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Moorcroft Boy – another bid for victory

18 January 2013Written by Roland Arkell

The fact that businessman Ken Manley chose to name his Scottish Grand National winning racehorse Moorcroft Boy provides a clue as to his favourite potter.

Even when a house move occasioned the sale of close to 100 pieces of Moorcroft pottery at Woolley & Wallis in 2011, his remaining collection still numbered 400 pieces and ranked high among the finest in the country.

If some of the 64 lots sold in 2011 ranked as routine pieces from across the James Macintyre, William and Walter Moorcroft period, then the ten Ken Manley lots offered in Salisbury a year later on November 28 were anything but.

Both in value and in rarity they represented the cream of the collection.

Back in May 2002, when Sotheby's sold the first part of the Albert E. Wade collection, a Macintyre Hesparian Ware jardinière and stand established a Moorcroft record when it sold (to Manley as it turned out) at £28,000.

Decorated with carp swimming among Art Nouveau waterweed in shades of blue on a pale blue ground, highlighted with pale red flambé, it is among the largest pieces to leave the Macintyre kilns and is thought to be unique. What would it bring this time around?

W&W specialist Michael Jeffery was able to pitch it at a realistic £10,000-15,000 - a level comfortably surpassed when it sold to a UK collector at £22,000.

Carp Design

Two examples of the celebrated 12in (31cm) high, double-gourd Carp design vase c.1914 were offered for sale.

Most of the handful of surviving examples, such as that which made $15,000 (£10,200) at Sotheby's New York in 2001 as part of the Harriman Judd collection, are decorated in green on a blue ground with three scallop shells to the neck.

Manley's vase in this colourway, with a small bruise to the top rim, sold at £13,000 (estimate £4000-6000).

But this select offering also included a Carp vase with a flambé glaze (and no scallop shells) similar to that sold by Bonhams in 2009 at £16,000.

Estimated at £8000-12,000, the Manley vase sold to a UK collector at £22,000 - a record for a Moorcroft vase to sit comfortably alongside the record for Martin Brothers seen earlier in the sale (the £50,000 taken for the superb grotesque jar).

Butterfly Decoration

Another rare vase from the Macintyre period, and among eight of the ten Manley lots to find a buyer, was an 8in (20cm) high, slender, baluster-form example decorated with four butterflies to the shoulder and glazed in lustre colours over a cream and orange ground.

Moorcroft's signature was incised to the rim, rather than painted to the base as is normal.

Ken Manley had acquired it in November 2002 at the second tranche of the Wade sale for £1900. At Salisbury it doubled hopes, selling at £4000.

Tinworth Mice

Woolley & Wallis have sold many of George Tinworth's wonderful frog and mouse groups across the years but a rarity was School Board, a 3½in (9cm) high menu holder modelled as two young mice learning the alphabet, their teacher pointing to the letters on a board.

In March 2011, when Tennants of Leyburn sold a veritable plague of Tinworth mice, one of these made £4200.

The W&W offering performed much the same, overcoming minor condition problems of some small chips to an ear and the base to bring £4000 (estimate £1000-1500).

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