When Leicestershire retiree Jill Cousins tuned in to watch a March episode of the Antiques Roadshow, she took rather more notice than usual in the slot called Most Seen and Most Wanted.
In this particular programme Geoffrey Munn, jewellery expert and
managing director at Wartski, held up a series of watercolour
sketches by William Burges (1827-1881) for brooches which he had
been searching for more than 20 years. Mrs Cousins thought she had
In the jewellery box on her dressing table she unearthed a white
and gilt metal brooch, set with a heart-shaped garnet and
turquoises fashioned as forget-me-nots. It appeared to match
precisely one of the sketches (which are held at the Victoria and
Albert Museum in London) that Mr Munn had shown on the
She had inherited the brooch from her mother, who in turn had
been willed it by a primary school teacher. The consensus within
the family was that it was less than beautiful and Mrs Cousins, 67,
a retired gate maker from Great Bowden, Leicestershire, was
considering asking £10 for it at a local market later in the
Armed with new information and the prospect of a windfall (the
potential valuation had been £10,000) she contacted her local
saleroom, Gildings of Market Harborough, who were quick to confirm
its links to the most celebrated of the Victorian art-architects.
Mark Gilding quickly found a place for it in his safe where it has
remained - save its appearance on another episode of the
Roadshow filmed in Birmingham when Mr Munn was made aware
of the discovery.
He described his shock at seeing the brooch in typically purple
prose as "my Tutankhamun experience".
"The brooch is incredibly rare because Burges is arguably the
most singular and gifted architect and designer of the 19th century
and he did not make much jewellery," said Mr Munn. "Here, we have a
tiny expression of his extraordinary genius distilled down into
something you can hold in your hand. It is without doubt one of the
most important art historical objects I have ever seen on the
Closer study of the 1¾in (4.4cm) brooch revealed it to be
engraved with the gothic initials JPMS. Coupled with the
knowledge that the watercolour sketch is inscribed Seddon,
it is probable the brooch was made to mark the wedding of the
architect John Pollard to Margaret Seddon in 1864. John Pollard
Seddon (1827-1906), who moved in the circle of the Pre-Raphaelites,
was the business partner of John Prichard of Llandaff, a friend of
The brooch is to be sold by Gildings on August 2 with an
estimate available on request.
By Roland Arkell
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