This episode comes from Leicester, and the home to the valuation day is the city's De Montfort Hall. Paul Martin is joined by experts Catherine Southon and Thomas Plant.
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Today, we're in Leicester, a vibrant, multicultural city
in the heart of the East Midlands.
It's the birthplace of legendary footballer Gary Lineker
and controversial playwright Joe Orton.
It's also the place where the remains of one of history's
most famous kings was discovered.
Let's hope our experts can measure up to the great
and the good of this city.
Welcome to "Flog It!".
King Richard III was killed in battle in Leicestershire in 1485.
It has since been a mystery as to where he was laid to rest...
until 2012, when archaeologists began excavating
beneath a car park in Leicester.
Human remains were unearthed
which were later confirmed as those of King Richard.
Leicester has claimed Richard III as one of their own.
Imagine if we had a royal relic through the door today.
Here at De Montfort Hall, we've already got an impressive turnout.
The more people, the more antiques we see,
and the greater chance of finding something special.
And scouring the crowds today are our very own regal couple,
experts Thomas Plant...
-Do these work?
-Look at those.
..and Catherine Southon.
-Lovely. And you're "Hottie", are you?
They are on a mission to find antiques unusual, intriguing
Basically, anything fit for a king.
Yeah, we've got The Mouth.
You've got The Mouth? Is that what you call him?! The Mouth!
Well, it's time to get the doors open,
get this big crowd inside and hopefully find a few gems.
Whilst the crowds are still pouring in,
Thomas has already found his first item - some unusual glassware.
-OK, girls, you're sisters, aren't you?
-We are indeed.
-But there's four years' difference.
-Four years' difference? OK.
She's the oldest!
-So, it's Jane...
-There's no other siblings?
-No, I can see you're quite close.
There wouldn't be room for anybody else, would there?
So, tell me about these. What do you know about these things here?
They are marvellous.
They've been in the family for ever, I think.
Well, it feels as though for ever.
Certainly, when I was a child,
they were always on the mantelpiece or on the hearth.
-I think Mum thought they were French.
-Yes, but, erm, we're here to find out.
-I don't think they're French.
I call these, funny enough, Norfolk glass dumps.
Only because I heard the late, great David Barby once call them Norfolk glass dumps.
So I've always called them that.
-But people just call them doorstops, really.
How old do you think they are?
Interestingly, you have got quite a bit of wear on this base here.
I would say they are going to be late 19th century.
-So you're looking at the 1890s.
The thing about glass, it is difficult...
You can fake it, you can make it look old easily.
-But to get that honest wear on the base, you can't fake.
And to have a trio is marvellous, isn't it? Absolutely marvellous.
And this technique of getting the flowers within the actual
How do they make the flowers so uniform, almost?
I have no idea. When they blow glass, literally... I can't...
I did a bit last year and it is just amazing. So hot, you know.
A bit of blowing and back in the glory hole and then out.
And they only use a limited amount of tools. It's brilliant.
-It's absolutely brilliant.
Why have you brought them to "Flog It!"?
-To find out the value.
-Do you want to sell them?
-For the right price, yes.
-Is that always the wrong answer?!
-Oh, the pressure!
The pressure, you two!
I feel I'm being ganged up on. What is the right money?
Do you know, we have no idea.
We've looked on the internet and never seen anything quite like them.
I think they have got to be worth between 30 and 40 each.
So, as a holistic lot, it's £100.
£100... That's quite disappointing.
Yes. Because it's got to be split two ways, you see.
I think...£100, with a fixed reserve at 100.
-So give that a wide estimate. 100 to 200, £100 reserve.
-Are you going to agree?
Yes! We're there. I don't want to disappoint you.
-No, we don't want you to!
-No, you don't!
Thomas is feeling the pressure, but he needs to keep his cool.
There are plenty more people to see.
We've got a packed main hall here.
I've been told the queue goes outside, so let's have a look.
We might go through a bit of darkness to get there, so follow me.
Hello, everyone. We'll get you seated in just a moment.
Thank you so much for turning up today.
Without you, we would not have a show. How many outside?
Oh, my gosh, look. What a lot of people!
I tell you what, it's going to be a long day.
But a good one.
There's bound to be some treasure in all of those bags and I am hoping
for the crown jewels, but silver is a great start for Catherine.
Now, Paul, I see silver christening cups constantly,
but nothing quite as special as this.
-I want to know where you got this from.
How much did you pay for it?
Erm, we used to go to 'em Sunday mornings.
It was just something to do.
And I just... I came across this.
But obviously, when I seen it, it wasn't... It didn't look like that.
-It was black.
-It was black, right.
-It was black. It's about 20 years ago.
Why now are you coming to "Flog It!" to sell it?
Cos...my partner doesn't like it.
-I do. So...
..I'd like to sell it and reinvest the money into another collectable,
but one that I can have on show at home and be proud of.
Well, I think you should keep this, but then I'm a little bit biased.
Let's have a look at this.
First of all, a silver christening cup.
And you were drawn to it as a piece of silver?
I had a feeling it could be silver.
-Right, OK, but it was all covered in black?
Now, what I am so interested in with this is these little
figures around the bottom of the christening cup,
which are all figures of sailors, and they are all holding a ship.
And then you've got this swag detail going round,
which you quite often find on silver pieces of this era.
But they are actually made up like they're pieces of rope,
so you have this whole nautical theme.
Perhaps it was made for...
a baby of a nautical family,
-perhaps the family were sailors or something.
But it is just so lovely. So you're appealing to two different markets -
you're appealing to the silver buyers
and also to those who are interested in nautical works of art.
Now, we've got a lovely, crisp hallmark here.
We've got the maker's initials, DF...
..for David Fullerton, and the letter A.
So we can date that precisely to 1916, which is lovely.
-What worries me about this is that you bought it and it was black.
-And what did you do to it?
-The worst thing that I could do.
-The one thing that you tell us...
-I'm glad you recognise that!
-The one thing you tell us not to do - clean.
-Right. You've cleaned it.
And you've really, really polished it.
It looks like to me that you've got a very abrasive pad
and given it a good scrub.
-At the time, I didn't realise that.
I mean, it's nice to be able to see the detail, but really,
we should keep it in its original condition.
-Now, you paid £3.50 for this?
I would put that into auction at £100 to £150.
-But I can see it doing well.
-Can we put a reserve on it?
We can put a reserve. What do you want your reserve to be?
-The bottom end of the estimate.
-£100. I think that is very sensible.
We'll put a reserve on of £100. I think this is going to do well.
-I think you're going to get a lot of people interested in it.
It's all go here at our valuation day
and it looks like the whole of Leicester has turned out.
Even the local radio station has turned up.
..Paul Martin now.
We are Flogging It between now and midday on BBC Radio Leicester...
But DJ Tony Wadsworth has found a moment to chat to me
about this lovely piece of local memorabilia.
Tony, I absolutely love this photograph. It sums up Beatlemania.
Look at this, screaming fans going, "Aaaaaah!"
-You couldn't hear the concert.
-You're absolutely right.
-You saw The Beatles, didn't you?
-I did indeed, yeah.
-Did you hear any music?
-Not at all, no.
I was screaming alongside the girls,
but I was screaming at the girls to stop screaming!
How funny. But that picture really sums up Beatlemania
and the frenzy everybody got into.
I love the ticket stub, I love everything about that.
Did you put this together?
I bought this ticket from a well-known internet auction website.
I know the one!
This picture here was taken by the local paper at the time,
so this was taken in this very concert hall.
I thought it would be nice to put it in a frame like that.
I like what you've done. You've mounted it up
and created a little bit of history here, you know,
connected to De Montfort Hall, which I really like.
Now, did you get this set of autographs?
I wish I could say I did.
-Because, you know, provenance and authenticity...
..with The Beatles' autographs is key. It's crucial.
The story goes that the mentioned Mrs Glenn there,
she was employed as an outside catering contractor to serve
The Beatles sandwiches in their dressing room.
And got the Fab Four's signature and the rest, as they say, is history.
-So this signature came with this piece of paper to you?
I bought it just like that.
Is it something you want to sell?
No, I don't want to flog it, Paul!
You know, I'm a Leicester lad born and bred, and for me,
this is a little bit of local history. And I was there.
I was at that very concert in 1964.
And I remember it as if it was yesterday.
You really can't put a price on memories,
and for Tony, the value of this just isn't important.
But in the past, we've seen authentic Beatles autographs
which have sold for thousands of pounds.
You've brought along a very decorative clock garniture,
-as I like to call it.
-Tell me, how have you come to have it?
I was left it in my uncle's will ten years ago.
-And did he leave you other things?
-This is the main thing he left.
The main thing he left you. So why have you brought it here?
Because I've had it for ten years in the house
and I just live in an ordinary three-bed semidetached house
and it just doesn't fit anywhere.
I've tried it on shelves and tables and cupboards
and it just doesn't fit.
This wouldn't fit in my house, cos everything's got
-so much smaller now.
-This is for a grand, palatial mansion.
It's a very beautiful 19th-century French mantel garniture clock
-with a spelter top.
This looks like bronze, like it's been bronzed,
-but it is spelter, isn't it?
-Yes, it is.
-And it's signed Clehter, isn't it, or Cleehter.
Somebody like that. 1842.
I wouldn't say this is 1842,
-I'd say more like late 19th century.
-Do you have it working?
-It does work.
You wind it up and it goes for eight days and it rings on the hour
and the half an hour.
And do you like it?
I do like it but it just doesn't look right in my house.
It looks like something out of the Ride of the Valkyries, doesn't it?
That's right, yes.
With this polished, polished slate and then the beautiful white dial.
It's quite ostentatious but extremely decorative,
and you can imagine it with the candles.
Have you ever had candles in there?
I have had candles and I put them on the table at Christmas,
but because they're so big you couldn't see the people
opposite when you're eating your meal.
And so they're just not practical. You need a huge table.
-Yeah, absolutely, some great big mahogany number.
-Do you have any idea of the value?
-No, I've no idea.
I've always thought maybe 50-100. Or very often on "Flog It!"
they say 80-120, so...
That's our favourite auctioneer's estimate, isn't it?
Yeah, so I've always, always thought maybe that.
I think it's worth over £100.
I would say 120-180 as an estimate.
-Reserve it at £100.
Or do you not want to reserve it? Do you want to sell it?
I don't mind if it doesn't have a reserve, I just need it to go.
-Shall we let the auctioneers use their own discretion?
-I don't think they'll give it away.
-No, I'd be happy with that.
-Well, I really look forward to seeing it in the auction.
And hopefully... I can see nowadays this being in a big hotel.
Oh, right, yes.
Who's going to lift it off?
-It's me, isn't it?
-Yes, I think so!
Catherine is valuing a silver tea set which the owner is more
than happy to part with.
June, this is a lovely little shiny tea set that you've
brought in to "Flog It!" today. Tell me about it.
Where did you get it from?
Well, it was an inheritance
and I very much appreciate being left it, but I'm afraid it's
been sitting in the attic for about ten years, or more.
-You inherited from...?
-From a friend.
-From a friend, OK.
-But still was not quite your thing.
-It's not quite my thing.
-China is a little bit more my cup of tea.
-My house is full of different china.
Well, let's have a little look at this.
I mean, it's very typical of the period - late Victorian -
with this sort of half fluted design on the sugar bowl,
-the milk jug and also on the teapot.
Now, I have had a little look at them
and they have got slightly different dates.
One is 1899 and the other two are slightly later - 1901.
But they are all of that sort of period
-and they do go together as a set.
Now, on it it has some initials on the front,
like an interlocking initials, each piece.
With an R and... I can't quite make out the other initials.
Do you know where they come from?
I think they must have been family pieces.
I'm quite sure that they had been passed down through the family.
Right, but it's nice that you've got this gilding inside as well.
It's a really nice quality.
I mean, the sad thing is,
when people buy these today they're often scrapped, which is very sad.
-But there's a nice lot of silver there,
-a good heavy weight of silver.
And the value of it, as such, would be about £300-£500.
Would it really?
What do you think of that?
That sounds a lot more than I was expecting, because this
sort of thing is not really desired much these days, is it?
Well, it's not. I mean, that's the thing,
you wouldn't use something like this today.
You wouldn't really have it on your table when you have people round.
I would put this in with an estimate of £300-£500,
and as you're quite happy to sell we'll put a reserve on of 250.
-How does that sound?
-Yes, that sounds...
-Are you happy with that?
So, June, I'll see you at the auction in a couple of weeks' time.
-Raring to go?
-Does that sound good?
It does, it just sounds the job.
And I'm quite familiar with auctions -
-I started my working life in an auctioneers.
-Oh, did you?
-Oh, right! Well, you'll be well at home there, then, won't you?
It's time for me to take the opportunity
for a look around the area.
Nancy Lancaster had a profound and lasting effect on interior design.
She was a taste-maker, a flamboyant, feisty American woman who,
ironically, with her passion
and natural flair for interior design, pioneered a style which
we now know as the English country house look,
which is clearly evident here at her beloved Kelmarsh Hall.
Having married not one but three very wealthy men,
Nancy led a rich and extravagant lifestyle.
And every year, Nancy and her second husband, Ronald Tree, would travel
from America to Leicestershire to take part in the hunt.
Travelling by ocean-going liner, they would bring everything
with them from horses to servants, cars to the very best table linen.
And in 1926, Ronnie was invited to become joint master of the hunt
here in Northamptonshire, a chance that he jumped at.
So they both moved over to England.
Nancy and Ronnie took out a ten-year repairing lease
on Kelmarsh Hall, which is situated just outside of Market Harborough.
This architectural gem was built in 1728
and it's said to be the favourite of all of Nancy's homes.
And as she put it herself, she loved it for its good bones
and relished at the chance of having free rein to stamp her mark
on the interior of this grand house.
Betty West, a volunteer at Kelmarsh Hall,
grew up just down the road, and her mother knew Nancy Lancaster.
Hi, Betty. So, where do we start? With the lady herself?
Well, she was very knowledgeable on history and art and politics.
She was very lively. She was a good raconteur and she had a wry smile.
And if something was amiss, her eyebrow raised,
so you knew that something had been said that was not quite correct.
-But she was really a superb lady.
When Nancy came here to the house she found it very cold.
We're talking now 1927, 1928,
and this room that we're standing in was a dreadful green.
She wanted to have this sort of pinkish wash on the walls.
-This is a lovely colour, isn't it?
-It embraces you, doesn't it?
I feel quite at home already
and I've only just got into the entrance hall.
She loved furniture and she acquired a lot of her
thoughts on furniture from her mother and her grandmother.
They were at one stage quite poor and her mother had to make do
-Mixing and matching.
Mixing and matching was very evident.
And she used different types of materials as well.
She clearly had a passion for antiques.
Yes, but she did adapt them to her own use as well.
-For example, we have some celadon vases that are now lamps.
And they're very beautiful as lamps,
but perhaps they were also beautiful as celadon vases!
-And she certainly liked to paint her antique furniture.
-And many an antique dealer has said...
-"Oh, you've ruined it."
-"You've gilded up the legs and you've changed this
"and you've done that."
-But I guess that's what a decorator does, though.
She saw that these things had a different dynamic
-if she could alter them slightly.
And I guess there's nothing wrong with that as long as you're not
buying purist pieces which shouldn't be touched.
That's true, that's very true, and if a chair looked very new
she had been known to put it out in the rain.
Horrified me when I first heard of it,
but certainly, it had the effect that she desired.
Well, it had a personality, then, rather than being contrived
and just plonked there by a curator of a big stately home.
So she was able to mix the grandeur with the modest look as well.
-Shall we have a quick tour?
-Yes, do follow me.
Most of Nancy's decoration
and styling still remains here at Kelmarsh.
This is the Chinese room that I'd like to show you.
Nancy used this room for cocktails before dinner and then perhaps
after dinner, people might like to come and play bridge in here.
Gosh, this is beautiful. All hand-painted wallpaper.
Nancy had seen it advertised
and she realised that with a bit of tweaking it would fit this room.
And it's on hessian and on batons.
-So it's been backed and then panelled back on.
-Yes, that's right.
It fits perfectly, doesn't it?
Apart from over the chimney breast, where it's had to be...
I can see there. Has that been over-painted there?
-A rock formation or something.
Obviously the furniture's mixed and matched.
We haven't gone down the whole chinoiserie thing.
No, no, and this is sort of thing that she loved.
-I mean, well-worn, the furniture.
Shabby chic is the correct word, yes. But this is her furniture.
And this is quintessentially the English country house look.
Where you had the sort of elegant furniture mixed with the more modest
and where you had a mixture of patterns and design.
And periods of furniture as well.
Things from the late 17th century, the 18th,
right through to some 19th-century pieces.
-That's right, so mix and match is the order of the day.
In its day, this was very pioneering, wasn't it?
Oh, yes, it was.
In 1938, the Trees' lease on Kelmarsh Hall had expired
and pretty much most of the furniture that they
acquired for the house was sold off in auction.
Fortunately, the owner of the hall acquired most of it
and much of it is still here today.
The Trees turned their attention to their new home,
but Nancy's love affair with Kelmarsh was far from over.
In 1944, Nancy's passion for interior design was taken to
a new level when she became the co-owner of Colefax and Fowler,
an influential British decorating firm.
Her work with the company was so profound that the English
country house look was recognised and inspired many,
although Nancy always believed that a room should never look decorated.
She created a list of rules to follow to make a room comfortable.
In restoring a house, one must first realise its period,
feel its personality and try to bring out its good points.
Understatement is extremely important and crossing too many Ts
and dotting too many Is makes a room look overdone and tiresome.
One needs light and shade because if every piece is perfect,
the room becomes a museum and lifeless.
But it must be a delicious mixture that flows and mixes well.
It's a bit like mixing a salad.
I'm better at mixing rooms than salads!
In 1947, Nancy and Ronald's marriage came to an end and just over
a year later she married her third husband, Colonel Lancaster,
who happened to be the owner of Kelmarsh Hall.
Nancy was back in her precious home, but it transpired that she
was far more in love with the hall than her husband.
It was a short-lived and turbulent relationship.
Nancy clung onto the house but was finally forced to leave
when Colonel Lancaster turned off the electricity.
Her relationship with Kelmarsh was finally over.
But Nancy's passion for interior design lives on in the way
we decorate houses today,
from grand country estates to the eclectic mix of furniture
we find in our own homes.
Nancy's spirit is clearly still here at Kelmarsh Hall.
Her touch was an absolute delight.
This is and always will be Nancy Lancaster's home.
And now a quick reminder of what is going off to auction.
We're taking those pretty glass dumps.
I hope they sell or Thomas will be in trouble.
The christening cup is gorgeous
but has Paul scrubbed the life out of it?
And June's tea set is definitely worth its weight in gold.
Well, silver, actually.
The clock weighs an absolute tonne, so fingers crossed it sells.
I'm sure Julie doesn't want to take it home.
Our auction today comes from Market Harborough on
the Leicestershire/ Northamptonshire border.
The town is located in an area which was formerly part of
Rockingham Forest, a royal hunting ground used by
the medieval monarchs.
Well, here we are. Gildings auction room.
It may be quiet outside, but hopefully it's buzzing inside.
The commission to pay at Gildings is 15% plus VAT.
And Mark Gilding takes to the rostrum as our first lot
goes under the hammer.
Here's hoping he makes one of our owners a king's ransom.
Going under the hammer right now we have three glass dumpy weights
belonging to Jane and Susan,
sisters who join me right now here in this very exciting atmosphere.
-Are you looking forward to this?
It's the moment of truth. Wants £200, Thomas.
I think they're worth £150 any day of the week for three of them.
I like them a lot.
They were very popular
when we first started doing this show 12 years ago.
-Everybody was collecting these.
-Now they're not?
Well, we don't know.
This is the problem with antiques, fashions change, you see,
and prices fluctuate.
And we've got to sell them because they can't be divided up.
Two sisters, and there's three of them.
You could keep one each and sell one.
-But it's too late now, isn't it?
-Yes, it is.
-We'll wait and see.
Let's put them under the hammer, shall we?
Let's find out what the bidders think.
Here we go. This is it.
Bidding opens at £55.
55. I'm bid at 65.
110 I'm bidding.
You're out at my left at 110.
120. 120 online now.
And you're still out over here.
It's 120 online.
Online bidding, then.
And selling away. Fair warning at 120.
£120. Good result.
Look, it was better than £100, wasn't it?
That extra 20 helps.
Yeah, it's fine. That's good.
It wasn't the top end, unfortunately, but...
It was worth it for the experience.
Yes. Your first auction as well.
There's nothing quite like your debut sale for excitement
Let's hope we keep the buzz going for our next lot.
Going under the hammer right now we have a silver christening cup
with a value of £100-£150, brought along by Paul.
Was it yours as a christening cup,
-or just yours because you acquired it?
-No, I acquired it.
-A car-boot sale.
I think somebody's in for a lot of profit here.
But you know what he's done?
He's polished it to death.
-With an abrasive pad.
Oh, no. Oh, that's a no-no. You do not do that.
-You don't touch it, do you?
Let's hope we get the top end.
Here we go. This is it.
And bidding opens with me here on my books at £95.
£95 I'm bid.
At 95. 100 in the room.
Now at 100. And all my bids are lost.
£100 I'm bid.
We're at 100.
The internet's out. The book's out. Selling to the room at £100.
It's gone, but the damage let it down a bit.
-I think it was the scrubbing.
-It was that over-polishing.
I shouldn't have polished it. I should have left it alone.
Next time you will know - when you go to your boot fair,
you find your bit of silver, you leave it.
-Leave it to the experts.
But even so, what a great find and an amazing return on just £3.50.
Well, if you're looking for a centrepiece,
something a bit showy, you need to be right here, right now,
to get this next lot - this massive French mantel clock with a spelter
figure on the top, accompanied by a pair of candlesticks.
-I mean, it has the wow factor and there's no reserve.
-So it's got to go, hasn't it?
-I want it to go, yes.
You do not want to take this home, do you?
I really don't want to go home with it, no.
We are erring on the side of caution.
Julie has a pushchair in the car because it's
-so heavy she can't carry it. Push it along. Big, isn't it?
-But it deserves a grand mantelpiece.
-Well, a hotel lobby, I was thinking.
-Something where it can get lost but still be very useful.
And there's plenty of big hotels around here that could do with this,
so without further ado, let's try and find it a new home, shall we?
It's going under the hammer right now.
Now it's a French marble mantel clock with a pair of matched
five-light candelabra. Bidding starts with me here at £100.
120 bid now.
-It's gone, hasn't it?
It's gone, there's no reserve.
140, 150 online. 160.
160, I'm bid, 160.
Selling away at £160.
It's gone, £160.
That's a lot of kit for £160, a showy item.
-Yep, but it's gone.
-Great, yes, thank goodness.
Now let's see if Catherine has any luck with her next lot.
You inherited this from a good old friend
and there's quite a lot of it here.
We're talking a fair bit of money here, fair bit of weight.
There is a bit of weight there, which is where the value is.
Well, let's hope we're valuing this for its artistic merits
rather than its scrap value because, you know, this deserves to be saved.
-This is the problem, yeah.
-This is the problem.
I'd feel happier if it wasn't scrapped.
Well, fingers crossed it won't be, OK? June has a fascinating story.
If this sells, we'll tell you about it in just a moment.
But first, let's see some hammer action. Here we go.
Late Victorian three-piece silver tea set.
Sheffield, '89 to 1901.
-Bidding opens with me here at £360.
Well, we've sold it, haven't we, straight away?
420 in the room now, 420.
And all my bids are lost here at 420. We're bidding in the room.
420. And a quick sale, then, at 420.
-£420. Now, that was short and sweet.
Sold on its artistic merits, I think. That was a good result.
-It was, I'm very pleased.
-Now, with the money - this is so interesting.
I'm going to hand it over to you.
Come on, tell me this story cos it's wonderful.
I would like to spend some of it in going to Holland.
Now, 56 years ago I threw a bottle in the sea, in the English Channel,
and it was picked up about six weeks later on one of the Frisian Islands,
the largest Frisian Island, Texel, by a beach comber.
And we've been friends, corresponded ever since.
I've been over there, he's been over here,
but I'd heard earlier this year that he'd died
and I'd thought that was the end of a nice friendship,
but his son, who I haven't seen for 41 years,
has got in touch with me and has been over
and wants to continue the association and has invited me over.
I'd like to go over.
-Isn't that fabulous?
-It's an amazing story.
That's a great story, isn't it?
So you're going to use some of the money to go over there.
-Visit over there.
Well, there you are, that concludes our first visit to the saleroom,
as the curtain comes down on our first lots.
And right now I'm off to the city of London, to the West End,
to theatreland, to find out about one of the most influential
playwrights of the 20th century.
And he was a Leicester lad - Joe Orton.
Joe Orton was born in Leicester in 1933 into a working class family,
but it was here in the West End that he made his name.
He wrote some of the modern era's
most controversial and challenging plays,
including Entertaining Mr Sloane, What The Butler Saw and Loot.
But the road from the council estate to the West End
would be a bumpy one.
Orton had a fascination with the theatre
and writing from an early age
and was actively involved in amateur dramatics.
he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
It was during this time at RADA that he met his long-term partner,
The pair were both aspiring writers,
but never really had a great deal of success,
and Orton had a few failed novels.
They both took menial jobs for six months of the year to fund
their lives so they could return to their typewriters to write
for the rest of the year.
But it wasn't their writing that first brought them
to the attention of the public.
It was a prolonged and elaborate practical joke.
I'm leaving theatreland to head to North London,
to the local history museum in Islington,
and I'm here to meet manager Mark Aston.
-Mark, pleased to meet you.
-Hello, Paul, likewise.
-Thanks for talking to me today.
-Not at all.
What was the practical joke all about?
What exactly did they do?
Well, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell
would go to their local libraries.
They would steal library books, take them back to their flat
and start doctoring the covers by adding alternative images
and narrative - bit of text, as well.
Occasionally changing the dust jacket blurb.
The would then sneak the library books back onto the library shelves
from those same libraries and just wait for drama to unfold.
Let's look at the original of John Betjeman, I'm a big fan.
OK. I think the full effect of the covers, the collage,
is to see the originals.
And here we have a facsimile of the original cover,
which is a very basic cover showing Betjeman there in a boater.
When you look at that, I mean, that's so typical Betjeman, really.
But that puts a smile on your face.
It certainly does. Look at that.
And we've got there the Collins Guide To Roses.
Lots of wonderful, pretty roses.
Very simple cover.
An English rose, what could be more institutional?
But to cause a little bit of havoc, a simple monkey pasted on the rose,
-put back on to the shelves...
-How long did this go on for?
This went on for two and a half years.
From 1959 to mid-1962.
How many books in total, do you think?
We believe they doctored hundreds of books
as well as cutting out pictures to wallpaper their flat wall with.
Now that Orton is well-known, a very famous playwright,
these are quite rare, there's a lot of value attached to these now.
There is a lot of value attached.
We only have 42 originals.
They are priceless because they're irreplaceable.
Thank you very much for talking to me today.
You're very welcome, Paul.
This is Essex Road library in North London
and it's the scene of the crime.
Orton and Halliwell would come here
and replace their defaced books on the shelves and sit and wait
until an unsuspecting member of the public picked them up.
Like all practical jokers,
they wanted to see the results of their work.
A lot of the staff here at the library used to look forward
to their latest creations,
but not everyone saw the funny side.
In fact, a lot of the changes that Orton
and Halliwell made were pretty racy,
especially for the 1950s, early 1960s.
This may have been a bit of fun for Orton and Halliwell,
but for many it was hugely shocking and blatant vandalism.
This was an attack on our books.
Our book stock, of which we are very proud,
was being attacked by predators.
The authorities took defacing public property very seriously,
and the joke drastically backfired.
And eventually in 1962 they were caught and both men were sentenced
to six months' imprisonment for malicious damage.
One person who knew Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell back then
was their next-door neighbour, Elena Salvoni, who still lives here today.
I always used to call them "the boys next door".
I remember quite a lot.
My son-in-law, he said, "Mum, what they've done is unbelievable."
I said, "What have they done?"
He said, "They've defaced library books."
The boys were very mischievous.
I mean, they used to banter off each other.
And then Ken would say, "Joe, now behave yourself."
I said, "It's about time you behaved yourself
"after what you've been up to."
And Elena clearly remembers the day they were arrested.
I found out by coming out of the door, off to go shopping,
and Mrs Gordon was seeing to her flowers, and she said,
"Elena, isn't it disgraceful?" I said, "What?"
"The boys have been arrested."
I said, "What do you mean?"
She said, "They've defaced the library books.
"Didn't you see the blue van?"
I said, "No.
"Lewis saw the blue van,"
and I tell her I didn't have time to come to the window
because I was busy cooking.
Orton's time alone in prison
allowed him to find his style as a writer.
He later described his spell inside as his most formative.
And after his release he had a new lease of life.
And over the next few years he went from a struggling writer
to become to the toast of the West End.
In 1960s Britain, the working classes were on the rise,
and that suited Orton's background, his writing style
and his dislike for the middle classes.
The timing was absolutely perfect.
And his first play was a huge success, Entertaining Mr Sloan.
And that continued for his second play, Loot,
which won the London Evening Standard theatre award.
Orton's career as a playwright and celebrity continued to grow,
but his partner, Kenneth Halliwell,
found his fame difficult to cope with
and there was an increasing distance between them.
Their relationship ended tragically.
In August 1967, Halliwell, suffering from depression,
murdered Joe Orton before taking his own life in that flat just there.
He was only 34 years old.
In a few short years, Orton wrote some of the most important plays
of the last century.
Tackling and challenging social issues of the day.
Themes that had never been put on stage before.
He was truly pioneering.
Now let's head back to the valuation day,
where we're still finding some great items.
And Thomas has hunted out some very intriguing tribal artefacts.
Let's see what owner John can tell us about them.
-These were the property of my father's youngest brother.
And he was in Kenya for I don't know how many years...
-In which army?
-No, on a tea plantation.
And he brought them home with him and they used to be in the old house
that I lived in, always in the hall, standing up there.
And so I'd see these in the corner and think,
"Wow," you know, "I wonder who used these."
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
And have you got any information on what they are?
No, I haven't.
-We think they are Maasai.
We have been having a chat here, Maasai,
and they're obviously for hunting, aren't they?
I think certainly that would do some damage.
This one looks like it's more sophisticated somehow.
A little bit more sophisticated, with the blood drain,
-isn't it, with these grooves here?
Because the blood would drain off this one quite quickly, wouldn't it?
-Which is quite useful.
And these lovely, lovely bits of hickory or whatever they are,
shafts. I mean, they are so nice.
-And these would be the little branches, would they?
It's got a real strength but a real bend to it
-so it would sail through the air.
And spin and probably, you know, do some real damage.
If you were hunting, you know,
something to eat, a wildebeest or something...
Well, African tribal works of art, weapons, clubs,
fertility things, are so widely collected.
People want to know where they are from
and these actually are probably ones that have been used.
I should say so.
And the provenance you have, from your father's brother...
Working actually in Kenya.
In the tea plantation, that would have been, what, in the '40s?
I think he probably went out either very late '20s or early '30s.
-That's marvellous, doesn't it?
-And then came back around about 1940.
I think they are worth a good couple of hundred pounds.
-What do you think?
-I'd like to think they're worth
a good couple of hundred pounds each.
I wouldn't want to put them in at £200 each, I think maybe 150 each.
-£150, £200 each.
-And a reserve?
-They've got a good chance, haven't they?
-Because they are beautiful things and I like them very much.
-Thank you for bringing them along.
-Not at all. Glad I've made my point!
Janet, there's one word, and one word only, to describe this.
And that's fabulous.
Fabulous. It is a beautiful object.
Predominantly, probably a pillbox, I would say.
Tell me first of all how you got this beautiful box.
Well, my late first husband,
he just liked looking around antique shops and buying what he wanted.
May I say that your husband had a fantastic eye?
Because this is superb quality, and it is of the very, very best.
When I look at it, to me, it looks...Swiss.
-Because it looks like the musical boxes of a similar period.
Similar small musical boxes that had little flip-up lids
with birds singing. Like singing bird boxes.
They were made in Switzerland towards the late 19th century.
If you look inside, there's this little mark here.
-A tiny little mark, which is a little bit rubbed.
And I think... I've got a feeling that mark may actually be French.
So it could be Swiss or it could be French.
But it's so rubbed it's very difficult to be sure.
The box itself...
is rose gold.
And all of this around the outside is enamel.
I thought it was enamel.
All this blue work. This blue here, that's all enamel.
-But what I love is this lovely central panel here.
This has been overlaid onto the gold.
We have this lovely central urn.
And this here is platinum. And then we've got the yellow gold
and the little rose gold...
all around the outside, the leaves and the flowers.
It's absolutely exquisite.
The detail is just second to none.
Even on the sides there you've got the little...urns
and with the flowers.
And all these wonderful panels, everywhere.
It's just lovely quality.
Is it not something you would like to keep?
Well, I would like to keep it
but I would like to travel a bit and do one or two things.
Probably a second youth, sort of thing!
Why not? Why not?
It's the sort of thing that
people will get very excited about at auction.
-Really because of the pure quality of it.
It's just untouched.
I mean, it looks... Apart from a little rubbing inside,
which is really not the end of the world...
the condition, I think, is perfect.
Do you have any ideas on prices?
I haven't a clue, no.
It must've been in the '70s when he bought it.
I would absolutely love to rewind to the '70s
and find out what he paid for it.
I haven't a clue, to be honest.
It would just be wonderful to know.
-Well, I would love to put this in auction.
I would like to put this in with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000.
Golly, that much!
How does that sound?
Well, I could have a good holiday on that!
You could have a jolly good holiday. I could come, too!
Well, shall we put it in with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000?
-And let's put a reserve on of £1,800.
-Just to protect it.
-And I hope that it does very, very well.
And you can go round the world a few times.
Well, I don't know about that!
What a beautiful find for Catherine!
And now it's my turn and I've discovered something
with a brilliant local connection.
Corinne, is this yours?
Well, it was my husband's.
He was the locomotive enthusiast, was he?
Absolutely. Not me.
It's a lovely, lovely image, isn't it?
You see that steam locomotive rolling down the tracks.
Has this been on the wall in pride of place?
It's been on the wall, not necessarily in pride of place.
-How long has it been on the wall for?
-Oh, years. Years and years.
When you took it off this morning to come to the valuation day,
-did it leave a sort of mark behind?
-It's left a mark.
Now, it is signed Weston. It is by David Weston.
And look...there it is, there's the date - 1968.
So it's one of his earlier works.
He sadly died in 2011.
He was born in...1935.
And his work is exhibited at the London Transport Museum.
-Right. I didn't know that.
-It's highly sought-after.
-I know it's highly sought-after.
-Especially in this area.
Especially with railway enthusiasts.
I mean, that's a nice image, isn't it?
You've got this wonderful tank locomotive
steaming down the track,
smoke bellowing everywhere,
pulling the Pullman carriage.
His work, I think, is quite popular with his acrylics on board.
This is slightly different, this is an oil on canvas.
-Yes, it is.
-And it's quite big.
-Have you any idea of the value?
Well, I've been told £200, but I'd got no idea, prior to that.
You bought this in the '60s?
Er... No, later than that.
-I would say it was later than that.
-And I don't know how much it cost.
I'm confident with you on £200.
-There's a lot of paint in there for £200.
Can we put it in for a sale with a value of 250 to 350?
Would you be happy?
I'd be very pleased. I would be very pleased with that!
So, I think your husband made a wise investment back then in the day.
He did, didn't he?
Fixed reserve at 250?
If you were going to take £200, then I'd just up the ante a bit.
-I think this will be jolly exciting.
It's full steam ahead and we're on the right track.
-Yes. I'm with you.
See you at the auction room.
Oh, I love a good pun, so, how about this one?
Thomas has found a collection which could light up the room!
Fiona, tell me about your collection of pipes, "peeps" -
whatever you want to call them.
They were passed down to me from my grandfather.
He died about 12 years ago, and I inherited them from him.
And I think they came from his great-grandfather.
-Do you know what they are called?
-I know they're meish...
Was your father a pipe smoker?
-Never smoked in his life.
-Really? Do you smoke?
-Never in your life?
Meerschaum pipes from...probably Austria, these ones.
Or that mid-continental European bloc.
And this is sea foam.
-They are late 19th, early 20th century.
It's carved and they are brilliant, brilliant white
-when you first buy them.
And as the tobacco
stains the pipe as you're smoking it,
it colours the pipe.
And it creates these lovely patterns, doesn't it, really?
And patination within these marvellous things.
And, of course, because it's quite a soft material - chalky, almost -
it's easy to carve.
So you get lots of different faces and heads and objects, etc.
Where are they at home?
They're kept in a cabinet in the lounge.
-Do you like looking at them?
-Yes, I do. Yes.
So why have you brought them along?
Well, I've got nobody to leave them to
and I can let someone else have some enjoyment out of them.
Which one is your favourite one?
I like the one with the lady with the colours.
Where it is all mottled.
Yeah, it's good, that, isn't it?
It's got a lovely richness to the colour.
This is my favourite one. I like the Cossack.
-He's got a really expressive face.
Let me just pick him up.
Have a look at him - he's rather handsome, isn't he?
Almost a bit sort of Sherlock Holmes-y, isn't he?
I've always thought that these are lovely things.
We do see them quite often.
You do get lots of faces.
You get, erm, interesting objects such as the acorn.
The more racy ones are obviously the more valuable ones.
Because they were more risque.
So you get naked ladies, and stuff.
-Have you got an idea of value?
Probably between 100 and 200.
Yeah. I mean, there's one here with a bit of damage to it,
which will knock it down.
You're in the right ballpark.
There's no moment here when I can surprise you and say,
"Actually, madam, they're going to be worth £50,000."
-It's not one of those.
-It'd be nice if you could!
I know. It'd be lovely, but it's not.
If we sort of base this around that £100 bracket
and we sort of use our typical auctioneer's estimate -
-can we use that one?
IN UNISON: £80 to £100!
Because I think that's fair.
Reserve at £80.
I think they should do rather well.
What a truly eclectic venue De Montfort Hall is.
It's played host to everything -
from the Philharmonia Orchestra to The Beatles.
But now it's time to head back to the saleroom for the last time.
And here's what we're taking with us.
One of the finest little boxes I've ever seen.
The painting which I hope will tempt in not just the locals,
but the train enthusiasts.
And the pipes!
Quirky items often do well, so I'm keeping everything crossed.
John's spears are so beautiful,
I'm sure they'll have more than a fighting chance of selling.
Welcome back to Gildings Auction Rooms in Market Harborough.
Let's now catch up with our experts
and get on with our next lots.
Hopefully, we'll have one or two big surprises.
We've got some bearded gentlemen going under the hammer
in the form of meerschaum pipes belonging to Fiona.
We've seen these before.
-And the characters are wonderful, Thomas?
So, have these been in the family a long time?
Who's been collecting these?
They came from either my great-grandad or great-great-grandad.
Not sure which.
Hopefully, we'll get the top end of Thomas's estimate,
I think there's one or two that are quite delightful.
-They are delightful.
-We have to wait and see.
Well, we can't really say any more about it,
let's hand proceedings over to Mark Gilding on the rostrum. Here we go.
Bidding opens here with me at 35.
£55, I'm bid.
At £55. I'm bid at 55.
60. Do I see it? 55.
Then 60. 65.
65? Bid at 65.
75 bid now. At 75.
At 75. 80, I'm bid. At 80.
At £80 I'm bid.
At 80 now, at 80. Online at 80.
You're all out in the room?
At £80 I'm bid. Selling to the internet at £80.
-Well done, Thomas.
-I'm really pleased about that.
-Yeah, so am I.
Because we kind of said, you know,
these were in vogue about 10-15 years ago,
and the fashion has really dropped.
-But they've got away. Thank goodness.
-That was a good job.
I'm glad. I've filled the space in the cabinet already!
And now time for another pun.
OK, well, we seem to be chugging along quite nicely,
which brings me to one of my valuations.
Yes, it is the oil painting by David Weston.
The wonderful locomotive under steam belonging to Corinne,
-who has just joined me.
And we're looking at £250-£350.
He's a local artist, so hopefully the word is out there
and there's a bit of interest.
-Let's hope for the best.
-Yeah, let's hope. Fingers crossed.
And I know you've brought some support along today.
Yes, my son's here. Yes.
OK, good luck.
Let's find out what the bidders think.
-Let's see if we're on the right track!
-Let's hope so.
-Here we go.
And this is the David Weston.
With Michael here on my right -
the steam tank locomotive, signed and dated '68, an oil on canvas.
And, understandably, quite a bit of interest in this.
130, 140, 160, 180, 200...
Someone in the room's bidding in the front.
..240, 250 I'm bid.
250 I'm bid.
He's got it away at 250.
It should fetch more than that, really.
-That's encouraging - a phone bid.
300 on the telephone. At 320?
340 with the telephone.
360 with me.
360 with me, then.
The telephone is out and walking away.
360, then. Selling at 360.
-Top end of the estimate.
-We wanted to fetch more, but it's gone.
-We did, a bit, didn't we?
But it's gone, I didn't want to take home.
-But money is tight at the moment.
-Yes, it is.
-But nevertheless, it's gone and you didn't want it, did you?
-I didn't want it back home.
-We did it.
-Thank you very much.
Thank you for bringing it in.
You certainly wouldn't want to be on the pointed end of one of these.
We've got two spears going under the hammer, belonging to John,
-courtesy of your uncle.
-Living out in Kenya.
I particularly like one of them.
We're splitting these into two lots and the first lot is my favourite,
but I think both of them would look stunning on the wall.
You can imagine it sailing through the air.
No, I couldn't no, I want to see it fixed to the wall, quite safe,
somewhere out of harm's way.
Why are you selling these now?
Well, it's because I had my loft insulated and all kinds
of things came down, and I thought it's about time I got rid of them.
So they were tucked up in the loft.
Well, they were on my bedroom wall at one time
and then I put them in the loft and then they've came down again.
Oh, that's a shame, I'm pleased they're back out.
OK, so, 291 is the next lot, the tribal fishing spear.
What do we say for this? Bids on the book open at 45.
Come on, come on, come on.
65. 70, do I see? 65. Thought this would make more than this.
-So did I.
£65 I'm bid. Here with me then at 65.
Didn't sell. OK. Spear number two.
Not quite as big, this one,
and I'm going to start again and stand on here at £65.
Standing on at 65, at 65 bid.
No bidders here today, nobody online, nobody on the phone.
I mean, that is auctions for you.
You know, sometimes these things get geared up and they race away,
two or three people bidding against each other takes it
-to a different level, but here, nobody wanted in on the day.
-Didn't even reach the reserve. I'm ever so sorry.
-No, that's OK.
And finally Janet's beautiful gold pillbox.
Catherine valued it at £2,000-£3,000,
but on the auction preview day I asked Mark Gilding what he thought.
It's absolutely exquisite. It really is.
It's about as good as you'd find
from the period these were made - the 1840s.
What I want to know is,
has this been picked up and handled plenty of times
along the viewing days?
Not only that, it's been picked up through the internet
-and lots of interest - from the UK and abroad.
Can we see the top end of that two to three?
Can we see that and that more?
Well, I think we can be certain of it selling.
OK, the market will dictate later on.
If three or four people really want this, they might pay over the odds.
So, without further ado, let's see how it does.
Every now and then our valuation days throw up a real gem.
And we certainly had one back at De Montfort Hall
in the form of Janet,
and also in her beautiful little rose gold and enamel box.
This is a delight! An absolute treasure!
-You were gobsmacked.
-It's absolutely beautiful!
Had a chat to the auctioneer - he said he's had phone bids,
we've got internet booking on it, and hopefully interest in the room.
-We're here to enjoy the moment, aren't we?
OK, well, let's see what the bidders think. Here we go.
This is it. Good luck, both of you.
So, this is the rose gold, enamelled, rectangular snuffbox.
And I think you'd struggle to find a better one
in many other places.
Lots of interest in this throughout all of the viewing.
I'm going to open the bidding here at £1,000.
1,000 I'm bid.
It's not enough!
£1,800, I'm bid now.
Two phone lines ready to battle it out. See those two gentlemen?
-(Amazing. It's wonderful.)
-(It's a great thing.)
2,700 I'm bid, then.
2,800 - new bidder.
-Did you know it was worth this much?
-Not really. No.
-Are you OK?
-It's very nice...
£4,000 I'm bid.
So, £4,000 we're bid.
No bidding with the internet, as well.
With the telephone, then. £4,000?
Last chance - selling at £4,000.
-Wow. What a wonderful way to end today's programme!
-You don't really know what to say, do you?
I enjoyed it.
You enjoyed it!
-Thank you so much for bringing that in.
It's been a real delight to see.
Our experts love things like that.
If you've got anything like that, we'd love to see it.
But for now, from Market Harborough and from all of us,
it's goodbye from a wonderful, wonderful "Flog It!".
This episode comes from Leicester, and the home to the valuation day is the city's De Montfort Hall. Rummaging through the bags and boxes for those special antique gems are antiques experts Catherine Southon and Thomas Plant, and the very best items will head to auction. Paul Martin heads to London's West End to explore the weird and wonderful world of controversial playwright Joe Orton.