April 25 Nelson Horatia Service

Chamberlain Worcester teapot, cover and stand from the Horatia service, £42,000 at Bonhams.

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It was ordered by Nelson in Worcester while touring England following the signing of the Peace of Amiens in 1802. The design he chose was the fashionable the 'Fine Old Japan' pattern (number 240) with the addition of his crests and coronets.

James Plant, a junior painter at the Chamberlain factory when Nelson visited on Sunday 26 August 1802, later recalled the moment the distinguished visitors arrived in the decorating studio to discuss the order. 

‘And then,' said Plant, 'a very battered looking gentleman made his appearance – he had lost an arm and an eye – leaning on his left and only arm was the beautiful Lady Hamilton, evidently pleased at the interest excited by her companion; and then, amongst the general company following after, came a very infirm old gentleman – this was Sir William Hamilton.'

A breakfast, dinner and dessert service had been planned but only the 150-piece breakfast set had been completed by the time of Trafalgar.

It must have been a blow to Emma Hamilton to receive a bill from Chamberlains for £120 10s and 6p only one week after Nelson’s state funeral in January 1806. As her money troubles piled up, the service was among those kept as surety against money advanced. Most items were later dispersed at auction.

Showpiece lot

A teapot, cover and stand from the Horatia service formed part of a remarkable single-owner collection of naval-themed china offered at Bonhams on April 23.

The surviving invoice show these were among the most expensive pieces in the service. While most items were to bear only crests and coronets (costed at between one shilling and two shillings and sixpence each), the price for decorating two teapots with Nelson's complete insignia was 30 shillings.

Both teapots, made to slightly different Regency designs, have survived. The example sold by Christie's in 1969 was purchased by the Worcester Museum in 1994. The teapot at Bonhams (a boat form) had previously been sold in the early 20th century by London dealers Stoner and last made £27,000 at Sotheby’s in 2001.

As the showpiece lot in Bonhams’ 138-lot sale auction titled Nelson Forever! A Naval Legacy in Ceramics and Glass, it was guided it at £25,000-35,000 and it did a little better, selling to an online bidder at £42,000.

A total of eight lots from the Horatio service were included in the sale, with prices ranging from £1000 for a small dish to £7000 for a helmet form cream jug. Back in 2017, Bonhams had sold one of two specimen plates for the never-fulfilled dinner service (probably purchased from the Worcester factory collection by the collector H Rokeby Price in 1864) for £25,000.

April 25 Nelson Baltic Teapot

London-decorated Paris porcelain teapot and cover from the Baltic service, £20,000 at Bonhams.

Nelson, a great admirer of fine porcelain, owned several celebrated services by British and European factories – some commissioned himself at great expense, others given as presentation gifts. Most are mentioned in the inventory of Lady Hamilton's possessions when she was forced to part with almost everything in return for loans in 1813.

A London-decorated Paris porcelain teapot and cover from the 'Baltic' service sold at the low end of a £20,000-30,000 guide.

It carries the words 2nd April, Baltic – references to the day in 1801 when Nelson destroyed the Danish fleet at Copenhagen with additional dates, 14th February and Glorious 1st, remembering victories at Cape St Vincent in 1797 and the 1794 Battle of Ushant.

The service – embellished in a London decorating workshop on both Copeland and Paris porcelain blanks – was part of a presentation of chinaware given to Nelson in 1802 by the Ladies of the City of London. A tea set was listed at Merton, the Surrey home Nelson and Hamilton shared together, in an 1805 inventory with other elements of the service owned by family members.

Only occasionally do pieces turn up for sale. This teapot last sold for £28,000 (£35,000 with premium) at a Waterloo-themed auction held by Bonhams in 2015. 

April 25 Nelson Baxter Hamilton Cup

Coalport cup and saucer by Thomas Baxter, dated 1804, £15,000 at Bonhams.

The same bidder purchased at the low estimate of £15,000 a Coalport cup and saucer painted with a portrait of Lady Hamilton that is signed and dated 1804 by the celebrated porcelain decorator Thomas Baxter.

Painted in the year before Trafalgar, this is probably the piece referenced in a letter Nelson wrote to Emma on board HMS Victory on May 27, 1804: 'Your dear phiz (face) – but not the least like you – on the cup, is safe; but I would not use it, for all the world; for, if it was broke, it would distress me very much.'

The cup and saucer were likely a personal gift from Emma Hamilton to Nelson. It is known that Baxter visited Emma at Merton, the Surrey home she shared with Nelson, on multiple occasions where he sketched her from life.

April 25 Nelson Stoneware Figure

White stoneware figure of Nelson modelled by Pierre Stephan, £11,000 at Bonhams.

There was strong competition for a 12in (30cm) unglazed white stoneware figure of Nelson standing in full military dress modelled by Pierre Stephan. It went to an online bidder at £11,000 against a modest £1000-1500 estimate.

Not only is this the only recorded example of this figure, it also has a Nelson family provenance. It descended from Reverend William Nelson (the admiral’s brother) at Trafalgar House, Wiltshire until it was sold twice by Sotheby's (first in October 2005 and then in January 2018).

Pierre Stephan, who worked as a freelancer making moulds for a variety of British factories including Derby and Wedgwood, created a series of portraits of prominent figures, including the models of Admirals Hood and Rodney in black basalt (sold in this sale for £1600 and £3500 respectively).