On Sunday 8 July 2018 the BBC descended on The Piece Hall in Halifax to film an exciting episode of The Antiques Roadshow. Since Holdsworth House dates from 1633 and is filled with antiques and curiosities, we knew we’d be in with a good chance of turning up with something of interest.
THE WITCH’S CUPBOARD
With plenty to choose from within the halls of our Jacobean manor, it was (inconveniently!) the largest and heaviest item, that caught the eye of the Roadshow antique experts. Since 1963 the Holdsworth House Hotel witch’s cupboard doors have hung on the wall in the restaurant. They’re a familiar sight to regular diners, and nicknamed The Witch’s Cupboards by The Beatles’ John Lennon, when he stayed here on his birthday in 1964.
The large doors, which are oak, date from the 17 century and were acquired by the Pearson family (owners of Holdsworth House) from an antique dealer in Bakewell around 1962. The doors weren’t on display for sale in the dealers, they were in fact rescued after eagle-eyed Rita Pearson spotted them being used as a builder’s cement-mixing board!
THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW MYSTERY REVEALED
Measuring over a metre tall, and with curious masonic symbols (or so we thought), the doors were carefully taken down off the wall and shipped to The Piece Hall for the day of filming. One of the Pearson’s daughters, Gail – who now co-owns Holdsworth House with her sister Kim, was interviewed by expert Lisa Lloyd to provide more information about the doors’ background.
We’re delighted that Lisa said they were one of the most interesting items she’d seen all year. She certainly helped us unravel the story of the doors’ use and the meaning of their symbols.
The cloaked hand holding a staff or poker, the various flaming cauldrons and the magic square are all symbols of an alcehmist’s laboratory – a scientific vocation practised by many of the 17 century, including Sir Isaac Newton. Lisa believes the doors orginate from the Continent and she believed at an auction would fetch £5000 – £8000.
AS SEEN ON TV
It’s not the first time these humble cupboard doors have appeared on the small screen. They were captured during filming of the BBC’s comedy drama Last Tango in Halifax (episode 5, series two) when filming took place in the restaurant for a number of scenes.
VISIT AND FIND OUT MORE
The expert considered the doors to be in very good condition for their age. They were carefully put back in their usual spot in the restaurant the day after the Antique’s Roadshow filming. Be sure to have a closer look next time you’re at the hotel.