The collection, assembled by a retired yoga teacher from Staffordshire, represented close to 50 years of acquisition and study: the vendor had acquired her first piece in 1974. Some had been bargains, others had been bought at major sales attended by like-minded collectors.
At the top end of the February 5 sale at Etwall was one of the factory's large-scale flambé wares produced shortly after Walter Moorcroft took the helm in 1945.
This 18in (46cm) vase decorated with a Tiger Lily was dated 1947. It was not the best firing (crazed all over with some pitting of glaze bubbles) but it was one of only six or seven made of this bold pattern. Against a £700-900 estimate, it took £2500.
Also sold at £2500, this time against an £800-1200 estimate, was a 10in (26cm) tall Fish pattern baluster vase – one of the 1920s patterns. Signed and with impressed marks to the base, it had no obvious signs of damage and its history included being exhibited at the V&A.
Other Fish pattern pieces to perform solidly were an 8½in (22cm) tall ovoid vase signed in blue to the base, which tripled top hopes at £1550, and a 6in (15cm) tall flambé tobacco jar and lid that went a shade above top estimate at £1200.
Generally, at a time when a lot of material has come to market, Moorcroft is 50% or so down on its peak pricing. Many two- and low three-figure purchases were found among the more standard wares and the modern limited edition pieces.
But rarities still have the capacity to surprise auction specialists.
Estimated at a modest £150-200 was a 5¾in (14.5cm) tall baluster vase in the Eventide pattern – a relatively late version of this classic design with bands of geometric tubelining to the neck. Moorcroft received credit for these updated designs at the celebrated 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris but they were not made in any great numbers. This piece sold at £2100.
The Eventide pattern is closely twinned with the name Liberty, the London retailer who had backed Moorcroft’s initial solo business in 1913 and remained closely allied to the brand.
A number of pieces were made with Liberty Tudric pewter mounts such as a pair of 8in (20.5cm) tall cylindrical spill vases the 8in (20cm) tall vases. Again in good condition, they took £1900 on thesaleroom.com against a £600-800 estimate.
One of the earliest Moorcroft-Liberty pieces was a c.1913 mantel clock in what became the long-running Pomegranate pattern. The 5½in (14cm) tall clock, a scarce form, had some large chips to the front feet and nibbling to the rear but, pitched at £150-250, sold at £1950.