The Antiques Roadshow at Brooklands
PUBLISHED: 21:05 07 August 2010 | UPDATED: 13:17 05 August 2014
When the Antiques Roadshow came to Brooklands in Weybridge last summer, thousands of people arrived from all over the county, bringing everything from trophies owned by St George's Hill Golf Club to a vintage Barbie collection and even paintings by famed Surrey artist G F Watts. In fact, so diverse were the range of treasures that the BBC is devoting not just one but two programmes to the event, due to be screened this month. ENJOLI LISTON reports
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2010
It’s 9.30am on a stunning Sunday morning, and outside Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, it’s a hive of activity, as people start arriving with the most bizarre array of items. I watch, entranced, as one chap strides past clutching a huge brass pot, resplendent with three taps, as nearby a small blonde lady wrestles with a huge teddy bear. Meanwhile, another gentleman is hanging on to at least four oil paintings as though his life depended on it.
It can mean only one thing. After months of anticipation, the Antiques Roadshow is finally here! And, in fact, the cameras are already rolling as the gates open to thousands of antiques enthusiasts from around the county.
One of the BBC’s most popular programmes, regularly watched by over 7.5 million people, it’s no wonder the show’s arrival at Brooklands, rather better known for its vast collection of motoring and aviation history, is creating a bit of a buzz. Yet despite the throng, the atmosphere is still that of an intimate garden party, the grounds decked out with wooden tables and racing green umbrellas.
Some people come carrying their most precious possessions while others bring the weird and wonderful contents of their attic. But everyone will be given a one-to-one consultation with an antiques expert and will receive the pièce de résistance – the valuation.
A famous face
Within minutes of arriving, I spot Weybridge-resident Michael Aspel, a presenter on the show for seven years, who says he has never experienced such a glorious day for filming: “This is how it’s meant to be,” he smiles. “Actually, this is too good a sky for the Antiques Roadshow – there’s usually a bit of whispy cloud at least.”
Having stepped down as Roadshow presenter two years ago, Michael has popped down to the world-famous racetrack, just down the road from his home, to catch up with fellow broadcaster and new Roadshow host, Fiona Bruce. But Michael doesn’t have any advice for Fiona, only admiration.
"She’s terrific!” he says warmly, while watching her pose glamorously for the cameras in one of the museum’s most precious cars. “She always looks so fresh and bright, and enthusiastic.”
This is only Fiona’s second series as presenter, but she already knows what to expect at the Roadshow – pretty much anything.
"We’re in the home of World War Two aircraft production and very fast cars,” she tells the cameras. “So I’m assuming something along those lines will come along today – but the thing with the Roadshow is that you just never know.”
And sure enough, experts George Archdale and Judith Miller are soon presented with their first conundrum of the day, in the shape of the strange object I glimpsed earlier – what they believe to be a ‘rum and milk warmer’ – brought along by Shepperton resident Dave Townsend.
“I’ve never seen another like it – it could even be a one-off,” says Judith, acknowledging that sometimes even the professionals get stumped. “It could also be a crude prototype tea and coffee maker, perhaps made by a metal worker at a stately home. I’d say it’s worth £60-80, but I think it’s fantastic.”
For Dave, the value is of no consequence: “I’ve had it for 30 years, and I just came to find out more about it really,” he says. “It’s great to know that it’s probably a one-off – it’s such a good conversation piece.”
The crowds descend
Each show usually attracts between 1,500 and 2000 people, but by noon, the BBC confirms that 3,600 are expected to be seen by the end of the day. In fact, the event is proving so successful that they decide to make two Brooklands programmes to accommodate the wealth of local treasures, including paintings by Compton-based Victorian artist, George Frederic Watts.
“This is my best Roadshow ever,” enthuses another of the experts, Katherine Higgins, who lives in Guildford. “This is such a wonderful location and I’ve seen a real range of objects, though the people of Surrey do have lots of teddy bears!”
I’m lucky enough to catch Katherine just as she finds a real gem, which she quickly recommends to the producers for filming.
“This is a really lovely item – it’s a collection of Barbies and Barbie outfits in their original carry case, from the late Sixties or early Seventies. They’re in played-with condition but hardly damaged, and it’s Barbie’s 50th birthday this year so it’s a great time to sell. Each doll would fetch about £80-90 and £30 for each outfit.”
Three generations of ladies from the same family have brought the dolls along, although they now belong to the youngest, 14-year-old Lauren Smith from West Byfleet. Her mother Fiona played with the dolls as a child: “I was just trying to get rid of some things from the loft and came across them,” she says. “As a child, my favourite Barbie outfit was the air hostess set, because it made me want to be one.”
As I queue for my turn with silver expert Alastair Dickenson, I have high hopes for the unidentified little cup-shaped curio my friend has asked me to bring along. It turns out to be a ‘hoevedvansoeg’, a Danish perfume vessel held under upper class noses to mask nasty street smells and worth around £80, according to Alastair.
It may not be the million-pound object I had secretly hoped for, but it’s yet another of the thousands of fascinating personal treasures that, until the Roadshow, had been hidden away in houses across the county. And when these are added to Surrey’s wealth of fascinating local history, it’s a wonder that the BBC will be able to fit it all in – even with two shows.
- Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge KT13 0QN: 01932 857381
A view from the inside
When Fiona Bruce first took over from Michael Aspel in 2008, she faced initial criticism for being too ‘sexy’ and the BBC was accused of dumbing down the Antiques Roadshow. However, she steadily won over her doubters and has gone on to prove a real hit on the programme. Here, we discover what the show means to her
“The joy of the Antiques Roadshow for me is that we’re always in a beautiful location – and everything from objects that people have had tucked away in the attic, which aren’t really worth very much, to extraordinary bits of Fabergé get brought along,” she says.
“The more you learn about antiques, the more you realise you don’t know. I’d describe it as butterfly knowledge – just skimming along the surface.
“I don’t know if I’ve brought a younger generation of viewers to the show but there are certainly more people watching it now. In any case, the Roadshow doesn’t live or die through my presence – it is a format that’s hugely successful and that is comprised of the public and the objects they bring along.
“I’ve not been to Brooklands before, but I think it’s fantastic from what I’ve seen of it. I think Surrey is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, I really do – the rolling Surrey Hills, that fantastic red brick – I absolutely love it!”
Were you there?
If you were at Brooklands for the filming of the Antiques Roadshow, we’d love to hear your stories from the day. Get in touch with us at email@example.com or share tales of your own hidden treasures below.
10 of the best Surrey antiques shops
Antiques Roadshow visits Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham
Antiques expert Katherine Higgins on why she likes nothing better than bargain hunting in Surrey
Michael Aspel on the Antiques Roadshow, health and his Weybridge life
Surrey Life’s Antiques Scene spotlights the best of local antiques in every month’s magazine
Brooklands' motoring history rivals Goodwood, Silverstone and Brands Hatch