Hastings-born Antiques Roadshow presenter recalls his Sussex schooldays
A Touch of Gold – The Reminiscences of Geoffrey Munn is published by ACC Art Books at £25.
Geoffrey, aged 70, who lives in London and Southwold, said: “I was persuaded to write my autobiography because I have been lucky enough to lead a fascinating life loaded with interest and eccentricity. I was born in Hastings but was brought up in a hamlet called Small Dole which is between Henfield and Steyning where my parents had a smallholding selling eggs.
“I went to both Shoreham and Steyning Grammar Schools. We lived a very rural life surrounded by woods and fields and kept all manner of pets and orphaned wild animals including owls and fox cubs. Foxes were a very rare sight in the 1960s and news reached the West Sussex Gazette who sent a photographer and the results were amazing. Within days the BBC got wind of the story and later the scent smelly foxes themselves! And my brother Roger and I were featured with Johnny Morris on Animal Magic. It was fame in four minutes flat! But it did anticipate a much more enduring BBC career with the Antiques Roadshow where I have been the jewellery specialist for 33 years.
“My career as a presenter ran parallel to a daunting new day job at the famous court jewellers Wartski in London which began when I was just 19. I was almost immediately introduced to the majority of the British Royal Family as well as stars of stage and screen including Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. A trail of glitterati continued throughout my career and some of the most glittering of all were Elton John, Joan Rivers, Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry. That was a far and bewildering cry from West Sussex but the memory of my magical, bosky upbringing was always with me.
“In Steyning I had a curious connection with the now famous LBGTQ painter Gluck who lived and painted in the Chantry House when I was having a miserable time as a boarder, literally over the road, in the 17th century Grammar School. She cut a smart masculine dash with a barbers’ short back and sides striding along in plus fours, tweed jacket, white shirt and tie and brogue shoes. Gluck and I had the same doctor in Bramber whose name was George Dingemans; I was eight and she in her 80s. Gluck’s Anglo-Jewish family, the Glucksteins, were luminously wealthy and were customers at Wartski where they bought a tiny enamelled gold model of a sedan chair by Faberge, complete with rock crystal windows. It must be worth close to a million pounds today! Much later in life I bought one of Gluck’s flowers studies that she painted in 1966, only yards away from where I sat at school. The painting completed a circle when I lent it to Brighton Museum for their exhibition Gluck: Art and Identity in 1918.
“In the early 60’s I was close to a tragic suicide in Shoreham and it left a mark on me and so I decided to involve myself with Samaritans, not so much as a volunteer but a fund raiser. I ran the London Marathon for Samaritans in 2009 when I was 57! I had wonderful sponsorship from every level even including Queen Camilla and Vivienne Westwood.
"The total proceeds were £80,000 and over the years I have raised more than half a million for a number of different charities.
"For my work in that regard I was awarded an OBE in 2012.”