Hastings-born Antiques Roadshow presenter recalls his Sussex schooldays

Hastings-born jewellery specialist, historian, writer and BBC Antiques Roadshow presenter Geoffrey Munn recalls his Sussex schooldays in his new memoir.
Geoffrey Munn (contributed pic)Geoffrey Munn (contributed pic)
Geoffrey Munn (contributed pic)

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.

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“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.”