Paul Martin visits one of Britain's greatest stately homes, Dumfries House in Ayrshire. There he meets HRH Prince Charles, who helped save the house for the nation.
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This country is famous for its wealth of heritage, from
the many buildings that surround us, to its extraordinary objects and its exceptional engineering.
Most of it we already know and love, but this country is a treasure trove
of hidden heritage, and it's all waiting to be discovered.
In this series, we've been travelling up and down the nation, looking for undiscovered treasures
and forgotten places that tell us so much about our rich and astonishing history.
And on Britain's Hidden Heritage today, we will be
visiting one of the country's greatest historical treasures,
a stately home in Scotland that has opened its doors to the public for the very first time.
And I'll be meeting a very special guest, who helped save the house for the nation.
I'd heard about this house, you see,
that there was difficulty with it, and that they wanted to sell it.
And I know it would have just become a ruin.
Also, Charlie Luxton is reporting on an industrial time capsule in Birmingham.
It's staggering, having spent 53 years here, I still take my hat off to him, I don't know how he did it.
Clare Balding travels to Essex to learn more about
the recent discovery of a very tasty manuscript.
It ceases to be a collection of recipes
and becomes a record of cooking in the English country house.
Plus, John Sergeant takes to the skies to find an icon
of the Cold War that's still in the air after 50 years of service.
You would not expect to be in a small plane like this,
flying alongside what was one of the most powerful machines ever built.
This is a journey to the very heart of Britain's hidden heritage.
Sitting over the River Lugar in East Ayrshire, this picturesque
Georgian bridge gives you an indication that somewhere along this unassuming cart track,
you're going to find something simply magical and quite special.
But even this chocolate box location cannot prepare you for what you're about to discover,
and what can only be described as one of Britain's most remarkable heritage secrets - Dumfries House.
Nestling in the south-west corner of Scotland,
this is surely one of the most elegant country houses in Britain.
Built 250 years ago by the 5th Earl of Dumfries, it has spent much of its life frozen in time, untouched
and often unlived-in, a privately owned and very grand second home.
That is until recently, when it came up for sale
and became the subject of a frantic bid to keep it for the nation, a bid that was thankfully successful
because what makes this place really unique is the fact that it still has nearly all of its original contents.
And when you take a look inside, you realise how important this heritage success story really is.
Now, walking into Dumfries House today is quite a strange experience.
Unlike many other such country seats that have been remodelled,
redecorated and refurnished over the years, very little has taken place here.
I've just come in through the side door, the servants' entrance.
If I was to bump into the 5th Earl today, he would notice exactly the same furnishings that
he originally purchased for this place back in the 18th century,
and it's still where he left it.
And so influential was the 5th Earl's taste and wishes
that over the centuries, subsequent residents have hardly dared move or replace the contents.
Even some of the original carpets are still on the floor.
For the last three years, Dumfries House and its unrivalled collection of furniture have undergone
a major restoration, bringing the place back to the condition it was in when it was first built.
Because after 250 years as a sleeping beauty,
it has just started opening its doors to the public.
In fact, the whole house has a wonderful feel about it.
And for me, it feels like I've just personally stepped in to
an atmospheric photograph that's been immortalised - it's quite incredible.
Every day at 7am, with an almost military position,
the housekeeping team set to work keeping Dumfries House spick and span.
Now, here's a sound you don't hear that often.
This is the sound of the 18th century...
CURTAIN OPENING MECHANISM SCREECHES
The whole house would have woken up to this sound.
But the immaculate condition of the interiors is more than just the result of a daily cleaning routine.
How has the house managed to stay in such good condition over the last 250 years?
The house was built for William Crichton Dalrymple,
the 5th Earl of Dumfries.
A great military man himself,
widowed in 1755, he lavishly furnished Dumfries House
plain and simply to lure another lady here to the estate.
Sadly he died in 1768.
The house was then later passed on to his nephew, Patrick, the 6th Earl of Dumfries,
who lived at Dumfries House for a further 35 years.
-But it really didn't have an awful lot of wear and tear...
-Not at all.
Not daily use.
No, and in the early part of the 19th century, the house was
entrusted to three live-in servants, under the direct charge of a very formidable housekeeper, and a fire
was to be lit in every room during the winter months, and the windows were opened on every fair day.
Mary, now, we're going to set this table.
-First of all we're going to place this in the centre, just get it really bang in the middle.
That's pretty good, in line with the chandelier.
Ever so slightly towards you, yes...
For much of its history, the skeleton staff of Dumfries House
kept the place in constant readiness for
the return of a family. But as it turned out, it was rarely actually lived in.
Although, to this very day, the staff have been regimental about the daily maintenance
of this 18th century time-capsule, going to painstaking efforts to preserve its priceless contents.
The whole house is coming to life, the smell of fresh flowers in the reception area...
Everybody knows what they have to do, and they do it with pride and passion.
VACUUM CLEANER WHIRS
Hello. Sorry to stop you working!
There's a lot of rooms to hoover, and you're not
just hoovering the floors, are you, it's the furniture as well.
No, all the gilding, yes.
Have you ever hoovered up an important part of the carving, has anything broken off?
-I guess that's why.
-Yes, this would catch anything that
would come off the gilding, it would catch in the muslin.
We're just getting purely dust in there.
Gosh. So how long would that consul table take to do?
-That could take a week.
-One week cleaning this.
-Yes. You want to have a go?
I'll see if I can find a bit of dust.
Dip it in but rub it with your fingers first so it's not too wet.
See if you can find a wee bit to clean.
I can see what I'm doing now, I'm bringing this little bit of gilding to life.
-Look at the dirt.
It's absolutely remarkable that this house and its contents
have stayed virtually untouched for two-and-a-half centuries.
But it could have been a very different story.
Only until recently, this little bit of our heritage could have been lost to the nation for ever.
Thank goodness it wasn't, and that's down to the decisive action
of one man, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
In 2007, the descendants of the Earls of Dumfries put the estate up for sale.
The building and its contents would have been split up and auctioned off.
But Prince Charles stepped in and headed up a consortium that included
the Scottish Government and heritage organisations to purchase the estate and keep it for the nation.
Later on in the programme, I'll have the pleasure of talking to him
and finding out why he's so passionate about this place.
Country houses such as Dumfries relied heavily on artisans and small industries to keep them running,
from famous furniture-makers down to the people who made the candelabra that graced the grand tables.
To discover more of that rich manufacturing past, reporter Charlie Luxton
has been to explore our industrial heritage in Birmingham.
# I'm a roving jack of all trades... #
I've come to the old cobbled lanes of Birmingham's jewellery quarter
in search of an incredible piece of our history.
In the 19th century, Birmingham was known as the workshop of the world,
and these now-forgotten backstreets were running with gold.
With over 20,000 men and women employed in
the streets and alleys around here,
it must have been a very vital, exciting place to be.
Buildings teeming with life, smoke billowing from chimneys, horses and carts everywhere,
the pounding of machinery.
Looking around these streets today, you might think
that nothing remains of that world, but you'd be quite wrong
because behind this unremarkable
Victorian exterior lies a hidden world suspended in time.
And it was into this hectic industrial world that 19th century
metal worker Jenkin William Evans arrived - and he had good timing.
The jewellery quarter was booming, workshops were springing up all over the place. Kitchen tables were being
turned into work benches, garden sheds into factories, and Jenkin wanted some of the action.
He started producing silver plate tableware as fast as his workers could make it.
His inventions and tools were passed from father to son until the factory finally closed its doors in 2008.
But in truth, it's hard to imagine that it would have looked much different in the 19th century.
I've come to meet Jenkin Evans's grandson, Tony,
who also spent his entire working life in this extraordinary place.
So, what exactly did you make here?
We made items for a high-quality table.
Things like sauce boats, sugar casters, candlesticks, candelabra...
All that posh stuff you'd have on a lovely dinner service.
Yes, the business was in its heyday, in Edwardian times.
Is this what I'm seeing behind you here?
Yes, we've got a decanter label here. This one is made in copper,
this is a copy of one, which we produced probably around about 1830.
-This is the kind of thing I would see in my grandparents.
-You'd have a nice chain around
the neck of a cut-glass decanter.
And if it was silver it would bear a hallmark as well.
So why does the factory look the way it does, why are there thousands of tools everywhere?
Because my grandfather was producing about one new design a day, year on year on year.
That seems like an incredibly prolific output.
Having spent 53 years here, I still take my hat off to him, I don't know how he did it.
I feel as if I've been transported back in time.
I can sense the past and vividly picture the world these people lived in.
The factory is made up of adjoining terraced houses that
Jenkin Evans bought and converted as the jewellery business expanded.
It was in these houses that Jenkin Evans and his family lived as well as worked.
Even his children were born here above the shop floor.
There's no doubt that Jenkin was an extraordinary man, and it's now
my chance to turn the clock back and see his machines come back to life.
Barry Abbotts learned his trade here at JW Evans.
He's agreed to come back for the day and show me how to make a bit of traditional tableware.
-So, what are we going to make?
-Today we're making wine labels.
-What's the start?
-Basically we've got to get the blank.
-This has already been set up.
So we're going to make some blanks, so then we can stamp them.
-So this is the raw material.
What is this?
-This is nickel silver.
How many of those do we need?
We'll do about three.
-That should be enough.
Barry spent 25 years working as a stamper here at JW Evans.
The real skill, he says, is setting these great hammers just right so when they crash into
the precious metal, the connection with the carefully-carved image on the die is true.
Now I'm just going to make sure the hammer is all right.
-So that's so easy because that belt is being lifted by this wheel.
That feels like it weighs a couple of kilos - how much does it weigh?
-I would say about 250 kilos.
Yes. But from the top to the bottom,
it's about two tonne.
-So that's just had two tonne of pressure banging on to it.
So, is this the last stage?
Yes, this is the last part I would do.
We're going to clip it now, we're going to take all the scrap away.
We put this into the tool...
And there you are. Now, it's got to be pierced, then it's got to be
polished, then plated, and then put the chain on, and it's finished.
Then it can go and hang in somebody's front room.
-It must take you back to being a young man.
-Can I keep that as a souvenir?
-By all means.
-That's very kind, thank you very much.
Barry represents the past for JW Evans, but the future of this extraordinary place
is now being conserved with just as much love and attention as he put into the silver work that he made.
Because English Heritage are
undertaking a restoration project here that's ground-breaking.
Restoration expert Alex Carrington has been working here for months.
Her aim is to capture the building at the moment the machines fell silent, so, when English Heritage open
the doors once more, people will get a true picture of what life was really like at JW Evans.
There's a certain amount of first aid work required,
which in some cases is the minimum you need to do.
-In other places, decisions have to be made how far to go.
-What you keep, what you get rid of.
Absolutely. Because you're preserving
a moment in time, and it's almost as if somebody has left, they've
just put their tools down and gone, you would lose that charm, where things live, you'd disturb the dust.
Because a lot of the dust and dirt is being kept here.
Even the cobwebs are being kept here.
So you're preserving all that.
# In Church Street was a silversmith
# In Livery Street made split rings
# In Charles Street was a pot maker... #
So much of our industrial heritage has gone, and it's easy to understand why.
Industry is all about progress, evolving, moving forward.
And that is what makes this place so special and unique.
It really is the most amazing little time-capsule, that allows you to
travel back 100 years to visit a world that's been lost for ever.
Back at Dumfries House, I'm keen to find out more about the structure
of this beautifully-designed country home.
The 5th Earl of Dumfries, who built this house, certainly had
his finger on the pulse when it came to fashion.
He nabbed young architect Robert Adam and gave him his first big commission.
Robert designed the inside and the outside of this magnificent house at the tender age of just 26 years old.
Together with his older brother John, they completed the main build of this place.
They oversaw the work and they got it done on time and on budget for the princely sum of £5,847.
In today's money, that equates to about half a million pounds, which is absolutely astonishing.
But just what is it about the Adams style that many still find so captivating?
I met up with the head curator of Dumfries House to find out.
It can't escape anyone's notice,
this is all about proportion and harmony and symmetry.
If you look at the plan itself, you could literally draw a line in the middle,
fold it over, and the two halves would be completely identical.
It's beautiful, it's absolutely beautiful.
-This local stone has weathered so beautifully.
It's softened, especially in this light with the sun on it.
Yes, consider 250 years of Scottish weather - wind and rain...
This is facing south, so it gets a good beating occasionally.
It does, doesn't it? But I'll tell you what, it looks absolutely beautiful.
I can't believe how tight those joints are.
Yes, it's amazing, these stones would have been
polished and polished and polished until they would come up with this perfect... It's absolutely perfect.
In many ways the whole house is about perfection, the highest standards and craftsmanship,
and putting it all together.
And here it stands 250 years later, still in an extremely amazing condition.
Dumfries House itself may look
almost exactly as it did when first finished,
but restoration work on the estate is a never-ending challenge.
This bridge, a key element of the landscaped grounds surrounding the home, is also Adam designed.
But the ravages of time have taken their toll.
It's currently being surveyed to find out just how much work
is required to bring it back to its original glory.
I think Darren would have to take some stones out.
The only way we're going to prove that is to remove some stones
to see what the actual check on the stone was, cos it's certainly not obvious.
-Very heavily weathered on the edge.
This is quite interesting. There's a site meeting on the bridge here
with a surveyor, a member of the trust
and a stone mason on site, talking about the weather,
the damage and the repair and what has to be done.
That stone doesn't weather well,
which is why we've lost these corners here. You can see,
it's not too bad up here, where it's been protected by the weather.
but here it's been exposed. It's lost the sharp edges.
-Hello, sorry to interrupt. Hello, Emma.
There's a heated debate going on here. Is there much work needed to be done?
Both from an aesthetic point of view and from...
a structural and best practice point of view.
To remove the cement, and there's cement going from early cements
right through to modern cement.
It all needs to come off and a traditional lime mortar put in.
Dismantling the bridge,
to replace the ageing cement with traditional lime mortar
and incorporate newly-cut sandstone blocks,
will cost Dumfries House Trust
somewhere in the region of £1 million.
Sandstone is an enduring building material,
over the centuries used on everything,
from city tenement homes to country seats and, of course, bridges.
The nearby quarry at Locharbriggs, one of the oldest and largest quarries in Scotland,
has been supplying sandstone since the 1700s.
As well as using cutting-edge technology,
the stonemasons here still do much of the final dressing of the stone by hand.
So you can imagine, I couldn't wait to see these experts in action.
That's exactly the section of cornice you're going to find back at Dumfries House.
How long would that take to cut out?
That there, to do with traditional methods, we're talking three hours.
-Three hours' work.
-OK, that's 100 years ago,
chipping away by hand, with a small chisel.
Today, how long would that take you to do?
-Today, I think I could do that in about 40 minutes.
That's a beautiful finish you've got on that. Absolutely beautiful. So symmetrical.
These days, stone masons like Neil speed up the sculpting process
by using power tools. And in no time,
I can see the section of sandstone beginning to take shape.
But what's really reassuring for me
is that specialists here at Locharbriggs
are still able to do the same detailed work using traditional methods.
Let's put the clock back 250 years. Do it the traditional way.
It's like working with a piece of wood, you follow the grain
-so it doesn't split along.
-Yeah, it's much the same.
It's much the same.
Is this a skill that's dying out?
Yes, it is, I'm afraid. If you think of the amount of people that work here today,
we have three, four masons onsite and there used to be, say, about 250 would be stonemasons.
-Can I have a little go?
-Yes, of course you can.
I mean, this is very enjoyable to work on.
-If I was standing here trying to cut some granite...
-Would I be struggling right now?
-You'd be here for about two weeks!
In the 1750S, hand-carving an ornate cornice like this
would have taken three hours. I wonder how long it would take me!
And there's not a lot of wastage, either, is there?
No, not particularly.
That's thoroughly satisfying, really, really satisfying.
It's not until you start to have a go at cutting a bit of stone yourself
that you realise how tricky it really is,
making that incredible facade at Dumfries House all the more impressive.
Still to come on Britain's Hidden Heritage -
I'll be taking a closer look at Dumfries House's unrivalled collection of furniture,
including what is thought to be the most valuable bookcase in the world.
The Prince of Wales tells us why it was so important to save this house for the nation.
There are so few houses left now, which have their original furniture, everything, designed for their house.
And John Sergeant fulfils a boyhood fantasy as he takes to the skies to get close to a cold war icon.
When I was a kid, dreaming about Vulcans and being a Vulcan pilot,
and here we are, in this cramped space.
It's a childhood dream come true.
But first, Clare Balding is off to Essex
to investigate a culinary discovery that takes us back 130 years.
This is Audley End in Essex.
It's one of the UK's finest country houses
and a monument to Jacobean magnificence.
It has over 120,000 visitors a year.
But what none of them have ever seen is a piece of hidden social history
that's come to light in a most extraordinary way.
This breathtaking home has a rich history,
stretching right back to the 16th century.
During its lifetime, the site has been a monastery,
and royal residence.
But the discovery I'm here to learn about relates to the 1880s,
when Audley End was lived in by the 5th Baron Braybrooke and his clan.
The Braybrookes were an important landowning aristocratic family of the late Victorian era.
They were also well known socialites, who loved to entertain.
When a historic gem was recently unearthed,
shining a light into how this upper-class family wined,
dined and socialised, I just had to investigate.
But the secret I'm searching for isn't to be found
in any of Audley End's stately rooms or in this imposing great hall.
It's to be found in the kitchen, the heart of every home.
The discovery is a collection of Victorian recipes,
that were written in the 1880s.
The author was one Avis Crowcombe,
the cook who prepared the finest foods for the family upstairs.
Amazingly, she took the trouble to document her culinary creations
in this ordinary-looking but utterly remarkable book.
But historians at Audley End were unaware of its existence
until three years ago.
So, Annie, who was this book discovered?
We had a phone call from a gentleman called Bob Stride,
who is descended from Avis Crowcombe's husband's brother.
And he rang us up one day, said he had this cookbook,
it had "Avis Crowcombe, Audley End," written in the front of it, and were we interested?
And on a further investigation, we realised what it was.
And once the screaming in delight had died down,
we obviously accepted it, with...
It was a mind-boggling moment, actually,
when we just thought, "How could this happen? This is brilliant."
Because we know who used it, we know where it came from,
we know where Avis Crowcombe was cooking, that makes it really important.
It ceases to be a collection of recipes
and becomes a record of cooking in an English country house.
This handwritten, leather-bound manuscript was brought in 2008.
Contained within it, nearly 150 examples of the dishes
created by Avis for the Braybrookes' many banquets.
And it's all handwritten, obviously. Sort of faded-to-brown, if it ever started off as black,
and written almost like a mini essay.
You're used to seeing recipes done with measurements at the top
and exactly what one needs for the ingredients
and then a description of how it's done.
Cookbooks at this time didn't usually have ingredients.
You'll see at the end, there are some recipes in different handwriting,
which are probably either sort of inter-war
or just after the Second World War and they are much more what we would think of as conventional recipes,
so they have the ingredients listed first and then the methodology.
As cook, Avis Crowcombe would have been an important person in the running of Audley End.
She'd have been responsible for all aspects of running the kitchen,
working directly with the Braybrookes when planning the menus.
She is able to do the accounts of the kitchen,
she not only knows cooking, she knows preserving, she knows how to run a household.
She is somebody who, today, would be regarded as a ferocious businesswoman.
So the responsibilities for a cook in a large country home
in the 19th century included more than simply looking after the food.
Her scullery maid is 17, her oldest kitchen maid is 25.
So she's looking after an entire kitchen full of hormonal young woman
who's only thought in some cases is to get married.
So she's also having to look after, almost be a sort of dormitory mistress, if you like,
for a lot of young girls under her charge, who left home when they were 13.
To help me get a taste for the 1880s,
Annie's preparing a variety of sumptuous dishes for me to sample,
all made following the recipes exactly as laid out in Avis Crowcombe's cookbook.
Among the delights, will be Gateaux de Pommes
made with Nonsuch apples grown on the estate
and according to Avis, these should be, "Stirred without quitting it
"until it forms a very thick and dry marmalade."
We'll also be sampling Windsor Sandwiches with ox tongue filling.
Not so fashionable nowadays. Can't think why(!)
And Amandine Cake, which, going by the recipe,
should be filled with apricot jam or whipped cream or fruit, according to taste.
Before I am let loose on her creations,
I want to learn more about the eating habits of such a large and affluent household.
Lucky for me, a daily account exists,
detailing every meal eaten at Audley End.
So, Andrew, what have we got here?
What we have here is a consumption book from the 1870s,
which is just a few years before Avis Crowcombe came to Audley End.
And it lists all the meat and other produce that was consumed by the family and servants.
If you look here, at the first page, here,
we have, on the Sunday, beef and mutton, 29 pounds.
They're having two different meats a day, beef and mutton, or beef and pork
and then you've got hares, rabbits, pheasants, rabbits, partridges, turkey, chicken. All the rest, ducks.
You would have had all the main courses, of which there would be several at once,
so it was very different than the table we're used to today,
where you get brought different courses one after the other.
It was a case of everything at the same time.
The 5th Baron Braybrooke and his family
clearly loved putting the skills of cooks like Avis to good use,
holding frequent banquets for their aristocratic friends.
The Audley End archives demonstrate
just how extravagant these feasts were,
detailing not only the sheer quantity of food consumed at the house,
but also the enormous number of diners.
For instance, we have here 17 family and visitors, 32 servants.
That's because a lot of the guests would have brought their own servants with them.
So it's not the family's servants, it's the servants of the visiting guests.
They would have brought their footmen, they might have brought a valet.
The ladies would have brought their maids, so it would've been extra at the table.
So the servants are presumably being fed the same food, from the kitchen gardens here?
Yes, they are. They would've had similar food,
in terms of meat and vegetables, but dressed in different ways.
They wouldn't have had any elaborate dishes that were provided for the main table.
They would've had probably stews or broths.
Audley End's meticulous records may tell us what produce was eaten here,
but it's Avis's cookbook that allows me to discover how that food would've tasted.
Annie has finished preparing her banquet of dishes from the recipe book.
And joining me is Bob Stride,
Avis Crowcombe's great, great grand nephew and the person responsible for unearthing the cookbook.
-Is there any tea, Andrew?
-That there is. Shall I do the honours?
Yes, I'd love you too. Thank you very much.
What we see in front of us now is bang on what was in Avis's cookbook.
Yes, it is amazing, but I've never actually made a thing from it.
What else have you learnt about Avis?
I've found that she actually married
my great great uncle in 1884
and they then left the estate and took up a residence in London
and started a boarding house.
So they left behind this domestic life.
The other thing that strikes me about the book, Bob,
is there's something that may not have made much if you'd taken it to auction.
It didn't have any monetary value, but put it here, in the place where it should be,
create the food that Avis was creating and you have something that is real history.
This is living history, this is authentic, tangible food.
I must admit, we were very overwhelmed by the reception that we had for it right from the start.
I feel as if I've really got to know Avis Crowcombe during my time here at Audley End.
Not because I've looked at photographs or portraits of her,
or read a diary of her innermost thoughts,
but because I have seen and sampled her work,
her recipe book and her food are her hidden heritage.
It's her legacy.
Returning to Dumfries House, my tour of what must be one of Britain's greatest heritage secrets continues.
Walking around the building, it's impossible not to get swept away
by the sheer quantity and quality of the opulent interior decor.
These were made by Edinburgh carver William Mathie,
a man working at the top of his genre. Incredible detail.
Now, what you've got to remember is, making a mirror back in the 1750s was an extraordinary task,
to get the hand-blown glass this size, this flat.
And then it had to be hand-ground and polished.
One mistake, and that mirror would just crack
and the whole process would have to be repeated.
And then you had to get the mirror here by horse and cart,
over all those potholes, from Edinburgh.
One very nervous delivery man.
I would imagine this mirror would've been wrapped in a bed of hay and boxed securely.
Still, I wouldn't like to do it.
The Earl of Dumfries, who bought and commissioned the furniture here
in the middle of the 18th century, certainly surrounded himself with the very best,
including works by perhaps the greatest ever British cabinet maker,
thought of as the Shakespeare of the furniture world.
It's estimated that around 600 authenticated Chippendale works still survive.
50 of them, with their original bills of sale,
are here in the Dumfries house.
Now restored to its former glory,
the Chippendale collection here includes what is considered to be his greatest rococo work,
this rosewood book case, bought in 1759 for £47 and 5 shillings.
In 2007, Christie's auctioneers gave this bookcase an estimated value of £4 million.
Had it gone up for sale, it's thought it would have trebled that amount,
which would make it one of that most valuable pieces of furniture in the world.
I met up with the man giving the daunting task of conserving this priceless artefact.
James, this is fabulous.
-Is this the most important piece you've ever worked on?
-Was it frightening?
-It was pretty scary at first.
It took me about two days to settle down to get into it.
And you had to do it on site. There's no way you'd want to move that.
If you moved that, I mean, that front there is a massive piece of oak.
If you put that in a different climate,
that could have warped and twisted and split.
-It's lovely, isn't it?
Beautiful choice selection of the grains. This lovely Cuban flame mahogany flaring out.
-Can you pull open a drawer?
-Yes, of course.
There are sections of dovetails.
This is a brushing sliding drawer, as you know.
This is where your clothes would be put to brush them down.
And also wealthy gentleman loved to have furniture that did things.
Things came out, full front bureaux and all sorts of things.
-Little secret drawers.
-Yes, that's exactly it.
Look at the action in that. That is as good as it was made 250 years ago.
-It slides perfectly.
What about the carvings? I know you are a master carver.
-One of the best in the business.
-I wouldn't go that far.
You wouldn't be allowed to work on this otherwise.
That's true, I suppose. There's about 60 patches in the cornice.
I won't touch it because you don't want to touch the gold,
but this piece of wood here is not thick enough. He's had to glue bits of wood on.
And the bits that had been glued on dropped off and got lost.
Up in the basket, up there, there was an awful lot of leaves
that stick out which had got caught and broken off and disappeared.
Well, I can't tell the difference between your work and...
Well, there are some pretty massive bits of wood in there, I must admit.
When Christie's came to the house to catalogue this piece of furniture,
they implied this was possibly the most important piece of furniture
they'd ever come across and the world's most expensive.
Well, it certainly... I mean, look at the size, it's tiny.
-Proportions are just right for any house.
-Proportions are gorgeous.
You could buy that and move it to New York.
That could have right now been sitting in a New York apartment.
They could have spent £10 million buying it,
it would be sitting over there and what a massive cultural loss
to Britain that would have been and to this house
because, made for here, belongs here, as everything does.
Over the last two years,
James has been responsible for conserving a number of the house's most important pieces.
But he isn't the only expert helping to bring Dumfries's furniture back to its former glory.
Among the many items in need of attention
were a group of Chippendale chairs and a sofa.
Each has been stripped back to the frame and reupholstered,
using as many of the original materials as possible, including the 250-year-old horsehair stuffing.
Each chair took a five-man team 40 hours to complete,
and with an estimated value of more than £1 million each,
you can understand why they were lavished with such care.
And this 1759 Chippendale four-poster bed was given a total restoration.
Having been re-designed in Victorian times,
it required hours of detective work before a specialist team
undertook the task of taking it back
to a state that Chippendale would have recognised.
The silk was woven and hand-stitched using traditional methods,
taking 15 people 880 hours to complete.
Now, when the 5th Earl had this bed made in 1759,
he only had one thing on his mind - to find himself a wife.
He was a widower at the age of 60 and without an heir.
And back in the 18th century, it was this old soldier's way
of attracting a woman, romancing her and hoping she could give him a son and heir he craved.
If you look up you can see the head cresting, the cartouches,
all the undercuts, that's all carved in wood,
originally covered in fabric.
Thankfully, it's been restored to its former glory
with wonderful new Damascus silks
and it really is absolutely exceptional.
Now, on Britain's Hidden Heritage, former political Correspondent John Sergeant
reveals his personal passion for an iconic aeroplane
that dates back to the Cold War.
-'The Vulcan, also known as the Avro 698,
'is almost as manoeuvrable as a fighter.'
After victory in the Second World War there was great confidence in our armed forces.
We had the men and the machines to take on all-comers.
For a boy growing up in the 1950s, one plane in particular
summed up our power and our glory.
'The Vulcan is just one of the aircraft keeping supremacy in the air for Britain.'
This is going to be a special day for me.
I'm going to fulfil a childhood ambition.
When I was a kid,
lots of us were keen on spaceships and rockets
and flying saucers.
But I was crazy about aircraft.
And one plane in particular caught the imagination
of almost every schoolboy in the country.
And that plane was the Avro Vulcan bomber.
With the Cold War escalating,
a nuclear strike against Britain had become a very real threat.
To defend herself, Britain needed a long-range aerial bomber
capable of reaching targets across the Soviet Union.
This Vulcan, the XH 558,
is the only one in the world that's still capable of flying.
I'm going to be allowed to take to the skies to fly with the Vulcan.
I want to relive the excitement and passion I felt
about this plane when I was growing up.
I'll be helped by a brilliant volunteer team who formed
a charitable trust to save the plane and get it back into the air.
It's been a labour of love against extraordinary odds.
And it's that passion for the plane, which has made it possible
to have this version, the only one of its kind in the world still flying.
It's an amazing story.
So when you first came across this plane, what condition was it in?
It was nowhere airworthy.
There was a lot wrong with it
that we needed to work on to get it to the stage
where it would receive the approvals to fly.
It took Robert and his team of over 20 skilled engineers
more than two years to strip this enormous bomber back to its airframe.
It had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Around 800 separate components were overhauled.
Thousands of individual tasks
to turn it back from a museum piece to a flying aircraft.
So what was the secret of its success?
Sheer determination and perseverance, never say die!
Finally, 14 years and £7 million later,
Vulcan XH 558
once again took to the skies.
But there's one part of this plane
that hasn't been restored to full working order.
This is the bomb bay,
this was designed to carry the British nuclear weapon.
That's where the great big nuclear weapon sits?
Yeah. That's incredible, isn't it?
And there it is, the dark side of the Vulcan...
..the dream plane built to unleash a nightmare.
The Government has decided
that in the present state of international tension,
you should be told how best to protect yourselves
from the dangerous effects of nuclear attack.
From the '50s onwards, Britain feared a nuclear war with the Soviet bloc...
..and was quick to develop a nuclear arsenal.
'You can greatly improve protection for the first few hours
'when radiation is at its greatest intensity.'
It was the Vulcan that was designed to deliver this nuclear assault.
But what was it like to be the pilot and have that responsibility?
I'm meeting John Tye, who was ready to get airborne at a moment's notice
and prepare for an attack.
We'd get the Tannoy message and the Tannoy message would say,
"Attention! Attention! This is the bomber Controller
"for one group only, red in the state 15."
That meant we had 15 minutes to get airborne.
And did you know at that point, once the Tannoy went,
did you know
that it was a real alert,
or did you think it was an exercise?
We had no idea.
so every time the Tannoy went, it could have been for real.
You were in a position not to order an attack,
but to take part in an attack
which could kill tens of thousands of people?
Yes, it was horrifying. But I used to...
think only we'd have to do it if we were attacked.
Between 1957 and 1969, the Vulcan bomber
and crew men like John were primed to do their duty and retaliate.
Thankfully, the attack never came and John never dropped the bomb.
But he did come face to face with reality
of this terrible responsibility some years later.
My wife and myself were on holiday and a young girl came to talk to me.
And she said, "I notice you were talking English.
"And I wanted to practise my English."
So I said, "Where are you from?"
She said the name of this town in Russia.
It was my primary target
and it rocked me back on my heels.
I could not believe
that here was a person from my primary target
which I thought was barracks, airfields.
I never thought of it as people, and here was a beautiful young woman
talking to you and you suddenly realise all these years later
you've this lovely person you might have obliterated.
And that really shook me to the core.
In 1969, the RAF handed over responsibility
for the nuclear deterrent
to the Navy's Polaris submarines.
But this wasn't the end for the Vulcan.
Instead, it was converted for use as a conventional bomber
and played a pivotal role in 1982
during the Falklands War.
'Last night, two Vulcan bombers took off...
'Their target - 3,500 miles away.'
On May 1st, the British liberation of the islands began
with Operation Black Buck, a high altitude bombing assault
on the airfield at Stanley by Vulcan bombers.
I'm meeting Martin Withers, who flew on this mission.
You were on that famous bombing mission in the Falklands War, weren't you?
I was the captain of the first one that went in on 1st May 1982.
I flew one of these for 15 and three-quarter hours.
-So you're cramped in these conditions?
-We had to refuel,
we refuelled a total of seven times from airborne Victor tankers.
And what was your task? What were you meant to be doing?
The task was to put a bomb or two bombs onto the runway at Stanley.
And how much of the success was this attack?
We're very pleased to be able to say that it made a major contribution.
It was successful, we hit the runway
and thereafter, the Argentinians
never launched any strikes from that airfield.
Despite this high-profile success,
the Vulcan's service life was coming to an end.
And in 1993, the last one was sold off.
But now, the Vulcan's back.
I'm keen to get flying, but I can't resist the chance to look inside
to see the heart of the beast.
This would not have been allowed in the 1950s.
When I was a kid dreaming about Vulcans
and being a Vulcan pilot, and here we are,
in this cramped space.
It's just what it should be, it's difficult,
it's complicated, it is. It's just...
It's a childhood dream come true.
Finally, the moment has come.
-I never thought this would happen.
I'm going to fly wing-to-wing with the plane of my dreams.
It's going to be a tremendous trip.
And that noise you hear,
that's the noise of the Vulcan,
it is the Vulcan roar!
In a small plane up close and personal,
I'm going to see aviation history
played out in the skies.
We're right over the Vulcan now
and we can see it on the runway.
Blade five happy for you to slam as required.
It's about to take off,
the Vulcan is starting to move along the runway.
Picking up speed.
And take off, it's going up!
What a sight! What a wonderful sight it is.
It's already starting to pull away.
Vulcan, you are one noisy bird,
but it's very beautiful. Contact Doncaster radar 126.
That's amazing, and we're right ahead of the Vulcan and we're seeing it...
Oh, that's a wonderful sight.
I know it's a cliche, but it's like a great big bird.
And the camouflage works perfectly
against the criss-cross of the field.
You're seeing the Vulcan in its natural habitat.
Just below it,
and we can read what it says on the front.
It's called "The Spirit of Great Britain."
This is one of the most amazing and one of the most extraordinary aircraft in the world.
It's an emotional moment.
In ordinary life, how would you ever see a plane like this?
What a sight. Oh, dear, look at that!
Oh! That's looks terrific.
Fabulous patchwork of Britain,
one of the greatest planes in the world
which just happens to be - let's be proud of it - British.
And off she goes. Off she goes!
Wow! Look at that, and now she's showing a real speed.
And we can see the Vulcan just roaring away from us
right up into the sky.
What an amazing experience that was!
You don't expect to get a small plane like this flying alongside
what was one of the most powerful machines ever built.
And it's just looks so beautiful.
Dumfries House in Ayrshire is a unique time capsule,
a home and all its interiors left intact,
exactly how it was first imagined in the 1750s.
But in 2007, its future hung in the balance, its then owner,
the Marquis of Bute, decided to put his time and money
into his other ancestral home and put Dumfries House up for sale.
This piece of Britain's Hidden Heritage was about to be lost,
until, that is, a very important benefactor stepped in.
Your Royal Highness, thank you for talking to me today,
-I know you're a very busy man.
-I don't mind.
Why is Dumfries House so special to you?
I'd heard about this house, that there was difficulty with it,
and that they wanted to sell it
and find a solution,
but unfortunately it didn't happen.
I remember trying four years before
it actually came up for sale
as a problem, I tried to find a way of seeing if we could help sort it out
or find somebody who might help -
a sponsor, a donor or whatever -
but it was such an enormous task.
Prince Charles personally secured a £20 million loan
that was still needed towards the 45 million required
to purchase the estate,
including the house and its contents.
It was a race against time with just minutes to spare
before the seller's deadline expired.
Had the Prince not stepped in,
it would have been a very different story.
The reason why I wanted to do something about it was because the house
is so unique with its contents. There are so few houses left now
which have their original furniture,
everything designed for that house.
And of course by the great furniture-makers,
Chippendale and the great Edinburgh makers,
Peter, Matthew and Brody.
Extraordinary to have that, and still in situ.
I felt it would have been a tragedy of immense proportions
if the whole thing had just been split up.
And we would have been left with an empty shell of a house.
And I know it would have just become a ruin.
Unbelievably, in one frantic weekend,
Prince Charles was able to finally rally enough support for the project,
raising the money needed to save the home from the auctioneer's hammer.
But that's not the end of the story.
His Royal Highness is now working hard to find ways
of sustaining Dumfries House so that it can continue
to be a treasure for the nation.
Half the battle is to, I think,
see if we can use it for more events,
all sorts of different occasions and weddings.
As you can imagine, it isn't cheap to run it all.
A regular visitor to Dumfries House,
it's obvious the Prince has a genuine passion for this historic home.
Do you've a favourite room?
Yes, I do rather love... It's that dining room,
the pink dining room.
Because the plaster work is remarkable in there.
And also it's the quality of the light that comes in through those windows.
When I first saw that room
I thought, "This really is very special."
You've done a wonderful job. That's down to your passion and commitment,
and I've discovered a real treasure from Britain's Hidden Heritage.
-I'm so glad you have!
-Thank you so much for talking to me.
If you want more information on today's show,
check out the website at:
Next time on Britain's Hidden Heritage,
I travel to Northumberland to uncover a surprising house
with a grand setting and a unique claim to fame.
The first room in the world to be lit by electricity,
what an amazing piece of history!
Charlie Luxton uncovers some dark secrets of our Victorian past.
So, if you can imagine two years of virtually not talking to anybody,
it sent a lot of people mad.
Charley Boorman is searching the ocean floor for a forgotten piece of naval history.
You can see the tower at the top and everything.
It's just sitting there on the bed of the sea just below us.
And Clare Balding discovers an enchanting place, once ravaged
by the forces of a Tudor King.
That is magical.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Presenter Paul Martin and his team travel up and down the nation looking for undiscovered treasures and forgotten places that tell us about Britain's rich and astonishing history.
In this programme, Paul visits one of the country's greatest stately homes, Dumfries House in Ayrshire. There he meets HRH Prince Charles, who helped save the house for the nation.
Also on the show, reporter Charlie Luxton uncovers an industrial time capsule in the form of a 19th century Birmingham silversmiths; Clare Balding travels to Essex to learn more about the discovery of a rare Victorian culinary manuscript; and guest reporter John Sergeant takes to the skies in search of the last remaining Avro Vulcan bomber, an icon of the cold war.