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Like August’s Made in Scotland sale in Edinburgh, paintings were the most successful aspect of the auction on 26 September, followed by singular items of documentary interest. Where the Scottish sale had provincial silver to offer collectors, the Welsh sale could rely on its ceramic tradition, principally Nantgarw and Swansea porcelain. Away from these collectable areas, the sale was patchy.

Local private buyers were less interested in the furniture and works of art, and with reserves on the high side and the trade in selective mood, over a third of the sale went unsold.

By far the best furniture result concerned a 19th century pair of ebonised oak and bone inlaid occasional tables/screens which had been made by William Roberts, the porter of Ruthin Castle, in 1868. Each top had been inlaid with a bone picture of a Welsh historical house – Bodelwyddan Castle, the estate of Sir Hugh Williams, and Wynnstay, the neo-classical residence of Sir William Wynn destroyed by fire in 1858. More is known about the houses and their occupants than about William Roberts, although Charlecote Park, Warwickshire, has a similar pair of table-screens by him.

Roberts made the most of the material available to an unsponsored craftsman of servant class, staining the wood to look like ebony and therefore imparting an Anglo-Indian appearance to his work. The unique and decorative 2ft 81/2in high by 15in wide (82 x 38cm tables had survived in good condition considering the tendency of bone inlay to warp, crack and fall out. Estimated at £2000-3000, they went at £11,800 which was bid, it is believed, by an English dealer.

A number of English dealers were there for the furniture section but apart from the prize lot, the Welsh trade walked off with the better material – a late 18th century South Wales dresser and an early 19th century Welsh oak food cupboard.
The dresser had a three-shelf rack on a six-drawer base with shaped apron, turned legs and a potboard base. Measuring 4ft 10in wide by 6ft 9in high(1.49 x 2.06m) the dresser was in reasonably good condition and sold at £4400. The 6ft 5in high by 3ft 7in wide (1.96 x 1.09m) food cupboard with egg and tongue mouldings to the inset panels, brass handles and ivory escutcheons, sold at the lower estimat of £3000.

The market for oak dressers being strong at present, it was here that the higher prices were tendered in a furniture section where close to half of the lots failed to sell. An 18th century 6ft 2in wide (1.53m) dresser had an attractive base of two banks of three drawers flanking a central recessed cupboard door with Ionic pilasters, and it would have fetched more than its £4000 had it not been altered.

There was also a late 18th century South Wales oak dresser of straightforward appearance, the open three shelf rack above a five-drawer base and a potboard, 6ft 8in high by 4ft 7in wide(2.04m x 1.42) which made £3500.

The ceramics were highlighted by a 43-lot section of Nantgarw and Swansea porcelain. The two Regency period factories were short lived and their wares are therefore highly collectable, and not only in Wales.

Many of the lots had come from the London Bond Street offices, where auctioneer Fergus Gambon is a well-regarded specialist in this field, although the most expensive individual item had been sourced from a collector in North Wales.
This vendor had purchased the Swansea dessert plate (1815-17) from a Cardiff dealer 30 years ago, and its market freshness (and good condition) was instrumental in bringing a strong price from the trade.

So too was the quality and richness of the painted decoration which, say the auctioneers, was probably done by James Plant at the Sims workshop in London.

Measuring 8in (21cm) diameter, the plate was sold to a dealer, said to be acting on behalf of a private client, at £2900. From the same source, and bought by the same dealer, was a pair of Swansea dessert plates moulded with scrollwork and painted by William Pollard with a spray of flowers and fruits (including strawberries and pink rose) in a gilded border. Market freshness and fine condition were again key factors in the plates, each measuring 8in (20.5cm) diameter, selling at £3000.
Pick of the Nantgarw was a dessert plate with a moulded border and scattered fruit sprigs, measuring 81/2in (22cm) wide, which sold at £1750 .

Phillips, Newport, September 26
Number of lots offered: 910
Number of lots sold: 62 per cent
Sale total: £488,695
Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent