Flog It! Comes from the National Maritime Museum, Cornwall. Paul Martin takes a look into the lives of American soldiers billeted in Cornwall before the D-day landings.
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I'm 60 metres below ground on a lake of drinkable water
that's 9.5 metres deep.
So, where am I, you may be asking?
Well, I'm in Cornwall's only slate mine.
And later on in the show,
I'll be delving into the county's mining history.
Welcome to Flog It!
Today's show comes from Cornwall,
whose beaches attract more than four million people every year.
I have a special affection for this county,
because this is where I was brought up, in Falmouth,
and that's where we're heading today.
-Dydh da. Now, there's a bit of Cornish, What does that mean?
Hello, and hello to everyone here.
-Anyone know anything else?
-SHE SPEAKS CORNISH
-Get on with it.
That's what I'm doing right now. Thank you.
We are here at the National Maritime Museum, Cornwall, which houses
some of the county's finest
And, for one day only, we've taken it over as our valuation day venue.
The whole town has turned out, laden with antiques and collectables.
They're all here to ask our experts that all-important question,
-What's it worth?!
They're not slow in coming forward, here in Cornwall,
and, as the queue builds, outside, Philip Serrell has already had
an offer he can't refuse.
Would you like to see my tortoise?
-That's the best offer I've had all day, darling.
-There he is.
And inside, hoping to strike the right chord, is Caroline Hawley.
Oh, wow. If you can play it,
you might give me a little tune when we get in there.
What did I say that for?!
So, let's get those doors open,
get everyone in and get the valuations underway.
While everyone settles down, let's take a peek at what's coming up.
Today's journey is an emotional one, with feelings of passion.
Well, she's made my day. Absolutely.
I've seen some lovely things today, but she's one of my favourites.
-We see lots and lots of things on Flog It!,
but I'd like to own that.
-But it could all end in tears at the auction.
-Are you OK?
Aw. Are you OK?
Good luck, everyone. And thank you for turning up. I really mean that.
What a turnout we've got today. And hopefully, someone's journey
starts right here, right now.
It could be you. It could be you that has something valuable
that goes off to auction and makes a small fortune.
That's what this show is all about
and it's our experts' job to find it, so let's get started.
Philip was on the lookout for something local,
but will Roger's two copper pieces fit the bill?
-Roger, how are you?
-Fine, thank you, Philip.
This smacks of a man who's got an interest in bits of copper.
-Well, being Cornish, yes.
-There's a reason for that, isn't there?
Because there are a number of really good
arts and crafts schools around the country, where metalware
was produced, and the one that you always think of in Cornwall
-is Newlyn School...
-..and the man who you associate most is John Pearson.
And John Pearson did fish, didn't he? And he did galleons.
And, as well as the Newlyn stamp, sometimes there's a JP monogram,
-That's on my pieces.
-So, you're a collector?
-So, you know exactly what you've got?
So, Roger, when you refer to an industry, these things weren't
-made in factories, were they?
-No, they were made by simple fisherman.
They'd learned to make the copper from a man called McKenzie,
so they could earn some money on the days that they couldn't fish.
-Who was McKenzie?
-He set up the Newlyn Copper School.
So, really, this is a thing that fisherman did as
almost like a bit of pocket money, as a second industry, in a way.
-But I also know that Newlyn collectors, of which you are one,
-they want it stamped Newlyn, don't they?
So, here is the question - where's the stamp?
-There isn't one.
-There isn't one and let me guess
that the reason why you're selling it is because
-it hasn't got Newlyn stamp on it.
-Basically, yes. And this is too big.
The rest of my Newlyn collection are smaller trays, coffee jugs.
-When was the Newlyn factory set up?
And did they always stamp their wares?
From about 1904-1907.
-So, there's a 20-year period where they didn't stamp stuff?
So, there is a chance...
I mean, hand on heart, do you think this is by Newlyn?
Hand on heart, I believe it is, because it's shown
-all the characteristics of Newlyn.
-Which is what?
The scores on the lid and on the bottom of the handle,
and also the wave form and the rivets.
But the key thing for you is that it don't say Newlyn.
-And that's the key, isn't it?
-Well, no. The key is it just doesn't fit
-in with the rest of the collection.
-All right, Roger. But for me, it has to say Newlyn.
And I think you've got to pitch this as though it isn't Newlyn
and if people get excited about it, then it might go and take off.
But what I think is really interesting is,
at the outset of this little chat, I said there were little schools
all around the country,
and, in my eyes, you've got a Cornish, hopefully, example
here from Newlyn but now you've gone to completely the other end of the
country, and we go up to the Lake District in Keswick, and you've got
KSIA, which is the Keswick School of Industrial Arts and this is,
in a way, it's another one of these little enclaves where
-metalwares were produced and, again, highly collectable, isn't it?
And what I think's lovely about this is that you've got
the stamp here and what that little KSI does,
it converts a copper tray that's probably worth about two quid
into something that's probably worth about £20-£40.
Now, the way I would sell these is I would sell them as one lot
and hope to appeal to a metalware collector.
I would sell it as a Keswick School of Industrial Arts oval dish
and then I would call this a copper jug, probably from Newlyn.
-I don't know that we can say definitely, can we?
-No, we can't.
And I think we should put an estimate on the two for £60-£90
and a fixed reserve of 50 quid. Do you think I'm right on price?
-I think you are right on price.
Well, let's keep our fingers crossed
and let's hope that two people in the sale room take
a shine to our so-say bit of Newlyn.
The lack of markings on the jug
makes the stamped Keswick piece more appealing.
Caroline has found a fine figure with plenty of panache,
but does this have the markings of provenance?
-Lovely to meet you, Linda.
And your gorgeous, gorgeous girl. Absolutely delightful.
Tell me, how on Earth did you acquire her?
Well, a friend of mine had a friend who was a luvvie, Dame Anna Neagle.
And the story is that when Anna Neagle was performing
in Peter Pan, she had this made for her, or she bought it for her.
I don't whether she had it made or she bought it,
because she thought it, kind of, looked like Peter Pan
and, when Anna Neagle died, it was returned to this lady.
And when she died, I acquired it through my friend.
Gosh, Linda, you are so lucky.
I think she's absolutely adorable.
And I've had a really good look, back to front, all ways round -
she's not marked, at all.
I would expect to see the name
of Joseph Lorenzo, Ferdinand Price,
Chiparus - one of those makers.
-That's unfortunate, isn't it?
-Unfortunately, there's none of them.
But it doesn't take away from the fact that she is a beautiful
cold-painted bronze figure.
She's got a little bit of damage down her cheek,
but she is absolutely beautiful.
On this Onyx base. She's exactly what everybody wants.
There's a bit of damage to the paint, in one or two areas,
but nothing horrific.
And, in my opinion, she's much better than a totally-naked female.
I think she's coquettish, she's a bit of a luvvie.
The movement in this figure, the style.
-She is just lovely and I'm sorry it's not signed...
-So am I...
But, all day long, she's going to get £300-£500, all day long.
But I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised
if she didn't get £1,000, either.
So, I think, for auction,
-we'll put her with an estimate of between £300-£500.
-Are you happy with that?
-And then I think we'll see what happens.
-Can we have a reserve?
Of course we can have a reserve!
What would you like? Bottom estimate? £300?
Whatever you think.
Well, I think if we put a reserve of £300,
just to stop her falling through the safety net.
-There's no danger of that.
She is a delight. She's made my day.
Absolutely. I've seen some lovely things today,
but I think she's one of my favourites.
-Thank you, Linda.
If it had a Joseph Lorenzo mark, there would be no need
for some pixie dust, to make this one fly.
Now, I've spotted an appealing piece of local art, brought in by Kate.
Kate, this is absolutely charming. A little study of William Holman Hunt.
I think, the greatest of all the Pre-Raphaelite painters.
It's a little watercolour, highlighted with French white.
-How did you come by this?
-I bought it in a lot about ten years ago...
-..with a sketchbook.
What else was in the sketchbook? Can I ask?
Not another Holman Hunt, but a lot of little studies by Ralph Todd.
It's a Ralph Todd, isn't it?
And there's a little monogram, Ralph Todd.
A well-respected artist from the Newlyn School,
but he struggled to make a living from his art
-and I don't understand why, because look at the quality of that.
This is Holman Hunt, who died in 1910.
I think Todd died in 1932, didn't he?
Why are you thinking of selling this now?
It was part of a lot. Other elements of it, I'm keeping.
But that and another portrait, I just want to sell.
Do you mind me asking you what you paid for this sketchbook?
-Ooh! That's a cheeky question.
Well, I think Todd's work, a little study like this,
he'd quite easily get £100 to £160-70, but I think,
because of the subject matter, William Holman Hunt, the great
Pre-Raphaelite artist, I think, because of
that subject matter, £200-£300.
-Happy with that?
-Is that a good return on that sketch?
In fact, Ralph Todd had a son called Arthur Ralph Middleton Todd,
who was also a highly-accomplished Newlyn artist.
Now, I wonder what's under that box?
-Pleased to meet you, Philip.
-That's not really a Cornish lilt there, is it?
I'm afraid I'm a Mancunian.
-Oh, I shouldn't apologise for being a Mancunian.
-Not at all.
-I'm quite proud of that.
-And what brought you down here?
-Well, I came in as a merchant seaman...
..in the '60s, and I met the wife and the rest is history.
That is fantastic. And you've brought me a purple box.
With a secret underneath, I think.
-Do I had to lift it up?
-You have to lift it.
-You've got to make sure it doesn't dash away.
That's lovely, isn't it?
-So, tell me about the tortoise. Does he have a name?
-Well, not really.
To me, well, "Doorstop" was his most. And perhaps "Damn"
when you caught your toe on it, now and again.
How long have you had it?
I've had it several years, but it's been in the family.
My stepfather had it.
He was a Canadian champion wrestler, believe it or not!
-He was a wrestler.
Was he one of those television things
that Kent Walton used to talk about?
-No, no. He was born in 1898.
So, he was mid-20s between the wars.
What we're assuming is that he picked this up on his travels,
and then eventually he passed away and my mother gave it to me.
-And you don't want it?
-Well, I can't say it has a sentimental attachment.
So you thought you'd come along to Flog It! and see if you could
-flog a tortoise?
-So, how old is it?
-Circa 1900, I would have thought.
-And what is it made of?
To be honest, all these years, I thought it was brass.
-Apparently, it's turned out to be...
-Shall we turn it over and see what it says?
So, there's a little mark just here, which says, "Made in Austria",
and that would date it to around about 1900, as you say.
And there's a B, here,
and a great exponent of cold-painted bronzes was a man called Bergman.
This may or may not be by him,
but certainly, just on the tail, there's a B and a shield.
So, let's hope it's by Bergman.
In terms of value, it's an interesting one,
because I think he's quite fun. I think anybody would look at this
and think this is worth £200-£400.
And I think it is worth £200-£400.
And that, in my opinion, would be a sensible estimate for it.
And I think you should put a reserve of it of £200.
There is a "but" coming.
The "but" is, it wouldn't surprise me if it made possibly £800,
possibly a little bit more. It wouldn't surprise me.
I think you need to put a fixed reserve of £200.
-How does that sound?
-That sounds wonderful.
And what would you do with the money?
Well, obviously, I'd better do mother right -
she's got to make sure she has a bit
and then I have the other half to see to.
Then, what's left, I might buy something to go fishing with.
-I might buy a new fishing rod.
-A new fishing rod?
Well, let's hope that Terry the tortoise goes and does really well.
And do you know what? We've seen lots and lots of things
on Flog It! and not all of them would I like to own,
but I'd like to own that.
Bergman is a big name for collectors,
so if the auction house confirms that stamp,
it could add even more value to the tortoise.
Now, on Flog It!, we're not the only ones who've had our fair share
of strange and curious artefacts. The museum has, too,
and I've popped upstairs, to show you one such collection.
Now, this is a replica of a shop that was in Market Street
in Falmouth in the 19th century
and it was owned by a local chap called John Burton,
who became world-famous for his shop of quirky curiosities,
and, as you can see, it is called The Old Curiosity Shop.
People from all over the world would gravitate to see this,
because you could buy anything and he was lucky enough to buy
all of this from returning sailors from their long voyages
from all over the globe.
John prided himself on being able to supply anybody with anything quirky.
And it's said that he provided a museum in Edinburgh
with a replacement whale vertebrae. Can you believe that?
Well, I've pulled a few things from out of the cabinet to show you,
so take a look at this.
Let's start with this sawfish bill.
It's technically known as the sawfish rostrum.
Now, in the sea, alive, this would be covered
with electro-sensitive pores, which allow the fish to detect food
and any movement, in case it was going to be attacked.
Also on the table, we've got some wonderful examples
of some devil's masks, which are really great fun.
Now, all of these curios, all of these things, plus John's
larger-than-life personality, made his shop a must-see attraction.
Before we head off to auction, I'm going to explore
a local landmark.
This is Prideaux Place, a 16th-century manor house
on the north Cornish coastline
that overlooks the pretty fishing village of Padstow.
Now, like many great stately homes, it has a venerable history.
This one dates right back to the Tudor times,
but it also has its secrets
and those are kept in that part of the house, there, the north wing.
Now, the public don't get to go in there,
but today, we've been given special permission to go behind the scenes.
The estate has belonged to the Prideaux family since the time
of Henry VIII and is currently inhabited by Peter Prideaux-Brune,
a descendant of William the Conqueror.
-Ah, Paul! Good morning to you.
Inside, it feels like a peaceful family home, but over the centuries
it's faced many challenging times, the most recent being
during the Second World War.
The US National Archives show that, on 28th November 1943,
150 American soldiers,
from Company B, 121st Engineer Combat Battalion,
came marching up the drive here at Prideaux Place.
Peter's mother was at home at the time with their young baby daughter,
so it must have been quite a fright for your mum looking out the window.
At first glance, friend or foe?
I think it must have been terrifying because she looked out of the window
and there were troops in grey-ish uniforms marching up the drive.
Well, I mean, she immediately thought,
"Well, it must be the Germans."
My father had left her with a Colt 45 revolver
and she hadn't a clue how to work it so she went to the door
and met these soldiers with this huge revolver,
and a very nice young officer saluted and said,
"Excuse me, ma'am, we're a billeted army. We're the American army."
She said, "Oh, yes, you'd better come in, then."
The American soldiers were part of a secret mission.
They would be the first troops to set foot on Omaha Beach
on the 6th June, 1944,
as part of the D-Day landings in Normandy, north-western France.
In the many months leading up to the invasion,
more than 10,000 American soldiers were billeted around Cornwall.
Many stayed in tented encampments
but Prideaux Place was one of the few permanent buildings.
Today, Prideaux Place attracts around 30,000 visitors each year,
but behind the scenes of this sumptuous interior,
there's still an area that's kept hidden away from the general public.
And that's the north wing, where those Americans lived, leading up
to the Allied invasion of German-occupied western Europe.
Through this door, you are instantly transported back in time to 1944.
These were originally the servants' quarters in the house,
but they were converted into billets for the soldiers.
Look at that! There's the first thing you actually see, look.
"Ideal Home" custard powder.
I guess all these were lockers.
Look, there's a Private Howe,
PFC - Private First Class Harper.
HE LAUGHS Look at this!
He was also known as...Farty.
And this room is clearly not for the privates.
Look, this door denotes it was the sergeant's room,
so he was billeted here.
There's one surviving bit of plaster on the wall. Look at this.
Now, that is the badge of the US Army's Corps of Engineers, look.
Time, literally, has stood still up here in the attic.
It's hard to imagine how the American soldiers must have felt
being so far away from home, their family and friends
and taking part in a mission which, at this stage,
they know nothing about. I'm meeting up with military historian
and author Richard Bass, to find out more.
Richard, thanks for joining me today
and I'm going to pick your brains now.
So, where did the troops come from in America?
-Was it all over the States?
-Yes, it was.
The young soldiers came from every single state in North America,
most of the big cities as well. They were taken from all walks of life.
They were truck drivers,
they were shop clerks, farm hands, for example.
They had no military experience, whatsoever.
What do we know of their reaction of coming to an English stately home
in a small English village? I mean, it must have been
-a cultural shock for them.
-It was a cultural shock.
All the Americans soldiers were absolutely delighted.
They were enchanted with England.
They thought everything was quaint, because everything was in miniature.
What about the food and the English girls?
Yes, the American soldiers loved English girls.
They thought they were much prettier than those at home,
but the food... They weren't at all keen on the food.
Brussels sprouts and mutton, they absolutely hated.
Actually, I'm not keen on Brussels sprouts and mutton, either, myself!
Tell me about their training. What took place down here in Cornwall?
Well, the soldiers here carried out a number of exercises
and rehearsals at a place called Slapton Sands,
-which is in South Devon.
-On the beach?
-On the beaches, that's right.
They were practising what they were going to do in Normandy.
Everything was done under battle conditions,
so, on the day itself, they wouldn't flinch, at all.
Everything was done with live ammunition, live explosives.
As a result, consequently, several of the soldiers
were actually killed just during rehearsals.
In April, 1944, Company B moved out of Prideaux Place
for final manoeuvres.
They were told to leave all personal possessions behind.
One of the items left at the house was this collection of letters.
I think this is a little treasure trove.
They're all addressed to a Private John Fontaine.
He would have treasured these.
He would have carried them around with him.
This was his connection back to his family. All handwritten.
When the American troops landed in Normandy, their task was to
clear beach obstructions placed by the German enemy, to open up
the roads that connected Omaha Beach
to the land above, on the cliff tops.
Their war cry would be, "Clear the way."
We know from our own research that John Fontaine survived the war
and went back to his hometown in Rhode Island.
He married and had four children - all boys.
But that wasn't the case for everyone.
Unfortunately, Corporal Bekelesky was one of the first
to be killed on Omaha Beach on 6th June 1944.
51 of Padstow's American guests were killed in action.
For some, their final resting place
'would be the Normandy American Cemetery in France,
which overlooks Omaha Beach.
The Battle of Normandy was the largest land, sea and air operation
ever undertaken. It took years of meticulous planning
and endless training, some of which took place here in Cornwall.
In 1944, the future of Europe was at stake
and it's highly unlikely that the war would have been won
without the precious help of those American GIs.
We are now halfway through our day
and you have just seen the first items ready to go off to auction.
I've got my favourites, you have probably got yours,
but let's find out what the bidders think.
While we're going over to the auction room, here's a quick recap
of all the items that are going under the hammer.
Roger's copper jug and Keswick tray should attract some attention.
This fine-looking Art Deco figure is certain to fly.
And what will the collectors make of the portrait of English painter
William Holman Hunt?
And, with a steady pace, will this tortoise be a winner in the auction?
We are heading to the town of Lostwithiel, which is believed
to have taken its name from the old Cornish meaning,
"the place at the tail of the forest."
There aren't as many trees now, but luckily for us,
there is Jeffreys' Auction House
and Ian Morris has the gavel in his hand.
Don't look so sad. Anything can happen in an auction room
and, I tell you what, you could pick up a few bargain, as well.
If you are thinking of selling, there is commission to pay.
Here it's 15% plus VAT, but it varies from sale room to sale room,
so check the details printed in the catalogue. Ask a member of staff.
Don't get caught out or you could be disappointed.
First up, this copper jug and tray. Over the 14 years on the show,
we've seen plenty of Newlyn copper and Keswick School
and we have two items right now going under the hammer,
belonging to Roger.
One is definitely Keswick, the other, the jury's out.
OK, so you're selling this cos you don't think it's Newlyn, either,
-It doesn't fit in with the rest of the collection.
The rest of the collection is fairly small and, of course, it's a very high piece.
Yes, I personally don't think it is Newlyn
and I think Ian's in the same school of thought. It's not catalogued as Newlyn.
But, look, the Keswick piece will definitely fly,
so thank you for bringing that in,
because we get an opportunity to talk about Newlyn, as well.
What I think is lovely is that here we are, in Cornwall,
the piece that's going to sell this is the Keswick bit.
-There isn't a saleroom further away from Keswick than here, is there?
-Not really, no!
Anyway, good luck. And, hopefully, all the proceeds
will go to purchasing another piece of Newlyn.
-We love the collectors. We love investing in antiques -
that's what it's all about.
And right now, hopefully, we're going to sell a couple. This is it.
Keswick copper. Also with a crafted copper jug.
The jug and the tray, I've got four bids on here
-and I've got to start at £90.
-£90, I'm bid.
At £90. 95. £100. 110.
At £100, the bid's on the book. 110, anywhere?
At £100. Done. Going. At £100.
£100. That hammer's gone down. Job done!
-Proper job. Yeah.
A good result for Roger.
Now, Caroline has some news about this sculptured lady.
Well, Linda and Caroline, I'm expecting big things for this.
-It is classic Art Deco.
-Gorgeous. I did some research...
-Oh, listen to this, Linda.
-I've done some more research, Linda,
since I've seen you and I'm almost 100% sure it is a Josef Lorenzl.
-It's not signed, but I'm sure it is a Lorenzl figure.
-That means highly sought after.
-One of the best.
Well, this is exciting, isn't it? What we're looking at here is what? Three to five?
If I stick my neck out, I think it's going to get 1,000.
-You'd settle for 300?
-Yeah, I would.
-OK. Well, let's find out what it does, shall we?
-Because, hopefully, we can get four figures.
The Art Deco bronze, exotic dancer.
Bids on the books means I've got to start at £420.
-At 420. 440. 460. 480. 500.
520. 550. At 550, the bid's on the book.
-We're done? 580. 600. 620.
-Gosh, that was late coming in.
Hammer's gone down! Yes! Just over the top end. £600. Fantastic.
-That was a good result.
-Yes, it was. I'm happy with that.
-So am I!
Are you happy? Oh!
-Because, one minute ago, you said you'd be settling for 300.
And now we've got six.
-So, you know, that's really good.
Yeah. Thank you for bringing that in.
Well, it seems the bidders also thought this figurine
was by a famous sculptor.
The provenance of this watercolour has also been under scrutiny
since the valuation day.
You've been doing a lot of detective work.
I have been doing a little research and it's by his son,
which was Arthur Ralph Middleton Todd. He was born in 1891.
I don't know if that's going to affect the value.
I think if anybody's interested in Todd and the family, hopefully...
-It'll make no difference.
-It'll make no difference. And it's beautifully executed.
-Well, he was a good portrait painter.
-Very good portrait painter.
I think it's a wonderful piece of history and I'd love to own it.
-I hope it has a good home.
-So do I. So do I.
We're going to find out right now. Good luck, Kate.
Watercolour portrait, WH Holman Hunt.
What do I say for that? £200 away? 150 away?
£100, I'm bid. At £100.
110 to get on. 110. 120. 130. 140.
150. 160. 170.
At 170, I'm bid. 180 now. At 170, I'm bid. 180 not... At £170.
Got to pass, I'm afraid.
-Not enough. It did affect it, didn't it?
Yeah. Never mind. It's still a lovely thing to look at
-and you get to keep it.
-Well, thank you for bringing that in.
-Not at all. Not at all.
Although AR Todd may not be as well-known as his father,
he's still highly regarded and his work has been exhibited
in galleries like the Tate and the Royal Academy.
Now, more good news.
The auctioneer has confirmed this tortoise is a Bergman,
as Philip thought.
-The reserve isn't £200 any more.
Right, that means we have to revise the estimate to 700-900,
cos it's illegal to have a reserve higher than the bottom estimate.
Was it your idea to say 700 or Ian's?
Well, he was going to alter it, but not by that amount,
but I found a site that was offering one in a retail position for £2,900.
Right, OK. We're going to find out what it makes right now,
cos it is going under the hammer. Here we go.
Bergman, the Austrian bronze sculpture of a tortoise.
A little Bergman stamp on its tail there. £200, I'm bid.
At £200, at £200. 220 now.
At £200. 220. 240. 260. 280.
260. 280. Straight in.
-380. 400. 420...
450. 480. 500.
520. 550. 580.
600. 620. 650. 680.
-700. In the room.
-£700, I'm bid.
720? At £700. At £700...
Well done, Peter. I mean, you were spot on.
£700, a fixed reserve, and it made it. That tortoise was pretty fast.
-Congratulations. That's a lot of money.
-And I know you've got a new grandchild coming soon.
-A new great-grandchild.
-You don't look old enough.
-Oh, thank you very much.
-Wow! Well, look,
I think that's a really good little nest egg for your great-grandchild.
-And thank you very much.
Well, there you are.
Our first three lots done and dusted under the hammer
and three happy owners. It doesn't get much better than that
and we're coming back here later on in the show,
so don't go away.
Now, we all know Cornwall is famous for its tin and its copper mines.
The landscape is peppered with their ruins,
but the county's also famous for its slate mines,
believed to be some of the most durable and desirable in the world.
So earlier in the week, I set off to dig up some facts for myself.
The origins of Cornwall's tin
and copper deposits date back to around 300 million years.
Rising temperatures and powerful geological activity
deep within the Earth's crust
gave rise to granite, a hard, tough rock, containing many metals,
including tin and copper.
Cornwall's rich mineral resources have been exploited
since medieval times, but it was the industrial advances of the 18th
and 19th centuries that really sparked a mining boom.
Steam power enabled deep shaft mining and the drainage
from pumping of water from below the Earth's surface.
Now, whilst tin and copper were the main focus of the industrial
mining here, Cornwall had another natural resource to offer
that was in great demand - slate.
Slate has been mined here in Cornwall since medieval times
and used primarily for roofing, paving and as a building material.
The most famous of the county's slate mines is at Delabole,
which is one of the oldest and deepest quarries in Europe.
Slate from here was transported all over the world.
The Delabole pit is still a working quarry today,
but it's one of a few to survive.
Some 300 years ago,
there had been another slate quarry here, at Carnglaze,
near the village of St Neot, which is 17 miles from Delabole.
Now, unlike its neighbour,
the workers here did something quite unique.
Instead of quarrying for slate on the Earth's surface,
they went underground.
Thankfully, much of the history of what was Cornwall's
only underground slate mine has been preserved,
not only by the past owner, but the present owner, Caroline Richards,
and she's got her own interesting story of how she acquired this mine.
And Caroline is somewhere down there.
I'm going to meet her and have a chat.
This is amazing. I'm going 60m below ground and 150m into the hillside.
Pleased to meet you. I've got to say, I'm really jealous.
How did you get to own your own slate mine?
We were actually looking for woodland to restore
-and we were looking to retire.
-Where are the trees?!
-Outside. 6.5 acres of woodland...
-..with a cottage.
-And that's what you bought.
-That's what we bought
and it turned out there was an old slate mine in the back garden,
but even then, there wasn't lighting to all of it underground
and so we still didn't realise the extent of it.
-And have you learned a great deal about mining in Cornwall?
I've had to learn an enormous amount along the way.
I had a bit of a head start, because I was a geography teacher
and I was always interested in archaeology, geology,
-history, that sort of thing.
-So, how is slate formed?
This particular slate started off about 400 million years ago
as mud at the bottom of an ocean and then it got caught up
at a time when the tectonic plates underneath it were closing.
That gave a great deal of lateral pressure, that turned it into slate.
Mid-Devonian slate is what it's called.
That's what it is, is it, Mid-Devonian?
Cornwall varies from early Devonian through to Carboniferous.
So, why did the miners change this from a quarry into a mine?
By coming underground, they got to the better-quality slate.
It wasn't weathered, like it was outside.
And because there were tin and copper mines starting to grow in the area, as well,
there were a lot of people with the skill set needed
for going underground for slate mining, at the same time.
How safe was it working here,
compared to the tin or the copper mines?
Underground here, you've got solid slate, so it's good, strong rock.
-You can see that it's unsupported...
-It is, yes.
-..to a huge height.
And it's very safe, very strong.
In its heyday, how many men would have been working down here, then?
-We believe about 20 teams of five...
because there was such a constant demand for the product.
Extracting the slate was a hard manual job,
as an account in the 1890s by a visitor, Mr WP Watkins, shows.
'They sat on three-legged stools and used mallets and curious chisels
'with flat heads and wide triangular blades, to dress the slate.
'In the candlelight, they were only half visible.
'And as they struck, the men maintained the rhythm.'
One of the chambers also houses an underground lake of drinkable water
that is 9.5m deep.
So this is the only water supply you have to your house,
-so you drink this water?
-We do, indeed, and we don't
have to treat it or anything - it's just drinkable straight as it is.
It has to be tested every year, just to prove that it's drinkable.
And does it stay at this level all the time?
It keeps itself fairly static, but after heavy rainfall,
it will rise maybe a few feet and, then, by the end of a week, maybe,
it will have gone back to its normal level.
Does your house have connections to the mine, as well?
It does, indeed, cos it wasn't a house at all,
it was the engine house for the steam engine that was used
for hauling the carts of slate up from the lower caverns here,
from the lower chambers.
Tin, copper and slate mines fell into decline in Cornwall
by the 20th century, due to larger deposits found overseas.
This mine closed in 1903 and, as other mines shut down,
the miners followed the work overseas.
Welcome back to our valuation day venue, the Maritime Museum Cornwall.
The valuations here in Falmouth are still in full swing
and Caroline is being put to the test.
..when I came to Falmouth today, I was expecting maritime items, I was
expecting Newlyn School, and I was wondering about mystery objects,
and you have brought the latter. Tell me what you know about this.
It was given to my dad, who was a fencing master,
and I think it was given to him because it looks like a sword.
-But this is not a fencing sword, is it?
-No. No, it's not.
We think it is a club for hitting people with.
Yes, I think I would agree with you on that one!
And it looks like it hails from somewhere in the Pacific.
-I was told Papua New Guinea.
-Yeah. Or possibly Polynesia.
Well, it's fascinating.
And it's a bit of a dangerous item to have about.
-How long have you had it?
-It's been in the house as long
as I can remember, so since I was very little,
so easily 30 years.
-I see. And it was around when you were a child?
-And was it used to control you?
My brother and I were told if we didn't behave then our dad
-would hit us with what he called his bommyknocker.
-So, this is a bommyknocker?
-It's a bommyknocker.
It's got a big piece knocked off.
Was that knocked off on you, by any chance?
No, it's always been like that, as long as I can remember.
Well, I think something like this
very much depends on a, its origin, b, its age...
-I don't think it's been made as a tourist item.
-No, I don't think so.
For several reasons.
-Can you see the binding at the top of it?
That looks to me like it's been there a long time.
-That looks 19th century.
It's a hardwood cane, which has split and then,
take my word for it, it is very heavy.
The stone, which looks like some volcanic black, sort of, rock...
-I think it might be, if that's where it's from.
It's an amazing object. There's something I'm not sure about.
I'm not sure how that stone is meant to attach to there.
It doesn't look like it belongs.
And I think this needs a great expert in this kind of thing
-to look at it.
-Really. And it would need an awful lot more research.
However, I think if this is put into a good auction, I think
-the market will give you the market price of this thing.
Have you ever given it any thought, as to the value of it?
I had a tentative value put on it a few years ago.
It was suggested it might be a couple of hundred pounds' worth.
It could be anywhere between £80 and £8,000.
-And I don't know.
-But are you prepared to give it a go on Flog It!?
And I will be as interested as you to see where this delightful thing
-is going to go.
-It is interesting.
-Thank you very much, Alison, for bringing it along.
-Thank you for having a look.
I'll be very interested to see how that does later.
Right, then, Philip. Time's ticking.
-Martin, how are you?
-I'm well, thanks, Philip.
-That's not a Cornish accent.
-Where are you from?
-I was born in Germany, actually, but Essex boy, really.
-Essex boy for many, many, many years.
And tell me all about this, then?
Well, I've had it for probably 20 years
and I've only worn it half a dozen times at a black tie do
or something like that, when the circumstances were right.
And it was my grandad's, but I don't use it, so...
-You don't need a watch in Cornwall?
-Who needs a watch in Cornwall?!
I love brands and you've got there one of the world's great brands -
Hermes. And it's interesting. Hermes were a French company,
set up in the early part of the 19th century, and what's little
known about them is they cut their teeth making saddlery.
-Ah, no, I didn't know that.
-Let's just have a good look at it.
We've got Hermes written on the circular dial,
-you've got a stamp there...
-Yeah, I couldn't make out the mark.
No, I can't either. But I'd think this is probably 18 carat gold,
but I can't guarantee that.
Looks like you might have another minor stamp there
-and there on the buckle.
I would think there's every chance
that this bracelet might be original.
-I think it is.
-And that's lovely.
Might be shooting myself in the foot here,
but I'm going to ask the question. You've got a 1930s Hermes gold
watch that belonged to your grandad and you're going to sell it.
I think I'd much rather somebody was using it
-and I think someone will love it.
-You'd probably love it.
You're looking at somebody who'd love it!
I think it's absolutely fantastic. I love watches.
And there's an interesting thing about this, you know.
In this country, did you know, that on mechanical items,
-you don't pay capital gains tax?
So, if this goes and makes £30,000,
-there is no capital gains tax to pay.
Nice little take home bit there.
But what I think is lovely about it, we're looking at a watch
that's 80 or 90 years old, but that could be 1970s, couldn't it?
It's timeless. Let's put it in the auction.
I think that this is going to make between £200 and £400.
I think we put a fixed reserve on it of £200
and I think someone is really going to treasure that,
-and what I really hope is I hope they keep that strap.
-Absolutely. Fixed reserve.
-Fixed reserve, £200.
-Let's hope time flies.
While the valuations are going on downstairs, I have popped up here,
to show you one of the museum's most important exhibits -
the history of the packet ships. In 1688, Falmouth was made
the Royal Mail Packet Station. And ships brought letters, bullion,
private goods and passengers back and forth from the colonies,
turning Falmouth into a global news hub. They were boom times
for the town, but it came at a price. It was a risky business
sailing the high seas for the captains. Not only were there
the dangers of storms of the high seas, but also of mutiny and attack
Packet vessels weren't fighting ships, but they were armed,
with small deck cannon and guns, which frequently saved them
from being captured. And hand pistols,
like these, standard issue ones, often helped protect
the letters and the bullion, which was frequently entrusted
on those voyages. So, that is a wonderful example
of what was around, but what I love is this mail bag.
This is the only surviving example of a mail bag from a packet ship.
It was donated to the museum, kindly, by a Falmouth resident,
who found it in his attic.
That really is a wonderful document of the packet's social history -
a hardy survivor.
Let's catch up with today's experts and see if they have discovered
any more hidden gems.
Hello, Richard, Annette.
Tell me, how do you come to own this gorgeous guitar?
We bought it from a chap down here, from Hull,
who used to play in a group called The Ramrods.
-Hang on, from Hull? The guy was from Hull?
-I'm from Hull.
-And his group was The Ramrods?
-And he moved down here, did he?
-He moved down here to play.
Right. And then, why did he sell his guitar?
-Oh, he got a bit hard-up financially.
-His rent and all.
-So The Ramrods weren't doing too well?
-They was, for so many years...
-They broke up after so many years.
They played down here for a good four years, for sure.
-So, when did you buy it?
-In the early '80s.
And I would imagine, from the style of this, that he played in the '60s?
-I have to say, I don't know The Ramrods,
but I think this guitar is fabulous.
It's a Fender Jaguar, dates from around 1960, '62,
'63, that sort of period.
-Look at this lovely faux tortoiseshell scratch plate.
And this is a sunburst model.
And the original strap, by the looks of it,
-lovely leather strap.
-This has seen some action, hasn't it?
-Do either of you play?
He plays a little. Yes, he plays a little.
What do you play, a little, Richard?
A bit of country and western, that sort of thing. Three-chord stuff.
-Ooh! Would you serenade me with this?
-No, no. I don't think so.
Go on. Well, it's in very good condition.
-Has it been in your home, just on display?
-Since the '80s.
Oh, yes. And then we decided, time of life,
to get rid of the things that our grandchildren are not interested in.
-So, that's one of the reasons why we wanted to...
Well, I have to say, I don't know anything about The Ramrods. I shall look into that.
But it's great, it's come from Hull, come all the way down to Falmouth.
It's quite difficult to put a value.
I mean, if this belonged to one of the Beatles, for instance,
and we could attribute it to a certain rock star or band,
it would make it very interesting.
And they do sell, but I would say possibly to be safe,
an estimate of 300 to 500.
-And would you want a reserve on that?
-Yeah. So, if we put a reserve of 300?
-A fixed reserve of 300?
-Are you happy with that?
Well, I think it's lovely and we'll put it to auction, then,
300-500, fixed at 300.
-Thank you, both of you.
That guitar certainly rocks.
Now, there's no time for a break. Or is there, Philip?
-Can I have a cup of tea, please?
-You may, indeed.
-Maddie, I think this is lovely.
-How long have you had it?
-About three or four years.
-Is that all?
-What possessed you to buy it or did you inherit it or...?
-Well, I went to an auction to have a look...
-As you do.
-..as you do.
I went to a viewing
-and I happen to run a teashop in St Ives in Cornwall.
I do, indeed, yeah. And I thought, "Wow."
Because it's a really quaint place, actually. It's a corner shop.
It looks like an old curiosity shop and I thought, "Well, just the job.
"Put it on the outside," albeit I don't sell Lyons Tea, but, you know,
it's got that vintage look about it. But have you felt the weight of it?
-It's heavy, isn't it?
-And I thought to myself,
"Hang on a minute, it might pull the building down."
So it's been in my conservatory, unfortunately, ever since.
-Well, Lyons were an Irish company, weren't they...?
-I don't know.
..that set up making tea and, of course,
they opened their famous tearooms, didn't they?
-The Corner House?
-Which I used to go to
-with my mother, when I was... that big.
-Well, there you are!
-I would think this sign probably dates from the '20s.
What I think is lovely about this... This is an enamelled sign.
-It is, isn't it?
-Enamel signs are very difficult to preserve
because, through the years, you get farmers...
They get used for target practice for airguns,
-They get used for 101 different things...
-..and actually this has survived.
-Well, what I also know is...
Is this emblematic of being by royal appointment?
It must be, mustn't it?
And I think what's interesting here, the animals.
-Are they lions?
They've lost their gilding, which would have been really beautiful.
A little bit. There's still some there. But I wouldn't restore it.
I'd leave it just the way it is,
and I think at auction, if this came into my saleroom,
I'd estimate it at £60-£90.
-I'd put a fixed reserve on it at £50.
-Right, that's fine.
And if you have a really good day, it could make 150-200.
-That would be fabulous.
-So what did you pay for it?
-About the 50 mark.
-But, of course, with commission on top,
it was probably getting on for 60.
-But having said that,
I would be satisfied with that, absolutely.
So you're happy to get it in and thank you very much, thank you.
It's been great. Thank you, Philip, nice to meet you. Cheers.
It certainly would look great outside, or even inside, a tea shop.
Well, that's it. It's time to say meur ras,
which is thank you, and goodbye
to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall,
our magnificent host location, but it's not over yet.
We've got some unfinished business to do in the auction room.
We're putting our last three valuations to the test,
so while we make our way over there, here's a quick recap, just to
jog your memory, of all the items that are going under the hammer.
We'll all be surprised to see how this ethnic wooden club
does at auction.
Time could change everything for this Hermes watch.
We're hoping this iron-mounted tea sign will bring in the buyers.
And I'm sure this guitar will be music to someone's ears
at the saleroom.
As we return to the auction in Lostwithiel, all eyes are on Ian Morris.
300 away? 300 away.
And first going under the gavel is Alison's unusual club.
The auction room has done a little more research.
We've all come to the conclusion it is Polynesian, OK?
Question is, how collectible will this one be?
We've seen some great results on the show before. Hard to value.
-Hard to value.
-Not many experts.
-There's not many experts.
And they keep it to themselves, so fingers crossed,
they've come down here and viewed this.
For the knot battle club, probably Polynesian.
£60, I've got on the book.
At £60. £60. £70. £80. £90.
£100. 110. 120. 130. 140.
150. With you. At 150, at the back.
At 150. 160 not? Are we done?
At 150, going clubbing tonight. £150.
-There we go.
-That was good. I'm happy.
That's £150, rather than sitting, gathering dust.
So, yeah, I'm happy with that.
That's the positive outlook on it, isn't it?
Well done and thank you for bringing it in,
cos it has given us a wonderful talking point.
Thankfully, Alison got a good result.
Going under the hammer right now,
we have a 1930s gold Hermes watch, belonging to Martin, and we've just
been joined by our expert, Philip, who would like to own this watch...
-I must add. But you can't.
-I know. I can't, I can't.
I like it, as well. It's a good brand. Was that grandad's watch?
-It was my grandad's watch.
-And you've never worn it.
-Don't wear a watch.
-Never wear a watch.
So, that's why you're selling. Fingers crossed we get the top end.
-OK? It is collectible.
-It's very collectible.
We're going to find out what the bidders think.
The Hermes 18 carat gold wristwatch, on brown leather strap.
Can I say £200 to start me?
£150 on the book. At 150. 150. Sorry?
-200. At 200. At 200 on the phone.
-Right, we're there.
220. 240. 250. 280. 300?
300. 320. 350?
350. 380. 400?
-This is better.
-400. 400 on the phone. At £400. 20 anywhere?
-Phone's taking it now.
-At £400, I'm bid. 420 now.
Yes, hammer's gone down. Top end of the estimate. Well done, Philip.
Do you know what? That watch would look great on a modern lady today.
I'm glad it's gone. Somebody's going to use it, which is...
-You know, I don't use it.
-That's the most important thing -
-these things have to be used.
-There's no point in keeping a beautiful
piece like that in a drawer.
I love this next lot. It's from a bygone era - the tea sign.
Maddie's Lyons teashop sign. It's fantastic.
-Philip, you fell in love with this.
-Oh, I'd love to own it.
-It's a great thing.
-Yeah, it's nostalgic, isn't it?
It's just a cool thing.
And with a cup of tea, it's always nice to have a piece of cake.
-It certainly is, Paul.
-Now, what have you brought along today for us?
-Well, I've brought you a cake.
-Look at this!
I mean, it's not just any old cake - it is a Flog It! sponge cake!
-Look at that! With a hammer on it. A gavel.
-There you go.
I'm just hoping if I get it wrong, I don't get it in the face.
-Yes, exactly. Isn't that brilliant?
Thank you so much. That's really, really nice.
And let's see if we can get top dollar for this tea sign.
-Well, let's hope so.
-I hope it does really well.
I do as well, cos I know I'd like to own it and so would you,
but we're not allowed to, so let's hope it really does really well.
The wartime mounted shop sign, "Lyon's Tea Sold Here."
-I've got two, four, five bids on the sheets, there.
My top - and they're all very close together, is £85.
At £85. 90 now. At £85, 90 and up.
I have £90 right at the back. I have £90. All my bids are out.
-Gosh, they were so close, all those bids.
-At £90, I'm selling. £95.
£100? £100. 110?
At 110, I'm bid. 120 and up...
GAVEL BANGS 110, the hammer's gone down.
-Sold. That was quick, wasn't it?
-It was a cake sign.
There was a lot of people that wanted that for 80-odd pounds,
-but we got 110.
And it was so lovely of Maddie to bring us a cake.
Now, fingers crossed for our final item of the day.
Right now, it's time to rock the saleroom.
Yes, literally, because we have a Fender Jaguar guitar
going under the hammer, belonging to Richard and Annette.
Great to meet you both.
I've got to say, I had a Fender Jaguar. Do you play?
No, not for... Only about three chords.
Three chords, that's all you need to write a great rock song!
-E, G, A. Smoke on the Water.
Look, I think 300 to 500 is sensible
and let's hope he can find a young guy to earn a living from this
guitar, write some songs, get in a band and earn a living.
That's what it's all about. OK? Fingers crossed. Here we go.
What's it for the Fender? Bit of interest in this, as well.
Three, four bids on the books. I've got to start at £420.
At 420. Hit the right note.
-Yes, this guy's buying it, look.
500. 520. 540. 560. 580. 600.
620. 640. 660. 680, with you. I'm out on the book.
700. 720? 720.
740. 760. 760. 780?
At £800. 820, both in the room.
880. 900? 900. 920.
-Are you all right?
Hold on to me.
980. 1,000. And 50?
And 50. 1,100?
-Are you OK?
£1,050, gentleman in the glasses.
At £1,050. At £1,050.
Those guys just missed it, look.
Everyone loves an under bidder
and thank those guys for that,
because that guy had to pay £1,050, because those two wanted it.
There's a tear in your eye. I can see it. There's a tear in your eye.
-Wow! That is a lot of money, isn't it?
-What are you going to do with that?
-What are their names?
-Lowenna, Alan and Brett.
-Lowenna's a good Cornish name.
Just a bit.
And my granddaughter, she's expecting her first baby in June,
so that's our first great-grandchild.
-Aw! How lovely.
-What a way to end the show, as well.
Rock and roll! I hope you've enjoyed it, as well.
Join us again for many more surprises but, until then,
from all of us here in Lostwithiel, it's goodbye, isn't it?
It really is, with a big major chord. Da-nah!
Flog It! Comes from the National Maritime Museum, Cornwall based in Falmouth. Hundreds of people turn up with personal treasures they want to take to auction and antiques experts Philip Serrell and Charles Hanson turn up a few gems like a chair made from the wood of Lord Nelson's ship and an old teapot that gets the bidders excited. And Paul Martin takes a moving look into the lives of American soldiers billeted in Cornwall before the D-day landings.