The comforting, familiar nature of the Antiques Roadshow has been likened to ‘the feel of a warm bath’. From its beginnings in 1977, the show delved through the possessions of others, with guests telling us stories of the current owners, past owners and beyond. Usually the item might be worth a few hundred or few thousand pounds, but rarely – and most excitingly – a true gem would be uncovered.
The Halt in the Desert – a painting by Richard Dadd
In 1987, a couple from Barnstaple, North Devon, came along to a show with a painting. Unbeknown to them, the painting was actually The Holt in the Desert by Richard Dadd – a national treasure which had been missing for more than 100 years. After authentication, the painting was valued at £100,000.
In the watercolour, a camping party is seen on the shore of the Dead Sea with Dadd himself seen at the far right. The scene was painted from memory by Dadd from a mental institution, as after coming home from the expedition to Greece, Turkey, Palestine and Egypt he murdered his own father ‘supposedly at the behest of the Egyptian god Osiris[*].
Spider’s Web Bottle – by William Burges
A guest brought in a little brown bottle his dad had picked up in 1950 to the Antiques Roadshow in Skegness. The expert was delighted to reveal that in fact, the bottle was an original by William Burges – the renowned Victorian designer – which had been lost for most of the 20th century. The bottle was engraved with a spider’s web design of silver, enamel, moonstone and pearl and was valued at £20,000 – £30,000.
Silver Drinking Vessels Collection
After inheriting a collection of silver drinking vessels, a young man from Crawley brought them in to the Antiques Roadshow for examination. In an amazing discovery, each piece that emerged seemed to be more valuable than the last. The haul was valued at a remarkable £100,000, and later sold at auction for £78,000, needing some serious antiques insurance cover.
A lady with a love for jewellery brought in a bumper bag of brooches to expert Geoffrey Munn at Chatsworth House. The guest had bought the bag at auction for just £30, and was shocked to when the expert pulled out each of the brooches and valued them successively for £125 – £150. That was until he spotted the real gem – a genuine pink Faberge brooch – valued at £10,000.
Possibly one of the canniest purchases to have appeared on the Antiques Roadshow was this 1929 work by celebrated designer Rene Lalique which later sold at auction for £32,450. The owner had bought it at a car boot sale in south Scotland for just £1.