Polito’s Menagerie Staffordshire group
Polito’s Menagerie table-base figure group – £6350 at Franklin Browns.

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1. Polito’s Menagerie Staffordshire group – £6350

The sale at Franklin Browns in Edinburgh on December 12 included one of the most ambitious and most desirable of all early 19th century Staffordshire figure groups – the Polito’s Menagerie (pictured above).

It was not in good condition (two figures were missing along with elements of the bocage) but it went way above the estimate of just £100-200 to bring £6350.

This 13in (34cm) wide figure group dates from c.1830-35 at a time when menageries, popular in England from the late 18th century, had begun to evolve into what we now know as a circus. Stephen Polito owned a celebrated travelling menagerie described in newspaper adverts as a '...grand and pleasing assemblage of most rare and beautiful living beasts, from the remotest parts of the known world...'. His family continued to tour animals throughout the 1820s and 1830s although, tragically the exhibit was lost at sea en route to Ireland in 1835.

A number of different versions of Polito’s Menagerie exist of which this one – sometimes associated with the Burslem potter Obadiah Sherratt – is among the most elaborate. By coincidence, a version of the same group in better condition sold for £18,000 at Bonhams on December 15.

Acquired from Jonathan Horne in 2004, it formed part of the collection of Chicago pottery enthusiasts James and Ruth ‘Timmey’ Challenger and as such import VAT of 5% plus the usual fees was due on the hammer price.

2. George II silver salver – £4200

George II Newcastle silver salver

George II Newcastle silver salver is marked for William Beilby and Jonathan Bainbridge – £4200 at Anderson & Garland.

The name William Beilby (1740-1819) is typically associated with the best of English glass and particularly the enamelling workshop operated from Amen Corner in Newcastle in the 1760s and 70s.

However, he worked in a number of mediums, including as an engraver and, like his father, a silversmith.

This 62oz George II Newcastle silver salver is marked for William Beilby and Jonathan Bainbridge, 1738. This mark (also attributed to William and John Busfield of York) appears as mark no.39 on the copper plate of the Goldsmiths Company of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Beilby and Bainbridge are registered paying for assay 1739-54. The engraved decoration, probably by Beilby, includes the crest of the Vere family.

With a provenance to Mary Cooke Antiques, it was part of a collection of silver offered at Newcastle saleroom Anderson & Garland on December 7. Estimated at £2000-3000, it sold at £4200.

3. British Dominions enamel sign – £6900

British Dominions Empire Motor Insurance enamel sign

British Dominions Empire Motor Insurance enamel sign – £6900 at H&H Classics.

Petrol-themed enamel signs don't get much better than that made to promote British Dominions Empire Motor Insurance in c.1912.

The multi-coloured graphics include the front end of an Edwardian sports car as it approaches the brow of a dusty hill climb.

A decade ago one of these 5ft x 3ft 4in (1.52m x 1.01m) signs might have cost around £2000-3000 in decent condition but today they are more expensive. The example pictured here was offered at the H&H Classics (15% buyer’s premium) automobilia sale that closed online on December 6.

The auctioneers described it as ‘the best example of this rare sign we have offered, with bright vibrant colours and gloss across the entire image’. Showing only light professional restoration to the edges and mounting holes, it sold at £6900.

4. Sikh Prince’s rifle – £20,000

Duleep Singh gun

A 28-bore single-barrelled child's hammer gun made for Duleep Singh – £20,000 at Bonhams.

Estimated at £1000-1500 but sold for £20,000 at Bonhams, this 28-bore single-barrelled lightweight child's hammer gun is by J. Purdey. It is a rare gun but via the serial number the makers have confirmed it was completed in 1877 for Prince Duleep Singh.

This connection with the last maharaja of the Sikh empire gave it added lustre. Duleep Singh had a reputation as one of the finest shots in England with his two oldest sons Victor and Frederick almost as good. On one remarkable day in the early 1890s they bagged 846 partridges before lunch, at Elveden, the family estate on the Norfolk, Suffolk border.

The gun sold at the auction on December 3 appears to have been bought for either of his sons: when sold Victor was 11 and Frederick 9 years old. In August 1924, the gun was proofed for nitro on behalf of Hon. Henry Coventry, who was the brother-in-law of Prince Victor.

Two other full size guns with a similar provenance have sold previously at Bonhams: Prince Victor's Purdey 12-bore hammer gun (£9500 in April 2012) and Prince Frederick's Purdey 12-bore self-opening sidelock ejector (£11,000 in April 2015).

5. Ynysmeudwy baptism basin – £2100

Ynysmeudwy pottery baptism basin

Ynysmeudwy pottery baptism basin c.1850 – £2100 at Rogers Jones.

This 11 x 7in (27 x 17cm) Lazuli pattern baptism basin was made at Ynysmeudwy pottery shortly after the kilns opened on a stretch of the Swansea Canal in 1848. Moulded with cherubs to the base and acanthus handles, to the interior are opposing Biblical reliefs (a depiction of Naomi and her daughters-in-law) interspersed with plaques inscribed Baptising Basin for Pantteg Chapel Presented by Mary Griffiths. This piece, part of a large collection of Welsh ceramics from a west Wales estate, is pictured in the factory biography Ynysmeudwy & the Williamses by Mike Trew (2016).

It is thought that local industrialists commissioned such bowls that were the largest pieces made by the factory (another is in Neath Museum). The Pantteg chapel still stands in the village of Ystalyfera just three miles from the factory site. Mary Griffiths is thought to be a local school teacher.

In perfect condition it was guided at £500-1000 as part of the Welsh Sale held by Rogers Jones in Cardiff on December 5 but sold at £2100.