The late Robin Simpson with Margaret Thatcher.

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He amassed a collection of over 550 pieces chronicling royal, social, political, war and maritime events from the reign of William and Mary to Queen Victoria’s coronation. It was unsurpassed as a record of the early potter’s view of British history and he was justly proud of and most knowledgeable about his collection.

Born on June 14, 1940, to Robert and Susan (née Rolland) of Perth, Robin did not meet his father, who served with the Eighth Army in Italy, until the cessation of hostilities.

Having attended Perth Academy, he and his family moved to Edinburgh in the 1950s. After university at St Andrew’s, Robin joined the Department of Trade and Industry and by 1986 was regional director in the north-east. As leader of the Tyne & Wear City Action Team he was also a director of the Newcastle Initiative.

Relocating to London in 1990, Robin applied his very respected management skills at the Business Task Force Division. Retiring from the DTI in 1992 he joined the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association, being appointed director the following year; a position he held until his retirement in 1998.

Collecting urge


Robin Simpson’s collection in situ.

On moving to London and acquiring an apartment in Westminster, Robin not only set about making the place more homely but also sated his newly discovered collecting urge by purchasing Victorian china commemoratives from Portobello Market and elsewhere.

Early on he met and became good friends with the late John May, revered Kensington Church Street dealer, author of two works of reference on commemoratives, and from whom Robin was to receive excellent advice: “‘Forget the post-Great Exhibition period and concentrate instead on the era when Britain became Great!”

Fascinated with history, full of energy and blessed with an inquisitive mind, Robin did just that and in almost 30 years put together a splendid collection, acquiring his most recent purchase last summer.

Latterly, deteriorating health precluded him from visiting auctions, fairs and distant travel.

Understandably he had hoped that the collection might remain intact and be displayed for future generations to appreciate the importance of ceramic as a visual medium of social record. “Commemoratives are the fascinating small change of our national heritage,” wrote John May.

Collection sale

In the event, his enquires of august bodies led nowhere so he entered into discussions with Andrew Hilton of Historical & Collectable, known for the regular specialist auctions of commemoratives, to handle the sale of the collection. This he will be doing in conjunction with Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury, well known for its expertise in the field of ceramics.