There were two separate thefts of Martinware – one from the old Southall Library on May 23, 2005 (when 13 items were stolen) and then from Pitzhanger Manor (a museum) in Ealing on March 22, 2007 (when 24 items were stolen). Of the 37 losses, three have now been recovered – all with the help of Art Recovery International (two wally birds and one barrister jug since 2020).
In the latest return, a wally bird jar was consigned for sale through Kinghams Auctioneers in Moreton-in-Marsh for its July 2023 Fine and Decorative Arts sale.
Once its provenance was discovered ARI handled the negotiations on a pro-bono basis and obtained an unconditional release from Kinghams’ consignor to return the bird.
The bird jar was returned on September 8 to Dr Jonathan Oates, archivist for the London Borough of Ealing, which runs the museum.
Christopher Marinello, lawyer and founder of ARI, said: “This recovery was very much a team effort. We are extremely grateful for the expertise of British art pottery expert Nigel Wilson and to George Kingham, the director of Kinghams.”
Marinello also thanked Zurich Insurance Group which waived the requirement for the original settlement to be paid back as "a gesture to the council and people of Ealing.”
Marinello added: “Our ability to recover stolen artworks decades after the theft depends largely on museums reporting thefts to the police as soon as possible despite the embarrassment over the loss.
“The other critical element is to disseminate a detailed list of the objects that were stolen so that they may be recorded on various art world databases.”
Dr Jonathan Oates: said: “It is great news to have recovered yet another stolen Martinware item and bring it back to Southall Library. If it hadn’t been for Nigel Wilson who contacted me, who knows where it would have gone.”
The council’s significant collections of Martinware reflect the location of its factory, which operated in Southall between 1877-1923. Many of the Martinware collection at Pitzhanger Manor were left to the museum in 1986 by Prof John and Anne Grundy.