Enjoy an art and antiques break at Spread Eagle Hotel, Midhurst

Our love of antiques is as old as the hills.

Exterior of The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa.
Exterior of The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa.

Television caught on to this national obsession in its early days with series like Going For A Song.

Since then, there has been every type and variety of programmes crafted - ranging from the prime time Antiques Roadshow to a host of shows dealing with the valuation and sale of people’s family heirlooms.

The best of these is Flog It which tends to deal with everyday antiques that many might have tucked in a cupboard gathering dust and which can be sold at auction to fund today’s needs.

Spa at The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa.

What makes Flog It exceptional TV - its been running since 2002 and is into its 13th series - is the sheer expert enthusiasm of its host Paul Martin, who has notched up a marathon 1,000 episodes.

Paul not only knows his antiques but he exudes a genuine passion for the subject.

He said: “Yes, I do love Flog It because you never know what you’re going to see. It’s that simple really. Antiques reveal a wonderful picture of social history and a window into the past. You can always learn something.”

He’s a great advocate of people buying a piece of antique furniture with all the bruises and scratches of its history rather than splashing out on a piece of modern reproduction which will cost twice the price and never hold its value.

And he’s an avid supporter of the antiques trade and the experts running shops like those in Petworth.

His love of antiques came from his uncle.

“He was an antiques dealer and I was fascinated by his quirkiness. He was a lifelong bachelor and he had a house that was full of what my mum called junk. But it was full of curiosities - like a steering wheel from a Zeplin balloon - and I love curios.”

Of all the great artists he carries a torch for one in particular, JMW Turner, and could not resist doing something special to mark a major Turner exhibition at Petworth House.

“I love Turner, late Turner. I love the impressionistic, almost abstract stuff of an artist that can capture light, sun, rain, wind, steam and fog.

He came to Sussex a lot. He painted about 500 images of Sussex. The seascapes are unbelievable.”

From this inspiration and his skill at encouraging public appreciation of antiques, a unique project was born.

Midhurst’s historic Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa - itself something of an antique - has launched a series of art and antiques breaks for 2015, allowing guests to discover nearby Petworth House with Martin.

The breaks will take place on February 23, April 13 and May 18 starting from £149.50 per person based on two people sharing a room at The Spread Eagle Hotel.

During the run of the Turner exhibition, Paul will guide guests through the house and areas normally off-limits – including underground tunnels, ice houses and bedrooms – and reveal the secrets of the North Gallery without the crowds.

They will then head into Petworth to discover the treasure troves of its antiques shops – and seek out their own gems with Paul’s knowledge on hand.

The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa is one of the oldest coaching inns in England, dating back to the 15th century with an impressive guest list including Queen Elizabeth I. Every bedroom is different, each with open fires and its own intriguing antiques and treasures.

Just fifteen minutes from The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa, Petworth House is home to the National Trust’s finest collection of 20 JMW Turner paintings. Mr Turner – An Exhibition will open on 10 January – 11 March 2015, uniting the current collection with 30 of his most notable works and rarely-seen portraits of the artist. Completing the exhibition will be props and costumes from the recently released film Mr Turner - some scenes were filmed at Petworth - and the works created by the actor Timothy Spall during his two years of training for the role of JMW Turner.