I think it's lovely. I think that will make £300 to £500.

0:26:490:26:53

-Gosh!

-That is a surprise.

-Put a reserve on it of 250.

0:26:530:26:57

I have to say that if you get two ardent collectors there,

0:26:570:27:01

I think it could way exceed that.

0:27:010:27:03

-I really like it.

-I'm glad I brought it.

0:27:030:27:06

This is one thing that I would really love to own. It is absolutely beautiful.

0:27:060:27:10

'It wasn't just Philip who loved it.'

0:27:100:27:13

At 560, 580, £600.

0:27:130:27:16

-Unbelievable!

-That's absolutely amazing.

0:27:160:27:18

£640. 660. 680. At 680.

0:27:180:27:22

-It's incredible.

-700. 720.

0:27:220:27:25

-740. On the telephone at £740.

-I can't believe it.

-No.

0:27:250:27:29

At £740. At 740.

0:27:290:27:31

-BANGS GAVEL

-What? 740!

0:27:310:27:34

That is fantastic. You were right.

0:27:340:27:37

I have to say, I'd really rather have the box.

0:27:370:27:41

'Must have been ten years ago.'

0:27:410:27:43

Out of all the things I've seen, it was just a lovely, honest lot.

0:27:430:27:50

'It just goes to show how much we still love objects

0:27:500:27:53

'from our country's aristocratic past.'

0:27:530:27:57

As we've seen, there are plenty of items

0:28:020:28:03

that were the preserve of the rich, but as times change,

0:28:030:28:06

they've become valuable collectables.

0:28:060:28:09

So, if you have an object that's been handed down to you,

0:28:090:28:13

dig it out!

0:28:130:28:14

You might not own a stately home,

0:28:140:28:16

but it could just bring you riches too.

0:28:160:28:18

See you next time on Flog It! Trade Secrets.

0:28:180:28:22

This time there is a glimpse of how the other half lived with an array of collectibles from Britain's aristocratic past. And Paul gets a flavour of life above and below stairs at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall.


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