Wednesday, 29 January 2014


Our wonderful author, Stuart Miller-Osborne has written this wonderful, fascinating article which is a must read!  It is also relates to items I have at Hungerford Arcade.  I loved it and am sure you will too.


When one enters an antique shop or an arcade there are three things that will always happen. Firstly within minutes you will find a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (usually the Fitzgerald translation). Secondly you will find for sale the Tri-ang lorry you had when you were a child which you managed to batter to destruction before you were twelve, sadly you note that if you had not been such a horror then you might have been some fifty pounds richer now. Thirdly you will see an animal or a fish looking startled (or not) in a glass case.

One of the many pleasures of walking down Hungerford High Street (there are many if you look) is that you cannot miss these creatures in their glass cases looking out onto the West Berkshire day. A lot of these are Victorian and I always consider that they are like the H George Wells character in the 1960 movie The Time Machine. There is a scene in the movie where Wells uses his machine to travel to the future from 1899. Although the machine stays in roughly the same place the world around him changes as the future develops. A Victorian fox looking out onto our High Street will have seen a lot of changes and will do as we progress. Obviously the fox would have been in situ for the last hundred or so years looking at our main street but he is encased in a time capsule which has not changed since he was positioned by our forefathers

This is why taxidermy fascinates me although by no means do I collect. The only time I ever purchased anything in a glass case was when I was eight when at an auction (no less) I spent my pocket money on three butterflies in a small wooden box to the horror of my parents. A year or so later I gave these beautiful creatures a Christian burial at the insistence of my sister who would not look at them when she came into my room. My mother shared the sentiment and I consider that this display would have accidentally been given away if I had not buried them. They still lie at peace in the Wiltshire soil display case and all. 

Apart from maybe butterflies I would not collect any other creature. My wife like my sister and mother shudders even at the thought of dead creatures in cases. Any chance that I may have had with my future wife accepting my interest in butterflies and moths was sunk once and for all when as a teenager she was sent a not very well preserved stuffed lizard from her pen friend in the Maghreb. After a week or so in transit the obvious has began to occur and its funeral pyre was quickly arranged. 

I was well into my twenties until I began to understand how a taxidermist worked. Previously like a lot of people I thought that the creature had its internal organs removed and was preserved then later stuffed and glass eyes added. Although I knew this did not apply to insects I could not have been more wrong.

I will not go deeply into the process as you like I have probably recently eaten. But it appears that the creature (which must be a vertebrate) is just skinned and after that is persevered in chemicals (which is a much safer process these days than it used to be) and then mounted on a mannequin which can be made from a variety of materials as is the internal stuffing of the creature. 

Although I find looking at creatures in glass cases a little haunting, I feel a little uncomfortable when looking at them elsewhere. On a recent visit to the Natural History Museum in Oxford there were quite a large number a birds displayed without cases in the various rooms. For an unknown reason I found this a little sad as the theatre of these creatures seemed to indicate that they wanted to fly and escape into the skies of Oxford. Quite what Inspector Morse would have made of a Golden Eagle perched on the Bodleian is open to question.

Although existing prior to the Victorian era taxidermy really took off during those years.  As my researches indicate it helped to confirm the Western held belief of human superiority over animals. As the Empire grew men left these shores to all parts of the globe, some were hunters who returned with many trophies ready to be mounted. Others were naturalists such as Charles Darwin who travelled the world to study and report on other creatures. Whichever way the tannery business’s were very busy in the nineteenth century. Hungerford is likely to had one or two at the time.

As the taxidermy techniques became more sophisticated then museum collections grew and now nearly two hundred years later we have collections in the United Kingdom and Europe to be proud of. I remember as a child being dragged around various dusty museums and seeing wild animals although long dead as real as you could see them. This made a lasting impression on me although I always looked forward to the collections of butterflies and moths.

A big name in the early days of taxidermy was a certain Louis Dufresne (1752-1832) who as a naturalist on board the Astrolabe went on a voyage around the world between 1785 and 1787 during which time he classified an enormous number of creatures. He became the curator and taxidermist at the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris in 1793 and in 1802 perfected a technique (especially for preserving birds) which advanced the method a great deal. His extensive private collection is now conserved at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.

Apart from butterflies and moths one of my favourites are the various fish that you see mounted in cases (often in pubs) where a lucky fisherman, proud of his catch has had his catch stuffed and placed in glass case for posterity. It is the detail that fascinates me .

Pike caught in Broughton Water 15th of September 1899 by G R Robinson esq. or Perch  landed by M R Trowbridge at Lacock on the 6th May 1871     

The list is endless but if you are in a pub or elsewhere then they are fun to look at. Whilst on the subject of pubs there is an interesting one in Beesands in South Devon (near the ruined village of Hallsands) On the wall to the left as you enter is the biggest lobster that you are ever likely to see caught I believe off of Cape Cod in 1956. The size is awesome especially for a lobster layman such as myself. What further amused me was that in a recent advertisement for the pub that this huge lobster was released from its case and placed on the sea wall with various other items. So near the sea but so far.

For a while whilst visiting this establishment I though this lobster to be a rouge. This is to say creatures that are not real and are in the realms of imagination. Creatures such as Unicorns and Dragons or long extinct species, but it was real. My researches note that when the Platypus was first discovered in 1798 that it was treated the same way and was thought to be a playful hoax. The people of the time thought a ducks beak had been attached onto an animal resembling a beaver. They were all proved wrong as the Duck Billed Platypus although odd was real enough. However if I ever walk down Hungerford High Street or elsewhere and see a mermaid in a glass case then I will most definitely change my choice of ale. For the time being though I will continue to admire the work of these Victorian taxidermists as I peer curiously into these glass cases.  
Stuart Miller-Osborne

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Friday, 24 January 2014



We had another fabulous day at Hungerford Arcade with the BBC filming more episodes of Bargain Hunt.  Tim Wonnacott, Kate Bateman and Nick Hall were, as always, on good form. The filming of Bargain Hunt is very serious as they have to work to very tight schedules.  Just as you see it on television. The two teams (Red and Blue) get just one hour each to find their three items.  After much hunting, for each item found they have to get their expert, Kate or Nick to explain the history and advise as to whether or not it will make a profit at auction. They then have to negotiate the price and finally, purchase the item.  The clock only stops for short breaks throughout the day and starts up again precisely where they left off.  Some cut it very fine leaving less than a minute to purchase their third item!   It is fascinating and a privilege to be a part of this amazing experience.  The customers love it and some get very excited seeing the making of one of their favourite antiques shows.  I must say, the teams were great fun, making us all laugh.  You will see some of the off-screen fun we had at the end of the day with Kate and Nick when we all said good bye.  

We are looking forward to welcoming the BBC back to the Arcade later in the year.


Antiques Experts
Kate Bateman and Nick Hall

Lovely Nick Hall


Beautiful photo of
Kate Bateman

The Grand Finale
Manager Alex Rogers, Kate, Nick and me (Rita)

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Wednesday, 22 January 2014



What a fabulous day we are having at Hungerford Arcade. As I type, the BBC are downstairs filming Bargain Hunt.  The atmosphere is brilliant and the customers are enthralled at being behind the scenes and actually seeing for themselves the making of one of their favourite antiques programmes, Bargain Hunt.   Host, Tim Wannacott is his lovely debonair self.  We have antiques experts Kate Bateman and Nick Hall each giving help and advice to their own team in choosing which three items they should buy for the showdown at the auction.  Any money that is left over from the £300 each team is given is then handed over to the expert who, in turn, purchases an item which he/she feels will make a profit for their team.  The team that makes the most profit is declared the winner and they get to keep the profits from the sale of their items.  But, it could all hinge on the expert's item. If a team is doing badly and decide to go with the item, this could turn the tables and decide the winner.  On the other hand, if you are doing well, you could boost your profits by again, accepting your expert's item or, potentially lose all the profit made on your three items if it does badly.   That is the name of the game.  As with all auctions it depends who is there on the day!  

Bargain |Hunt Host
Tim Wonnacott

Nick Hall with his Blue Team

The BBC film crew

Junk Shop Stallholder, Louise Rogers
They spent a long time filming in here!

Going off to lunch now - see you later!

Kate Bateman with the Red Team
Sarah and Chris Owen

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Thursday, 16 January 2014


There is no end to the talent at Hungerford Arcade and manager, Alex Rogers is no exception.  He has written a wonderful article on old English coins which I hope you enjoy as much as I did.


As with all shops, coins are a big part of our lives here at Hungerford Arcade. We can handle hundreds in a day, sometimes taking them as payment, sometimes selling them to collectors and sometimes giving them away to our younger customers! Children who come into the Arcade to wander around with their parents are thrilled to be presented with an old English penny, halfpenny, farthing or even a sixpence to put into their treasure collection! Along with the coin there is a small leaflet explaining that you need 12 pence to a shilling and a shilling is a new 5p piece. But this doesn’t come close to a full explanation of the old monetary system that their parents and grandparents were so used to.  Since I was handing out so many of these coins, and being too young to have actually used them as money (I’m just approaching the ripe old age of 28) I decided to find out a little bit more about them.  So without going into too much detail, I am going to give a brief but hopefully interesting history of the origins of the pre-decimal system.   

As most of you will know, the old English monetary system was split into three basic groups: pounds, shillings and pence, with pence breaking down further into halfpence and farthings, (farthings were a quarter of a penny).  There were 12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound. Which means there had to be 240 pence in a pound! Pretty confusing for children these days!

I was always confused when I saw old price tags, maybe on an old record or a book of my Dad’s and it would say something like 2/6d. I understood that it meant 2 shillings and 6 pence, but until recently I didn’t know why a penny was indicated by a letter ‘d’.  The system, sometimes referred to as the L.S.D system, is older than you might think. The abbreviation comes from the Latin names of the equivalent coins that were used in the Roman Empire: libra, solidus and denarius, which we took and renamed pounds, shillings and pence. That is where the letter ‘d’ comes from and also where the pound sign (£) comes from. It is a decorative letter L with a crossbar or two to show that it is being used as a sign, not a letter. The shilling was denoted with a forward slash / which is just a letter ‘s’ in shorthand.  The denarius, derived from a word meaning “containing ten”, was a small silver coin equal to ten asses or small bronze coins. 12 denarii were equal to 1 Solidus, a gold coin, and from one Libra (pound-weight) of silver, you could cut 240 denarii.  This method of coinage was popular across Europe until the fall of the western Roman Empire in around 400 AD.

Reintroduced by Charlamagne in the 8th century the system stuck and was widely used throughout much of the world for hundreds of years and right up until 1971 in Great Britain.  For somebody as young as me, who has grown up on hundreds, tens and units, it is difficult to imagine having to add up prices quickly in my head while shopping using the old system, especially when there were so many different ways to express the amount of money. Do you remember what you could buy for a tanner? Or half a bar?  2 and 6 is half a crown, a shilling is a bob and 2 shillings is a florin or a 2 bob bit! 5 shillings is a crown and 20 shillings is a pound.  And to make it even more confusing a guinea is 21 shillings! The guinea coin was last struck in 1799 but horses are sometimes still sold in guineas. Auctioneers would often sell an item and receive guineas and the seller would then, in turn, receive pounds, leaving the remaining shillings as commission for the auction house.

Now, almost worthless, the old English copper coinage going back a hundred or more years is what we hand out to the children that come into the Arcade everyday in the hope that they will treasure it and maybe, look it up to find out the history of the coins they hold in their hands.
Alex Rogers

 Hungerford Arcade
With Compliments

Half crown, or 2 shillings and 6 pence (2/6),
About 12p

Florin, or 2 shillings
(2/-), equivalent to 10p

One shilling (1/-)
became 5p in 1972

Sixpence (6d)
Became 2 ½ p

Threepenny Bit (3d)
About 1 ½ p

An old penny (1d)
About ½ p

A ha’penny (1/2 d)
About a quarter of a new penny
                                                This is a copy of the slip that each child 
                                                 receives in the wallet with his/her coin

For news, articles and what's on see the latest copy of our monthly Newsletter at

Tuesday, 14 January 2014



Every day at the Arcade is different and you never know what exciting moment is going to occur, but more often than not, it just comes out of the blue!  Today, our manager, Alex Rogers had a phone call from BBC Radio Berkshire inviting him on to the Mike Read Show.  Alex did not know what to expect as he was not briefed.

Mike started off by asking Alex questions about Hungerford Arcade and how it is doing.  How it felt to win the BBC Homes and Antiques Best Antiques Centre Award in 2012 and various other questions.  Then to Alex's surprise, Mike started the Mike Read 20 Questions!!! You must listen to the show on BBCi Player  (1.00 pm to 3.00 pm) it is brilliant.  Alex recovered so wonderfully, you would never have known he was unprepared.

Alex and Mike Read on the
BBC Radio Berkshire Mike Read Show
broadcast Live from Hungerford Arcade
Alex dressed for the Hungerford
Victorian Extravaganza event in December

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Monday, 13 January 2014


23.06.24 - 04.01.2014

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of  our very dear friend, David Fuller on Friday, 4th January 2014. David loved Hungerford Arcade (wife Betty and daughter Sarah Jane are stallholders here).

We send our sincere condolences to David's wife Betty, daughter Sarah Jane and all the family Our thoughts are with them at this very sad time.

Adrian, Hazel, Staff and Stallholders

Wednesday, 8 January 2014



The Stallholders at Hungerford Arcade never cease to amaze me with the quality of quirky antiques and collectables they manage to find.  Here we have a very rare, twin spout teapot made by Rockingham, England c1835.  It has a wonderful raised acanthus leaf and flower design around the top of the pot which just shouts out quality!

The second of these beautiful teapots is owned by manager, Don Greenslade, it is believed to be Scottish but as yet, we cannot find any information relating to it.  If you know anything, please let me know.
Rockingham Twin Spout Teapot

Don Greenslade's Teapot believed to be Scottish

You can catch up on news and events in the latest edition of our Newsletter at  You will also find, in an earlier copy, an article on Teapots written by our wonderful Stuart Miller-Osborne



We sell many strange but wonderful things at Hungerford Arcade and the Pig Foster Mother is no exception.  Pigs can have very large litters and sometimes more than the mother pig can handle!  When there are too many piglets for the mother to feed and there is no other mother available to take on the piglets, the Pig Foster Mother comes into its own and takes on the vital task of feeding the babies.  It has been known for dogs and other animals to take a piglet into their own litters and treat it as if was one of their own pups!


Saturday, 4 January 2014


FROM 9.30 a.m.

Our dear Adam from Unit 50 will be holding his very popular vinyl record valuation day on Saturday, 25th January so do come along with your treasured collection(s) and find out their value.  Adam also buys vinyl if you wish to sell.

This event is totally free.  All we ask is for you to give £1 donation to our sponsored charity, Walking With The Wounded for which we will be extremely grateful.