It was at Frinton-on-Sea Golf Club that James Grinter, managing director at Reeman Dansie of Colchester, first learned of the Douglas Shepherd collection of Arts and Crafts silver.
At the end of a routine valuation evening
he was approached by a lady who had brought along a Tiffany &
Co. spot-hammered water jug in the manner of Edward Moore. Would he
like to see the rest of her father's collection?
He had hoped for a dozen pieces. Instead,
laid out on the kitchen table in a large Edwardian house were more
than 100 objects recently removed from a bank vault where they had
been for over 40 years.
Douglas Shepherd, it emerged, was a
designer, architect and member of the Art Workers Guild who worked
for the brewery Ind Coope.
Charged with designing and decorating
public houses as their head architect in the 1970s, he had been
heavily influenced by the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement, Art
Nouveau and the work of Charles Robert Ashbee in particular.
He had collected in the 1950s (when Arts
and Crafts was at its commercial nadir) through the '60s (when
interest was again piqued) and into the 1970s (when the market
began to gain the momentum it sustains today).
"I had to pinch myself" said Mr
The 87 lots offered at the Severalls
Business Park, Colchester on February 12 amounted to a cross
section of Arts and Crafts silver in its many guises.
Alongside pieces by Omar Ramsden, Robert
Ashbee and Archibald Knox were related wares by the Keswick School,
Charles Boynton, Edward Moore at Tiffany and wares in the Arts and
Crafts and Art Nouveau idiom by major Birmingham and London firms
such as James Dixon, William Hutton and the Goldsmiths &
There were two outstanding pieces.
Most highly rated was the Cymric
silver, enamel and blister pearl biscuit box by Liberty & Co,
after a design by Archibald Knox. It is one of only two known -
the other in the Victoria & Albert Museum. It sold to a UK
private collector on the telephone at £26,000, well above the
pre-sale estimate of £4000-5000.
There was more in the way of market
precedent for a 29oz silver and enamel tazza or fruit stand made by
the Guild of Handicrafts Ltd (London 1904) possibly to a design by
Another tazza of this form, again set to a
pieced octagonal stem with rectangular foliate enamel panels, was
sold by Christie's South Kensington in 1998 for £5750 but I recall
another pictured on the front page of the ATG a decade or so ago
sold for something in the region of £30,000. Sadly another Guild
tazza was stolen as part of the raid on the Court Barn Museum in
Chipping Campden in November 2011.
The example in Colchester, decorated with
alternating panels of flowers to a cobalt ground, was estimated at
£2000-3000 but, after commissions, bidding in the room began at
£6300. Underbid by the internet, it sold at £20,500. The successful
private buyer was understood to be a member of the Art Workers
Charles Robert Ashbee and the Guild of
Handicrafts (20 lots) and Archibald Knox and Liberty (23 lots)
formed the core of the collection.
In terms of market-freshness it does not
get much better than this but not everything was in the best
condition. Some pieces were a little tired (several of the Cymric
designs had been well polished) while one or two of the Guild of
Handicrafts pieces had repairs. As always, regardless of
provenance, it was necessary to take each piece on its own
Universally admired was a 3½in (9cm) high
Guild of Handicrafts mug (London 1904) chased with a band of
swimming fish, set with four moss agates and applied with a dolphin
scroll handle. Many would have liked to buy it at its estimate of
£500-800, but bidding persisted to £3700 - an impressive sum for a
diminutive 6oz piece.
Above: Guild of Handicrafts mug with
fish decoration - £3700 at Reeman Dansie.
But in general, while 'there to be sold'
estimates were regularly bettered, in the context of the market,
prices were steady rather than spectacular - something underlined
by the predictable response to those items that make saleroom
appearances with more regularity.
Two versions of the Ashbee silver plated
muffin dish and cover with a wirework and chrysoprase finial sold
at £480 and £420 apiece while a pair of Ashbee (London 1906)
porringer cups with loop handles, again set with a cabochon
chrysoprase, sold at a reasonable £3700 (estimate £2000-3000). They
were bought by London dealer Jan Van Den Bosch who said the later
engraved presentation inscriptions will probably be removed.
The Grays-based specialist was also
pleased to buy two white metal and enamel menu holders, one
decorated with a fox sold at £270, the other with a cockerel's head
sold at £560. They are unmarked but thought to be Guild of
Above: two silver and enamel menu
holders sold for £270 (left) and £560 (right) at Reeman
Van Den Bosch also took a pair of 7in
(18cm quasi-medieval candlesticks by Ramsden and Carr (London 1906)
at £5900 (estimate £2000-3000). The pick of 14 Ramsden lots, they
were engraved to scroll bands with the legends As he builds so
will his light shine and A Builder's Building is his
Above: the pair of trumpet form silver
candlesticks, Ramsden and Carr (London 1906), 7in (18cm) - £5900 at
From a different vendor (doubtless keen to
sell in a sale guaranteed to have the right buyers in attendance)
was one of Ashbee's best known pieces, a silver mounted decanter
with sweeping sinuous handle and chrysoprase set finial marked for
Guild of Handicrafts, London 1903. A key element of this design is
the green glass ovoid form body produced by James Powell & Sons
of Whitefriars but here it was broken (a replacement had been blown
and was sold with the lot). This kept expectations down to a
realistic £2500-3500 and it attracted plenty of competition before
it sold to an online buyer at £8000 - a strong price given the
And the 30oz Tiffany jug in the manner of
Moore that had begun this auction odyssey? Estimated at £3000-4000,
it was one of just two items that failed to sell - although it was
an aftersale at £2000.
The Shepherd collection contributed
£125,000 to a house record sale total of £555,000 - and accounted
for a good number of the 1000-plus bidders who registered to bid
either in Colchester or online.
The buyer's premium was 17.5%.