‘Bargain Hunt’ star unearths war treasure while filming Aussie antiques show

Tim Wonnacott has shot to fame thanks to his antiques expertise. Source: Getty.

He shot to fame on TV show Bargain Hunt, as well as making appearances on Antiques Roadshow. Now, popular presenter Tim Wonnacott is bringing his expertise to Australia to uncover some hidden treasures.

In a new TV show to rival Antiques Roadshow, the 64-year-old will meet enthusiasts from across the country to value some timeless treasures and uncover ancient secrets in south Australia’s oldest properties. The series, named Antiques Walkabout, has already filmed its pilot episode, and there’s hope it could become a national and even an international hit.

In fact, just days into filming last year, the team unearthed a hidden war treasure, kept safe by an Aussie family for decades, who were completely unaware of its value.

Remembering the exciting moment, Tim told Starts at 60: “A lovely couple turned up with a bugle. I unwrapped it and it turned out to be a bugle that had been at the Dardanelles on the 25th April 1915, and was a survivor of the Dardanelles Campaign.

“If ever there is an object in Australia that gets your emotional senses sharpened, it’s anything connected to the Dardanelles.

“The bugle was found by Private Rogers when he landed on the beach that fateful morning and with his bayonet he scratched on it the words ‘Found 25th April 1915 – Gallipoli’.

“These are like the crown jewels when important objects appear. That will form part of the program.”

Tim has teamed up with the man behind the Adelaide Antique Fair, Gregory Bickford, who revealed his excitement for the upcoming project too.

“The pilot is now made and we’re showing it to people to reveal what we’ve made. It’s exciting because it’s tracing our cultural history and story through the story of antiques,” he said, before insisting it’s “different to Antiques Roadshow.”

That was reiterated by Tim himself, who added: “It’s something I’ve had on my mind for more than three or four years. I’ve visited south Australia quite a lot and I’ve been very much impressed by, not only what a nice place it is, but also how people are interested in the history of the state and the objects and collections here. It’s the ideal situation.”

Speaking about the show, Tim said it wouldn’t be the same as Antiques Roadshow, but a “completely new show”. However, he added: “It will have an element of valuing objects.”

The team will research the area in depth, before visiting historical areas and homes where they hope to find precious artefacts they can go on to value.

So far, they’re planning 12 episodes in the first series. The pair began working on it last year, and created the pilot version during three days of filming at the fair.

They presented the pilot show and their findings at an Adelaide Town Hall meeting recently, with politicians and leaders in attendance.

“We showed it [the bugle] at the presentation at the town hall, and you could see the goose bumps on everyone. There are those amazing things that you can discover and they tell our story, our history and our culture, and what Australia is all about,” Gregory added.

The team are now working to value it.

After hearing about the work, the Lord Mayor of Adelaide Martin Haese told Starts at 60: “Over five million Australians have enjoyed watching Tim Wonnacott on Bargain Hunt and what is very exciting is that there is a real opportunity for the production of a South Australian version of this program called Antiques Walkabout. Hosted by Tim, this program would be screened locally, nationally and possibly internationally.

“Last week, I was pleased to host Tim and Helen Wonnacott at Adelaide Town Hall, along with many metro and regional mayors, corporate leaders and government enthusiasts. This provided the opportunity for leaders in all South Australian council areas to consider their support for and involvement in commissioning a South Australian series.”

Tim also found a treasured possession when he met the Lord Mayor himself. It turns out his gold chain is valued for more than $1million, and it’s the only solid gold chain in Australia’s councils.

On top of that, it was made by a silver and goldsmith immigrant from Germany who had set up shop there in the 1860s, and used gold from Australia itself along “with his bare hands”.

The team are now on the search for sponsors to get the TV show off the ground as soon as possible.

“We see a south Australian-made program, that’s not like a standard food or travel program, but I want to make it here because it’s the perfect place for it. We’ll then move from there,” Tim said.

“It’s like peeling an onion, there’s lots of different layers and each place will have different layers for us to explore.”

Are you a fan of Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow? Will you tune in to watch this latest series?

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