Alan Titchmarsh has invented a game show and you don’t need to be green-fingered to walk away with the £1000 prize. Every weekday afternoon, teams will have to value antiques, decipher the age of collectibles and work out which of three objects on display in the “Masterpiece Gallery” is worth £10,000.
All the action takes place in three stately homes, which boast plenty of treasures of their own: Parham House in West Sussex, Kentwell Hall in Suffolk and Firle Place in East Sussex.
Here’s why it’s worth paying a visit with your magnifying glass in tow…
Parham House, West Sussex
Parham was built in 1577 facing south, which was most unusual so near to the coast. In Elizabethan times, this was thought extremely unhealthy because you would be susceptible to the diseases blown from the continent.
Parham House’s curiosities:
In the Great Hall, there is a huge portrait of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales who was hailed in his day as the great hope of Protestant England. This is symbolised in the painting by his leading of winged Time (or “Opportunity”) by the forelock. After Henry died tragically young of typhoid in 1612, the background was painted out. It was only discovered in 1985, when the piece was X-rayed in preparation for its loan to an exhibition. The overpainting was then removed and the picture restored to its former glory.
The Great Hall
Parham House is also home to a 400-year-old Narwhal tusk (thought at the time to belong to a unicorn); James II’s velvet and silver gilt embroidered state saddle, which was created for his visit to Bristol in 1686; and one of the finest and most important collections of 17th century embroidery in the country.
Built between 1500 and 1550, Kentwell Hall is considered one of the loveliest moated Tudor halls in England. It has a maze in the form of a Tudor rose in its front courtyard, which was laid in 1985 to mark the 500th anniversary of the accession of the first Tudor King, Henry VII. It also boasts a medieval brewhouse that is believed to be the longest in continuous use in England (and still used as such).
Kentwell Hall is known for its exotically decorated modern bathrooms, collection of Tudor-style costumes and wide selection of domestic artefacts. It holds annual “Tudor re-creations” and each year focuses on a different historical year because dress changed enormously during the Tudor period. Among the domestic artefacts – many of which are still in use – are bronze cauldrons, wooden moulds for pies and butter, iron skillets, copper fish kettles, rare Victorian pewter ice cream vessels and a spit reputed to have come from Guy Fawkes’ house.
Firle Place has been the home of the Gage family for over 500 years. It looks like an 18th century house but the mansion we see today conceals portions of a much older building, perhaps medieval, extended and aggrandised in the 1530s and 40s by Sir John Gage, the trusted counsellor of Henry VIII. Today the house looks like a French chateau because it was extended with pale stone brought from Caen in Normandy in 1896.
Firle Place’s curiosities:
In the Victorian anteroom, there is a Kashmir shawl on the daybed and a feather fan that belonged to Queen Victoria. Few country houses boast such a notable collection of paintings and artworks. In the 20th century, Firle was enriched by the arrival of no less than four substantial collections. In particular, the 6th Viscount Gage’s marriage brought in the Cowper collection, which included a superb selection of old masters and remains of international importance.
For more information and for visiting hours, go to: firle.com
Masterpiece with Alan Titchmarsh is on ITV, weekdays at 3pm