THE scene was a smart stately home near Aberdeen. Inside, at a special Antiques Roadshow-style event, experts from Edinburgh’s Lyon & Turnbull were carefully assessing the history and the all-important price of visitors’ treasures, from grand-scale paintings to exquisite, delicate jewellery . But there was one family heirloom which had them all stumped, both on the history and the price – a jar of pickled snakes.
“And we didn’t have a pickled snakes expert with us,” laughs Colin Fraser, a specialist with the fine art and antiques auctioneers. “But we are always surprised at these events. You never know what people are going to bring.”
Tomorrow, it’s the turn of Edinburgh’s antique enthusiasts to find out if their treasured possessions – or even their preserved reptiles – have a tale to tell or a fortune to make at a special antiques valuation day at Dundas Castle.
The inaugural Antiques at the Castle event will have experts from Lyon & Turnbull on hand to value antiques and will offer guests a rare opportunity to visit the historic castle in South Queensferry. Tours of the castle keep – which dates back to 1416 – will be available for guests to enjoy, as well as music, an art exhibition and cream teas.
The event is in aid of St Columba’s Hospice and its Evening News-backed campaign to build it a new home. Visitors can bring as many antiques as they like – or even just photos of their items – to have them valued by experts.
Colin explains: “Antiques are still enjoying a very healthy popularity with people of all ages. There is something very exciting about the prospect that an ordinary looking item that you might have picked up at a car boot sale could actually be worth much more than you think. The history that’s attached to items is also very intriguing – uncovering the story that’s lurking beneath the surface of an antique is all part of the fun and the appeal.”
So what should you be looking for in your attic? According to Colin, anything with a Chinese flavour is proving very popular at the moment, because of the burgeoning Chinese market, while bank notes, coins and medals are often worth more than their owners realise. And Colin wouldn’t be surprised to find some rather special silverware turning up on the day. “Edinburgh has always been the centre of silver-smithing in Scotland and has produced some fantastic pieces,” he says.
Tours of the castle should also prove fascinating – it was built in 1818 by the renowned Scottish architect, William Burn and is now the stately home of Sir Jack and Lady Stewart-Clark. The Auld Keep of Dundas Castle was built in 1416 for the purpose of being both a home in times of peace and a fortress in times of war.
And of course both the antiques and the tours will be helping raise much-needed funds for the hospice. Lesley Christie, director of fundraising for St Columba’s, says: “Every pound we raise on the day will bring us a step closer to building our new home for St Columba’s Hospice, which will provide care to more than 40,000 patients and their families over the next 40 years.
“The new St Columba’s Hospice will have a host of benefits for patients and families, including more single patient rooms which will all have extra space for family members to stay overnight. So far, we’ve raised over £1 million to build our new St Columba’s Hospice, but we still have £6m to go, so we hope that lots of people will join us for what promises to be a fantastic day at Dundas Castle.”