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Britain is stuffed with places famous for their antiques,
and each object has a story to tell.
I'm Tim Wonnacott, and as the crowds gather for their favourite outdoor
events around the country, I'll be pitching up with my silver trailer
to meet the locals with their precious antiques and collectables.
I'm feeling inspired myself, thank you very much.
Their stories will reveal why the places
we visit deserve to be on the Great Antiques Map of Britain.
Today, I've come to London and one of its iconic squares,
the Covent Garden Piazza.
'It's brimming with people who've
'brought along their fascinating objects.'
People don't think about London as being a ceramic centre.
'Which give a fantastic insight into the area's unique
It's all part of our wonderful story.
'And, of course, they want to know what their precious treasures might be worth.'
'And have I got a big surprise for Karen!'
Henry Day was found out for issuing
fake marked silver.
-And having found him guilty, he was sentenced to death.
Today, I'm headed to the heart of London,
to a place where people have gathered to buy and
sell their produce
and services since medieval times -
London's position on the Thames helped it to flourish.
In the 6th century, the Anglo-Saxons created Lundenwic,
where Covent Garden now sits, but it wasn't until the
17th century that the great piazza was created by Inigo Jones.
Ask any Londoner and they're probably
in possession of some treasure which tells a little bit
of the story of how this great city came to be what we know it today.
And first to put it on the Great Antiques Map,
part of an extraordinary collection
belonging to one of London's oldest tailors, brought along by James.
I'm a historian who's worked on Savile Row for eight years now,
and for the past five years, I've been cataloguing the Henry Poole
ledgers, which date back to 1846, to the present,
and, well, it's a hell of a job.
Well, how lovely is this?
In the heart of Covent Garden, which is not so very far from the heart
of the very best things that happen in British tailoring,
in Savile Row.
This is a privy councillor's coatee. I think it is 1900, 1902.
There is an element of gold in the embroidery.
You can see here that...
it's been adapted.
This has been cut from another uniform, because it's so precious.
They are recycled, these uniforms.
What would it cost me, a coatee like that?
I think you'd be talking in the region of £10,000-£13,000.
-Ten to 13,000 grand.
-I should think so.
-Now, tell us about these ledgers,
because that is a massive tome, isn't it?
-They record all the sales, do they?
-Oh, here we go, the King.
-So if we've got the date, 1918, that's George V, isn't it?
These aren't personal orders, these are for the household,
-so you'll see there will be pages and pages of it.
So we're still George V, George V. And then this is interesting.
Because we've come to Edward VIII,
-and that was the year of the three kings, 1936.
When the King abdicated and became Duke of Windsor.
-So King Edward VIII is deleted by your clerk.
And then they insert His Royal Highness, the Duke of Windsor.
And I like to see, "Personal account,"
so they know where to send him the bill after he's abdicated.
And I think he gets 2.5%, by the looks of it.
-So that's a discount.
-What a brilliant record.
This is something that is so unique, you can't possibly value it.
But as a piece of social history, it is extraordinary.
Now, another part of the tapestry of your history relates to
objects that you've got knocking about.
-And you've kindly brought in this box...
..which has got an interesting inscription, hasn't it?
"Wood and iron from the foundations of the old London Bridge."
Which of course was built in 1176,
stood for 600 years
and was then pulled down in 1831.
A really grand club would have had a large table snuff box like this
to pass around for the members to take a sniff after lunch.
But I've never seen one fitted with the individual
brands of snuff inside, but for us, to be in London
and have a box made out of the oak that came from London Bridge,
it's all part of our wonderful story.
'But can you imagine how much you'd have to pay for a rarity like this?
'Have a think, and I'll tell you later.'
Since the 18th century,
the foreshore of the Thames has been scavenged by mudlarkers
searching for treasures to sell,
objects that had been dropped, lost or fallen overboard.
These days, mudlarkers aren't in it for the money.
They're passionate about uncovering artefacts that help
illuminate the past.
Nice, old pewter button.
But it has to be done with a Port of London Authority permit.
One of the mudlarkers is Nick Stevens.
This is the tools of the trade for the mudlarker.
So on a standard permit, you are allowed to scrape to 7.5 centimetres.
Each time the tide goes out, it's leaving fresh deposits,
fresh erosion, so that is what I do.
I'm always out looking for those areas that have been freshly eroded
in the hope that I'm going to find something of historical interest.
You'll always come back with something, and that's the exciting buzz about mudlarking.
You're never going to come home empty-handed.
But the most exciting thing for me is I get to go home now
and spend a few hours trying to work out what this is.
Mudlarkers must report all objects of archaeological
interest to the Museum of London,
where I've come to meet Head of Archaeology, Roy Stephenson.
What have we got in this boxful here?
That box is just a fraction of a huge
collection of buttons and cuff links
that have been donated to the museum by one of the mudlarks.
Now, as far as these other objects are concerned,
all found by mudlarkers.
If you were to look at them chronologically, there is
a little Roman, 2nd century lion brooch,
which has only come to the museum fairly recently.
This is something that would have sat on somebody's shoulder,
-held their cloak in place.
Next up, we've got somebody that looks like a cleric.
Yeah, we've got Thomas Beckett, obviously Canterbury,
and quite an unusual one from Germany, Gronenberg,
so these are... As people travel now,
they're desperate for a souvenir,
you buy a souvenir, you wear it on your cloak, you show everybody
where you've been, but of course, in the same way, it ends
up like the buttons, it's in the river. And these are 15th century.
This one has Jesus on one side and Veronica on the other
side, which is a little brass case for a reliquary, so this is
somebody who's gone to Rome in the mid-15th century,
come back to London,
brought their precious relic with them and lost it in the river.
The reality is that most of the material is pretty low value,
but it's priceless to us.
In Covent Garden, we have a relic dug up by mudlarker Dean.
I bet 99 times out of 100 all you get out is a little lump,
-cos it's bust.
-It's normally just the top that you pull out, or the bottom.
It's a big pot this, isn't it?
And this is made of stoneware, which I think is the most
marvellous stuff, cos this is high-fired to a high
temperature in a kiln, specifically to make it as hard as you
possibly can, because stoneware, properly fired, is impervious
to acid, ink, any of these nasty chemicals,
which you can store
safely in a stoneware vessel. And down at the bottom here we've got
a stamp, which is lovely for us in London today, because it's
Doulton Lambeth, and
Lambeth, just the south side of the Thames from where we are,
was a substantial pottery and stoneware
making part of London, and you
had a cork in there, making it fluid-tight, watertight.
Take out the cork, and whatever fluid is in it,
you want to precisely pour.
It's got that little pourer all attached,
which is really rather cool, and
I guess I'd date that to probably 1850, 1860, something like that.
Doulton & Co are part of the London scene,
and people don't think about London as being a ceramic centre,
but in the 18th century, Chelsea porcelain, stuff made in Bow.
It doesn't all happen in Stoke-on-Trent,
that's the important thing.
A big stoneware pot like that,
at auction in London, would
probably make £50. I mean, it's a nice job.
When the Great War took British troops to far flung places,
homesick soldiers tried to keep in touch with their loved ones.
And the method of the moment was an embroidered postcard.
They became collectable, and John Cook
left his collection of around 150 cards to his granddaughter Sophie.
He used to show me them when I was a little girl,
and since then I've always thought, "Well, one day I'd love to have those."
And when my grandad did eventually pass away they were given to me.
They first appeared in the Paris exhibition in 1900.
Embroidered cards, worked silk cards
started to be made in France and throughout
the continent, but it became wildly popular during the First World War.
And I'm told the top end of ten million embroidered cards,
it is thought, were produced through the First World War alone.
But what's lovely about them, as a collectible, is that they come
with an infinite variety of designs,
and I've just plucked out a few,
and to stop them blowing away, we've put a bit of glass on them.
Here we've got a bit of Christmas jollity going on with
a lovely embroidered card addressed "To my dear son", which is
-really rather moving, isn't it?
-Yes, definitely, yeah.
There were a few birthday ones as well that I've got,
and all sorts of different occasions, it's very sweet.
Yes, and I've never seen one of these First World War
embroidered cards saying, for example, "Greetings from Egypt."
And some of them, which are really fun, have a hidden section,
and on the back of this card it says, "Look under the flags
"on the card," so you can peel back
that flap and inside is another
message, which in this instance says, "Happy Birthday Greetings."
-Collectively, they're known as World War I silks.
But out of the collection, I've found two which particularly
interest me. That one which says, "Greetings from India,"
and that one that says, "Hands Across the Sea."
They are embroidered cards, they are silks in the same way that the
rest of the collection are embroidered silks,
but these have been embroidered by machine. This has an
which must make it really rather desirable.
And then we've got, "Greetings from India, Hands Across The Ocean,"
so these machine-woven ones were also popular alongside
the hand embroidered ones.
'So what's the value of a collection like? All will be revealed later!'
In 1666, the capital's skyline changed for ever
following the cataclysmic Great Fire of London,
when four fifths of the city was destroyed.
Out of tragedy, though, came an incredible
opportunity for Christopher Wren, who redesigned 51 of the 84
lost churches, including St Paul's Cathedral.
I've come to find out more with guide David Thompson.
Well, Wren was in the right place at the right time,
he was surveyor of the fabric of St Paul's,
and within six days of the city burning, he had produced plans
for a classical city of vistas, piazzas
and eye-catching viewpoints.
He came up with a new design, which this model represents, does it?
What he wanted was to get away from essentially what the church
authorities wanted - another church with a spire. Wren wants a dome.
Now this fabulous model, the "Great Model",
Wren paid for out of his own money.
That would buy you a very substantial London house.
Oak, plaster, it was painted with emerald stone,
leaden roofs, it was gilded.
Church authorities said an all-out no.
He came up with what we today call the "Warrant" design, it has
a curious ornamental spire coming out of a shallow dome.
Charles II sees the design and signs it,
but he gives Wren his freedom by writing
under his signature that Wren may make some changes -
ornamental rather than essential - that from time to time he may desire.
He has his freedom, he knocks off the spire.
-And puts on a great dome.
-And we see the great church that we see today.
-That's brilliant, isn't it?
And it then took how many years to build?
35 years. The architect... Very rare an architect
in those days actually saw his great cathedral from beginning to end.
A year after the Great Fire, this little book was written.
Its owner, Hazel, couldn't make it today, so I've asked antiquarian
book expert, Clive Farahar, to come and tell us what he thinks about it.
Well, first of all, what a lovely little 17th-century book
in a 19th-century binding.
A very nice little 19th-century binding. Green Morocco,
some sunning on the spine, of course. But it is a rather nice binding.
This is the sign of the collector,
the collector decided, whoever it was, decided that this was a good
book and wanted it in fine condition in his library.
Obviously, modern books, cloth books, paperback books, machine bound.
But when you get a book like this which is bound in leather, or
even one that is specially bound in cloth or paper, the book
binder's art comes into that.
It's a very fine art, and there are a few only in the country.
Well, most interesting that that's done in the 19th century,
but the book itself is earlier.
The book itself, we have the date here on the title, 1667.
The short narrative of the late, dreadful fire in London,
"Written by way of a letter to a person of honour and virtue."
Very much a 17th-century sentiment - honour and virtue.
Yes. We were moving into the age of reason,
and reasoning was what this man was all about, he was reasoning.
This chap, who was in fact a chap called Waterhouse, he wrote this
book. Anybody who was discerning in those periods would be thinking
an awful lot about life, the meaning of life, all these disasters
that had happened within immediate memory. The death of King Charles I,
being ruled by Oliver Cromwell,
the Restoration, what did it mean?
And then the Great Fire
when the whole of London virtually went up in flames.
'What price would you put on this 350-year-old book?
'Clive will give us his wisdom later.'
Well, the rug that I've brought in today is my father's rug.
And it's just been in the house all my life.
He was a carpet dealer.
Now, Astrid, here is a letter that's dated 16th February 1937.
-To your father.
In which the Office of Works,
in Whitehall, is saying to your father
that he had submitted this Chinese rug
to go to Westminster Abbey,
and it was following the submission of this rug
that they chose the colours
to go on the floor coverings at
the time of George VI's coronation.
This is what's called a Ningxia rug.
Ningxia is a region in China,
sort of between Beijing and Mongolia.
It's famed for its carpet production.
What it's got is some interesting design features.
-This circle in the middle is called a mon.
If you look at the ground itself, we've got stylised flowers here,
these are supposed to be peonies. We've got
a little temple here at the bottom, and then either side of that,
these ripply bits are all ponds full of water.
And then we've got these seriously zany zigzags on the ends,
and they're supposed to be rays of light.
Now, I personally think this is quite an early rug,
and by an early rug, we're talking about something that
certainly dates from the 19th century, which is old in rug
terms, and who knows, it may be a little older than that.
If you rub your finger over it,
the areas of blue stand
up from the areas of brown and yellow.
-Once upon a time, the pile of this rug was all level.
-Yes, but what happened was, because the wool
was died with vegetable dye,
-some of them are more acidic than others.
-And as a result of that, they degrade at different rates.
If you said to me, how much?
-It's difficult to put your finger on a number.
Would it be worth, in a specialist sale, £2000-£3000
That is a bit of a question,
but that's where I think it comes from, in terms of its value.
Right, lovely. Well, I would never sell it, obviously.
You'd never sell it, but it's nice to know, isn't it?
It's very nice to know.
Before the start of World War II,
more than 1.5 million men had joined the Air Raid Precautions, or ARP.
Among the volunteers from the London Borough of Hackney was
Sid Goldsmith, who left some mementoes to his nephew, Peter.
It's an ARP game of some description. It's 86 cards.
I'm really just interested in... what were they used for?
Were they given out to everybody, was it a way of teaching
people to watch out for incendiary bombs?
What were they about?
What I find so interesting about what you've brought is this
very rare, surviving set of cards that were
designed for training purposes
for all these ARP personnel.
They had to understand how to deal with an emergency.
If an incendiary device fell,
did you put that out with a stirrup pump and water?
There is the stirrup pump. There's the siren which would give
you the audio warning that an air raid was about to take place.
There you've got a first aid card, there you've got a warden,
so the deck of cards
and the game itself would relate to
these different circumstances.
And on this side, we've got the weapons themselves, a gas bomb,
an incendiary bomb, a high explosive bomb,
causing a fire or needing a gas mask.
So it's a kind of amusement for those air raid personal, who
later became known as the Civil Defence Force, for them
to play a game but actually learn what they had to do in an emergency.
And what I find fascinating is that it's got a date on it which is
the provisional patent date, so this game was
invented before a bomb had fallen from the sky, before the
Second World War. So well prepared
were the authorities that they even wanted
to produce a game which is going to entertain and be instructive.
And there's a lot of interest in things that relate to the First
and Second World War, in terms of collectibles. I wouldn't be
surprised if this little set didn't bring as much as a £100-£150.
Wow, that surprises me. It's not going anywhere, mind...
No, no, no, it's a nice piece of family memorabilia.
But that's the sort of value that you'd get.
From the early 17th century,
the Guild of London Clockmakers have strived to achieve
the highest quality of craftsmanship
and engineering in their longcase clocks.
By the 18th century, London clocks were considered among the best
in the world, according to London clock dealer, Duncan Clements.
London clocks are more stereotyped than provincial clocks,
but they're all of a very, very high standard.
Typical features were designs on the case, such as a double plinth,
moulding around the door, lock on the hood.
London clocks are not allowed to have oak cases,
they have brass-encased weights.
The vast majority of clocks are made by hand,
and you have to just polish things to get them to fit precisely.
These were the intellectuals of their day, they were very skilled.
To make a clock to work accurately and reliable is very difficult.
But what more famous iconic London-made clock
could there be than this?
Sitting, as it does, in the Elizabeth Tower, within
the Palace of Westminster.
Londoners can rely on its accuracy.
Big Ben has chimed the hours of the Great Westminster Clock
It was designed so that the first strike of each hour was
accurate to within one second of time.
Its time-keeping is tweaked with old copper pennies.
Engineers found that adding one old penny to the weight
of the pendulum makes the clock go two fifths of a second faster.
BIG BEN CHIMES
BIG BEN CHIMES
Wow! Isn't that something?
Now for a bit of London-made silver,
and Karen has a penchant for antique silver spoons.
My whole cutlery is not one piece.
It's just made up of every
single design that you can think of.
Some old, some new and some silver
plate, mostly silver plate, actually, but a few pieces of solid silver,
like the spoons I've used today, and I think it's nice to use them.
-I think this is a stuffing spoon.
When you look at the marks, all very straightforward, very nice,
clear marks for London.
And this is hallmarked for 1825.
It hasn't been badly worn, and you can tell that
because that tongue at the end of the bowl is very full
and solid. If it would have been used a lot, they get worn down
because silver is not that hard, you know, but it's not, it's nice crisp.
But what is much more intriguing are these two spoons.
What are called Old English pattern, which is this lovely shape,
very simple shape. And these have been bright-cut, which is
that cutting system where the
silversmith cuts at an oblique angle so that when the sunlight hits
the cut in the metal, it
reflects the light back at you, hence it's bright-cut.
These have been engraved with an armorial device,
actually a bit of somebody's crest,
and the two date letters that we've got are 1821 and 1822.
And we've also got a peculiar mixture of sponsor's marks
which are the maker's marks.
You've got HD & CD for Henry and Charles Day, who were brothers,
and registered silversmiths up the road
at Goldsmiths & Silversmith's Hall.
Next door, we've got a mark which seems to say HD, which may be
-Henry Day on his own.
But the trouble is that Henry Day was found out for issuing
fake marked silver and he went to trial and they found him guilty
-and, having found him guilty, he was sentenced to death.
And that could be one of the spoons that he did false mark.
-How about that?
-Wow, that's a very exciting story.
Wow, that's a big moment here in London.
Anyway, the story goes that he was reprieved from his death sentence,
he was transported for seven years' hard labour to Australia,
and I'm not quite sure what happened to him after that.
Quite a story, eh?
So how much is Karen sitting on with these spoons?
I think the stuffing spoon would cost £150-£180 retail.
But those rogue serving spoons...?
I guarantee you that if you told the story in Australia
and put the spoons up for sale in Australia, you would get
very, very much more money for them than you would do here.
But I would guess that those spoons worth £100-£150 top-end here
would be worth the equivalent of £400-£600
-or maybe £500-£800 in Australia.
In fact, they're flying in now. You can hear them coming over,
-isn't that exciting?
Some of Sophie's postcards are worth £30 each,
others only a couple of pounds. So, on the law of averages,
I reckon her collection is worth at least £1,500-£2,000.
As for the Great Fire of London book?
Clive and I got in touch with its owner, Hazel.
Where did you get it from?
We actually acquired it
when we purchased our house in Derbyshire about ten years ago.
So, Clive, the million-dollar question. What's it worth?
Somewhere between £300-£500 would be quite enough.
Finally, that marvellous Savile Row snuff box.
Well, I can see it in a sale making probably the top end
of £2,000-£3,000, probably half a waistcoat in your terms.
-One trouser leg, I think!
-One trouser leg.
London is the most extraordinary place, isn't it? Have we had fun?
You bet your life we have!