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The latest consignment comprised more than half of the April sale at the Bath Auction Rooms.

Overall, 65 per cent of the sale got away but 73 per cent of the Cliff pieces sold - "on a par with the Christie's sale earlier this year", said auctioneer David Hare. The £50,000 bid on Cliff items was a house record.

True, the market highs of five to ten years ago, when American collectors were buying in strength, is a thing of the past. But Mr Hare believes there is underlying strength in the mid-range market, and certainly the occasional rarity can lift the overall performance.

An example at this sale came in the form of a Bizarre single-handled lotus jug decorated in the Tennis pattern that originated in 1931. Only two or three lotus jugs in this stylish design are known. This 111/2in (29.5cm) high example in excellent condition sold to a West Midlands collector at £7200 against an estimate of £2500-3000, setting a house record price for a single Clarice Cliff piece.

Two tea sets easily outstripped their moderate estimates. A Sungleam Crocus Bizarre Bonjour set, comprising teapot and cover, milk jug, sugar basin, sandwich plate and four conical trios, which came from a big private consignment of 50-odd lots, sold to a collector at £1250 (estimate £300-500).

The other tea set, dating from 1929, was an Original Bizarre tea-for-two, painted in iron red, yellow and blue within green outlines in a geometric pattern, for which a collector bid £720.

It included an Athens teapot and cover, milk jug, sugar basin, side plate and two globe cups and saucers. One of the cups carried the Bizarre mark, while the others were stamped with the Wilkinson factory mark indicating the early origins of the set.

"A good example of how the market grows in certain areas despite the general downshift," said David Hare, was a handsome Gibraltar pattern Fantasque Bizarre daffodil bowl, shape 475.

The Fantasque range was expensive to produce and originally retailed at higher prices than the Bizarre range. The 121/2in (32cm) diameter bowl was sold by Christie's about ten years ago at £400, but the desirability of the pattern, good condition and relative freshness to market after a decade in private ownership, garnered a bid of £1400, just shy of the auctioneers' confident top estimate.

While there were no stars among the other decorative arts, a very attractive 14in (35.5cm) tall Lalique Six Figurines carafe lived up to expectations when it sold at £2000.

Other glass offerings included a 17-lot selection of Whitefriars glass, of which 13 pieces sold.

"There are jitters that Whitefriars has seen its day," said Mr. Hare, "but the more unusual colours like Meadow Green and Indigo do well."

A Drunken Bricklayer Indigo vase designed by Geoffrey Baxter, number 9672, 13in (33cm) high, made a reasonable if unexceptional £580.

The conservative estimate of £300-500 encouraged bidding, while the much higher reserve and consequent estimate of £600-800 requested by a different vendor for the same vase in Tangerine led to the latter being left unsold.

The sale was rounded off by an 18-lot selection of Troika pottery from both the St Ives and Newlyn periods.

Prices for these Cornish wares shot up a couple of years ago when younger consumers were attracted by their contemporary style, but bidding has settled down again into a less unpredictable pattern.

All but four pieces got away, with the best bids coming on the final two lots - a mid-estimate £820 each for a 13in (33cm) high Wheel vase by Alison Brigden and a daintier 8in (20.5cm) high Globe vase by Louise Jinks.

he buyer's premium was 15%