Mention rare animals to a Lowestoft resident and you are likely to be directed to Suffolk’s only wildlife park on the outskirts of town, where African lions and ring-tailed lemurs roam the saltmarshes.
This pug dog from the local porcelain factory, however, qualifies as an endangered species in its own right. There are only three of the little soft paste animals left in existence, according to auctioneer Russell Sprake, who offered the two-inch canine at a biannual sale of Lowestoft porcelain in the town on May 10.
The factory was founded by Obed Aldred in 1757 and made good use of the local Gunton clay to produce some outstanding commissions for christenings and weddings until the business was shut down in 1802.
These documentary pieces, dated and inscribed for their patrons, are generally the most sought-after examples of Lowestoft, but increasingly high prices have been paid in recent years for these whimiscal animals, which look like something that the Wade factory might have produced in the 18th century. Because they are unmarked and unsophisticated, Lowestoft animals are prime candidates for the “car boot sale find of a lifetime”, which offers slightly better odds than winning the national Lotto, but the invitation-only crowd of 150 mostly local bidders who crammed into Mr Sprake’s salerooms had to pay the market price.
In the heyday of the Lowestoft factory, Mr Aldred paid his workers a weekly wage of 25 shillings (£1.25) and a cup and saucer with gilded bands cost 6d (2p). This pug dog, in mint condition from a local deceased estate, was chased by collectors to £7400 (plus 10 per cent buyer’s premium) This is believed to be a record price at auction for a Lowestoft animal.
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