During a classic episode of BBC’s One’s Antiques Roadshow, host Fiona Bruce and her team of experts paid a visit to Scone Palace, near Perth in Scotland. The pieces brought in included a family brooch, the most significant books seen on the show and some T-shirts which were bought over 30 years ago. However, it was one guest’s family tea caddy which left expert Christopher Payne speechless.
When first laying eyes on the item, Christopher exclaimed: “I am absolutely speechless, where on earth has this come from?”
The guest revealed: “It is an old family piece that was commissioned I think for a wedding in 1838, presumably it is unique, it has the family crest here.”
Christopher asked: “So 1838 is the date on the silver is it?” to which the guest simply stated: “Yes.”
Intrigued, Christopher continued: “And BS for Benjamin Smith, I know him, a well-known maker. It is a tea caddy, and this is clearly an important family piece, what is the family?”
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The guest revealed: “We are the Cornwallis family, so historically we go back to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1200.
“My ancestors were responsible for surrendering America in 1781 which has always made us very popular over there…
“And one of his children had this commissioned, that is as much as I know really.”
Taking a closer look at the tea caddy, Christopher explained: “So that, 1838 is a wedding gift. I am going to disappoint you, it is not 1838 at all.
“When it was made originally it would have been very bright colours and I think we probably wouldn’t like it,” he admitted.
“I think it would be far too bright and far too colourful, no doubt about it that the silver would have been put in later, as you say perhaps to commemorate the marriage which makes total sense.
“Let’s look at the box itself, with time I can probably find out exactly who made it but my initial reaction would be a London firm, very important makers, with this wonderful marquetry.
“People recognise me on Antiques Roadshow they say, what is the best thing you have ever recorded, and I have never been sure.
“I have come up with one or two wonderful things, I have seen many models over the years, but this is, without doubt, the best piece I have ever seen on Antiques Roadshow.
“It appeals to me academically, aesthetically and historically, as an object with the crest dare I say £20,000 to £30,000,” he revealed.
The guest quietly claimed: “Oh god…” before becoming very emotional and telling Christopher: “Thank you very much.”
Antiques Roadshow is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.