Arthur helped stop our treasures going for a song

Arthur Negus: The antiques expert filming an edition of Going For A Song at Snape Maltings in 1972.

Arthur Negus: The antiques expert filming an edition of Going For A Song at Snape Maltings in 1972. - Credit: Archant

Collectables: Mike Hicks tells how, long before Antiques Roadshow, Arthur Negus was inspiring millions of television viewers.

Years ago, we had bric-a-brac shops, which I suppose would be loosely described as antiques and collectors shops. These shops were sited, normally, in the secondary part of any town or city, never on the high street.

They were the source of anything you wanted to buy, no matter if it was clothing, chairs, tables, crockery, glass, they sold the lot. In a way, they were the next step up from the kind of rag and bone man made famous in Steptoe and Son.

These bric-a-brac shops were really clearing houses, a place where those in the know would look for little gems or various collectors' items - and these stores did a fantastic job.

Then in the 1960s, we had the advent of a television programme, Going For A Song, which changed everything. This programme was aired normally on a Sunday afternoon, and its biggest name was Arthur Negus.


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Arthur worked for a firm of auctioneers in the West Country, and he had an incredible knowledge, built up from years of going around houses and visiting other sales. He passed on this love for antiques to the viewing public. The programme featured maybe eight to ten items telling you their history, and more importantly, the likely value. Suddenly, the public were aware that things in granny's front room were worth something. This changed everything, and bric-a-brac shops gave way to antique shops.

Today, we have lost the bric-a-brac shops. But now have a replacement - 'charity shops'. Those unwanted bits-and-pieces now find their way into these outlets, and many of these establishments are astute enough to seek help from professionals so as not to sell valuable items for 20p. Even so, now and again, the odd undervalued thing does slip through the net.

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Quite what the next retail vehicle will be for offering antiques, bric-a-brac, rag-and-bone and collectors' items is, I am not too sure. But one thing is certain: Arthur Negus changed everything for the good. He made people aware of the things they had, how they were made, how valuable they were, and what sort of price you should get. So thank you Arthur - you did a power of good for the people.

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or info@mikehicksantiques.co.uk.

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