Hidden in shoulder-high overgrown grass and weeds, what turned out to be a 2ft 5in (75cm) high Doulton Lambeth salt glazed stoneware brown bear proved to be one of the most memorable finds from Pratt’s visit.
The contents of this particular Kentish residence was a veritable treasure trove and provided The Canterbury Auction Galleries with more than 100 lots for its August three-day sale.
“I was about to leave when it occurred to me that it might be worth checking the garden to see if anything there might be suitable for sale,” he said.
“The grass hadn’t been cut for years and some of the weeds were up to my shoulders, but I spotted a shape in the undergrowth and thought it was worth trying to get closer. I was amazed when it turned out to be a pottery statue of a brown bear, almost 3ft tall… It was an unexpected but highly amusing discovery.”
This discovery was welcomed by Doulton Lambeth collectors.
Against an estimate of £2000-3000 in the August 7 sale, the 2ft 5in (75cm) high salt-glazed stoneware brown bear took £8000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium). The winning buyer, a private collector living in South Yorkshire, told Pratt he had seen it advertised in the ATG and bought it “just because he liked it”.
The bear is likely to be the work of Royal Doulton artist Mark V Marshall who worked at the firm c.1878- 1912. Marshall, like fellow Doulton artist George Tinworth, trained at the Lambeth School of Art and previously worked at the Martin Brothers pottery. A similar, but very much smaller at 3¾in (9.5cm) high, c.1900 stoneware bear with a honey pot sold at Bonhams in March 2009 for a premium-inclusive £540.
Pratt said: “We were aware of the possibility that it was by Marshall and there were discussions with several potential buyers during the three days of viewing. However, the only mark on the piece was the usual Doulton Lambeth impressed trademark and as a result, we would not have been comfortable in attributing the piece to him in the cataloguing.”
Prices for Doulton Lambeth have weakened over the past decade or so but for unusual items such as this sizeable bear, collectors are willing to compete – despite a chip to its ear.