PERHAPS the rarest of all Beswick’s ouput is the Spirit of Whitfield.
The Beswick horse, modelled after a pit pony called Kruger who
retired from the Chatterley Whitfield colliery in 1931, set the
auction record for Beswick when an example fetched £9500 at Bonhams
Bond Street in 2003.
Spirit of Whitfield was never allocated a shape number, but
Beswick studio's chief designer, Graham Tongue, is known to have
made four models commemorating a royal visit to the colliery in
1987. The original was presented to the Princess Royal, a second
fetching £2750 in a 1994 auction and the third horse sold at
Bonhams in 2003.
An elderly Staffordshire private vendor consigned a fourth Spirit
of Whitfield to Peter Wilson's Cheshire sale. Given the 91/2in
(24cm) high horse's auction track record, and the massive private
demand for unusual pieces of Beswick, it was no surprise when it
stole the limelight.
However, Peter Wilson specialist Chris Large said there was trade
speculation as to whether their Spirit of Whitfield was, in fact,
the fourth example or a possible unrecorded fifth model.
"Whenever the Beswick factory made a limited edition, they always
made extra examples," he explained. "For example, they would keep a
display piece and they would probably have made extra models in
case one was dropped."
Whether or not as a result of such speculation, buyers were
reticent about leaving bids - by the morning of the auction only
one commission bid had been left and only one telephone line
"Just because one model made nearly £10,000 does not mean that
another example is going to make the same money," said Mr
In the event, three or four serious private buyers turned up in
person to contest the figure in the room. It was knocked down to
one of them at £8500 - the third highest auction price for a piece
The spiralling of Beswick prices has actually posed a problem for
some owners. Mr Large says an increasing number of elderly vendors
are now dispersing their collections because of the security
concern they now pose.
There was also interest at Nantwich in the 26-lot Royal Doulton
section which fielded only two casualties. A Royal Doulton Clark
Gable character jug, D6709, consigned together with 20 or so other
Doulton and Beswick figures from the same source as Spirit of
Whitfield, took one of the highest bids at £1750.
"Character jugs have been making noticeably more money," said Mr
Large. "This one sold to a collector." Just a fortnight later,
another example of this rare jug from the Celebrity Series was sold
at Potteries Specialist Auctions for £2050.
Earlier material in the sale's strong ceramics section included
two pre-1760 English blue and white porcelain scallop shell pickle
The first was a 3in (8cm) long dish dating to c.1750 and
attributed to either Lunds Bristol or Worcester.
It was painted with a stylised Long Eliza and a diaper pattern
border and, despite a crack to the body, took £1300 from a
The second entry, from a different private vendor, was a Limehouse
dish dating to c.1746-48 depicting a blurred Chinese vase.
A private buyer secured it at £1450.
Art Deco figures by Lenci have been strong of late. From the same
source as the Lunds pickle dish came a colourful Lenci figure of a
languid young lady seated on a lidded box.
Although the box was damaged and the lady missing two fingers, the
9in (23cm) high figure took £2500. The ceramics section also
included two turn-of-last-century Minton plaques by J.E. Dean which
took multiple estimates of £1600 and £3050 - the reason being their
subject of cockerels and the determined private bidder being a
breeder of the fowls.
Elsewhere, while there was little change in demand for
shipping-style brown furniture, some healthy prices were realised
for quality reproduction pieces.
A Chippendale style mahogany extending D-end dining table with a
matching set of ten dining chairs found a buyer at £5200.
Buyers were not deterred by the later additions to two mahogany
tall boys, possibly Irish, which nevertheless looked the
Peter Wilson specialist Andrew Turner reckoned their backboards
and feet were new and that the fronts had been polished, although
the drawers and carcasses were 18th century.
Given the selectivity of the furniture market, Mr Turner felt
winning bids of £2100 and £1500 represented "quite extraordinary