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Silsoe Odours at the Antiques Roadshow

Silsoe Odours at the Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow - Victoria & Hillary

Article updated 12th March 2019.

The excitable amongst you may remember our exploits last summer, when the Antiques Roadshow came to visit our small part of Bedfordshire. We tried (and failed) to interest them in our vintage olfactometer. To their shame they weren’t fussed about the history of testing odour samples! They did, however, get excited about our Project Manager Victoria’s contribution. She featured on the BBC1 show on Sunday 10th March 2019.

If you missed it live, you can see what happened and get to know Victoria a bit better by catching up on the iPlayer. She’s featured at 32 minutes, 34 seconds. The eagle-eyed amongst you may also spot James here and there too. 

Watch Episode Here

In the meantime, read on to find out about our day with the Antiques Roadshow experts… 

July 2018

Today has been very eventful here at Silsoe Odours! Our odour lab is based in the flagship English Heritage site in Bedfordshire, Wrest Park. We often share our workspace with weddings, festivals and the odd film crew. Today, we’ve seen around 5,000 members of the public, all here to see meet Antiques Roadshow experts. So to join in the fun, we dug out our very own vintage Olfactometer – the device we use for testing odour samples. Victoria and Nalisha also brought along their own personal heirlooms. Here’s what happened…

Antiques Roadshow - will they like our machine for odour testing samples?

The view of the action from Silsoe Odours

Queueing At The Antiques Roadshow

We thought it would be a good idea to challenge the marvellous British summer. Cue us standing in a queue for more nearly four hours in the early afternoon sun. Yes, there was sunburn. But also an abundance of new aquaintances, great conversation, good humour and a general acceptance of popping in and out from time to time. A queue rivalled in British etiquette only by Wimbledon!

The Antiques Roadshow Queue

Newbie Queuebies – in denial at the wait ahead

The charm of a vintage olfactometer is apparently confined to the scientific community, and didn’t make the TV grade. But Victoria’s Spinning Jenny was a different matter. It had staff literally running around in excitement, in a quest to find the relevant expert.

We’re VIPs Now

Odour testing samples at Silsoe Odours lab

Quick pit-stop to take a photo of the odour lab from the action side. They’re still busy testing odour samples in there by the way!

James and Victoria posing between the crowds and the VIP area.

Identified as a future TV star, Victoria (with the rest of us in tow!) was directed to the pre-production waiting area. A cool room, tea and ginger biscuits. Perfect! And a make-up artist for our A-lister, of course.

Lights, Camera, Action!

I’m sure you’ll agree the photos speak for themselves – we had a great day. As you’ll see on the show, Victoria is a natural on camera. Here she is with her new best pal Hilary Kay. A thoroughly lovely lady!

The antique in question is a 200 year old bone carving. It’s a ‘Spinning Jenny’ toy, carved in Suffolk by a French prisoner-of-war during the Napoleonic war. We’ll let you find out what Hilary thought when you watch the episode for yourself.

Antiques Roadshow - sound check

Sound check



Antiques Roadshow - Victoria & Hillary

Victoria on camera with Antiques Roadshow expert Hilary Kay

Victoria & Hillary

Victoria and Hilary’s close up

Spinning Jenny

Taking a close look at the Spinning Jenny

What Was That About An Olfactometer?

olfatometer for odour testing samples

The olfactometer in use today

The olfactometer is a specialist laboratory instrument which we use to test odour samples. We have a shiny modern one today (and a new one going in the week this airs, funnily enough). But back in the day things were a bit different.

Here’s our late 1970s version. It came from Germany and still has its original operating instructions and notes from 1985. According to our Director, Robert Sneath, it didn’t work – maybe that’s why the TV experts weren’t interested! 

Odour Testing Samples - 1970s olfactometer

The old days!

Olfactometer blueprints (for testing odour samples)

Olfactometer instructions

Olfactometer - testing odour samples in 1985

There’s More!

After all that, there was still more to come. In all the excitement over her Spinning Jenny, Victoria’s other treasure was nearly forgotten! Our last hurrah at the Antiques Roadshow involved running across Wrest Park trailing behing Hilary, in search of David Battie. He tells Victoria she’s got a stag antler page turner from Japan. 

Not your average Thursday at Silsoe Odours, but one we certainly won’t forget for a while. 

David Battie and page turner

David Battie appraising Victoria’s page turner

Leading lady

Our leading lady

Hilary Kay - Silsoe Odours team

Hilary Kay and the Silsoe Odours team

So finally, if you’d like to know more about our exploits today, or you’d like to talk about testing odour samples, get in touch.

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