Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

This provincial sale encompassed almost every area of English ceramics with some quality Sèvres and Meissen thrown-in, and returning a 90 per cent sold rate in difficult times “indicated the overall strength of the market,” said Mark Law.

Even so, there were some sticky moments among the blue printed earthenware, late 18th century porcelain figures (mostly Derby and Bow) and also the low-value French faience and Victorian Staffordshire pottery.

One of the most striking aspects of the sale was the presence of overseas dealers: an Australian who bought several lots of 18th century porcelain, and a Japanese dealer new to the rooms who walked off with about 100 lots, including most of
the lower-value Royal Worcester.

Freak incidents such as this make market analysis more difficult, but there was no doubting the appeal of the top lot – a Chamberlain’s Worcester bough pot and cover of documentary interest, sold to a collector at £12,000.

The vendor, who was described as a dealer/collector, had apparently purchased the bough pot at Bonhams’ Honiton salerooms last November at £2700 – proving that it is still possible to find bargains in multimedia salerooms.

According to Mr Law, the auctioneers had missed the signature of Tom Baxter and the date 1801 to the panel of a young woman and two sheep in a wooded landscape.

Baxter was smitten with Nelson’s mistress Emma Hamilton during 1801-2 when he stayed with the pair at Merton Estate and this shepherdess was certainly her likeness. The Nelson connection augmented the value of the bough pot, which had a broken foot and missing nozzles. Standard examples in good condition with flower paintings usually make £2000-3000.

A few pieces of 18th century bleu celeste Sèvres consigned by the daughter of a deceased local collector provided the other main highlights.

The pair of Sèvres seaux-à-liquers and the pair of lobed oval sucriers and covers were expected to fetch £7000-9000 and £4000-6000, prospects that the market deemed optimistic, although Mark Law defended the estimates by saying they were “quality-led rather than vendor-led” and reflected the fact that the Sèvres had not been seen on the open market for 50 years.

Besides, the ormolu dragon mounts on the sucriers were of “exceptional quality”, said the auctioneer, though the later decoration of exotic birds and putti was a drawback. Measuring 111/2in (29cm) diameter, the sucriers sold to the London trade at £4200.

The seaux-à-liquers had been painted with flowers and fruits by Jean-Jacques Pierre and were dated 1768. Measuring 121/4in (31cm) wide, these ice buckets attracted £7200 from the London trade.

Elsewhere among the Continental porcelain, a 1780s pair of Meissen salts in the form of a young boy and girl seated between two baskets, 5in (13cm) high, were held to £1050 because of old restoration, while the ubiquitous Japanese dealer acquired a c.1740 plate in the Three Friends Kakiemon palette, 91/4in (23.5cm) wide, which was knocked down at £680 against another high estimate, £1000-1500.

Chief rarity among the 18th century English porcelain was a Derby triple pickle dish incised ’78 and painted in underglaze blue with flowers, leaves and insects in a cell panelled border.
One of only two dated examples recorded (the other made £1200 at Phillips sale of the Pinewood collection in October 2001) the dish made £1050.

Other scarcities included a Worcester spiral wall pocket in the Cornucopia Daisy pattern, preserved in excellent condition, which made £1900, a Caughley spiral moulded baluster jug in the Palace pattern, which was held to £500 because an area of the body had been restuck, while a Longton Hall flower pot in underglaze blue (not many of which have survived for obvious reasons) measuring 3in (7.5cm) high, took £1850.

Pottery notables were a Devon slipware money box, John Turner caneware mug and a Staffordshire saltglazed stoneware octagonal plate.

The money box, incised SWM and dated 1800, 4in (10cm) high, was estimated at £150-200, but sold at £1400 because it was dated and preserved in excellent condition (Devon slipware is prone to flaking).
The mug considered rare because the interior was painted with green flowers on a purple vermicelli ground (rather than the usual blue and white), attracted £600 from an Australian buyer.

The Staffordshire plate printed in four different colours with the fable of the fox and goat at the well, 81/2in (21.5cm) wide, was believed to be one of only three examples of Staffordshire saltglaze with colour printing, and therefore attracted a high price of £350.

Law Fine Art, Hungerford, January 28
Number of lots offered: 963
Lots sold: 90 per cent
Sale total: £180,000
Buyer’s premium: 15 per cent