Limehouse factory dry mustard pot c.1747-48

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Always much awaited by ceramics afficionados, as so often it features a carefully contoured single-owner collection.

Beale collection

Tony Beale bought his first piece of English porcelain, a Worcester scale blue trio, as a present for his wife Thelma in 1984.

He was soon bitten by the collecting bug and he and Thelma began meeting other enthusiasts, attending seminars and lectures and assembling their own collection, buying from specialist dealers, including Spero, and at auction.

At first the aim was to build as comprehensive a collection of the finest and best preserved pieces of early English porcelain Tony could find and afford but, like many, he gradually refined his goals.

Inspired by lectures from the late Bernard Watney and Spero on recent discoveries at site excavations of the Vauxhall and Limehouse factories, he became fascinated by these two small London enterprises. Along with Worcester from the first few years of production, they became a focus for a collection that grew over a 25-year period to around 140 pieces by the time of his death last year.

Spero has selected just over 50 pieces for this selling show, a representative mix of the most commercial that reflects the particular nature of the collection.

Four pieces of Vauxhall feature, including the rare sauceboat chosen for the catalogue cover with decoration that to the unitiated looks for all the world like a piece of Chelsea painted by JH O’Neale. However, the paste, potting and glaze imperfections reveal its Vauxhall origins.

Eight pieces from the short-lived experimental Limehouse factory also feature, among them an exceptional dry mustard pot of c.1747-48 in a form derived, like most Limehouse output, from a silver shape. One of the few surviving examples, it retains its domed cover – “the first one with its lid that I’ve ever seen sold in over 50 years”, says Spero.

Complementing items from these factories are examples of Worcester, Bow, various Bristol and Liverpool enterprises and Lowestoft. The price range, from under £600 to over £10,000, gives a further indication of the variety available.

Spero’s accompanying catalogue is always an important adjunct to his shows.

This time, not only do the individual entries, photographed by Richard Valencia, give detailed information about the nature and origins of each piece, but they are preceded by two introductions. One of them provides fascinating ancedotal background to the genesis of the Beales’ venture, while the other is an informative essay drawing together the latest opinions on Limehouse.

The Tony and Thelma Beale collection of Early English Porcelain is at Simon Spero, 3A Campden Street, London W8 from April 27 to May 6. Contact 020 7727 7413.