Pilkington vase
The 1908 Pilkington’s Lancastrian exhibition vase sold as part of the Anthony Cross collection at Kinghams for a record £75,000.

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The sale of the Pilkington vase was part of the Anthony J Cross' collection of art pottery on June 11-12.

The 468-lot group, assembled over half a century, included some exceptional lustre wares, particularly those made by the Salford factory.

It was Cross who wrote the factory monograph Pilkington’s Royal Lancastrian Pottery and Tiles, published in 1980 alongside a landmark exhibition held by Richard Dennis.

High-lustre finishes were produced at Pilkington’s for a relatively short period from 1906, the year George Forsyth (1879-1952), the former art director at the Minton Hollins tileworks, joined the company.

The most important piece in the auction was a 21in (53cm high) exhibition vase dating from 1908. Unusually it is moulded in relief with St George on horseback lancing a dragon with a maiden to the side. The lustre decoration, completed by factory decorator Gordon Forsyth in an exuberant bronze and red iridescent glaze, includes the inscription St George for England.

Among the largest pieces ever made by the factory and one of just a handful to include relief moulded swell as painted decoration, it was exhibited at the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition in London to much admiration. Only two examples are known to have been produced – the other previously owned by John Scott and sold as part of his collection by The Fine Art Society in 2014.

Anthony Cross’ example had been acquired at auction in the Midlands in 1981, just a few months too late to be included in his book. It was, however, used as the cover illustration to Pilkington’s Lancastrian and Royal Lancastrian Pottery, A Guide for Collectors by A&B Corbett (2016).

A former owner was William Hague, a cotton master who had a passion for antiques and the first man in Oldham to own a Rolls-Royce who, it is likely, would have known the Pilkington family personally.

It carried a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000 but found sufficient deep-pocketed admirers to bring £75,000 (plus 23% buyer’s premium).

The buyer was from the UK decorative arts trade, probably acting on behalf of a US collector. The underbidder was another dealer, The Cross collection represented the best selection of Pilkington’s lustre since the Kirkton House collection of more than 30 pieces was sold by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh in October 2018.

That sale included both a 19in (48cm) green and red George and the Dragon charger to a Walter Crane design (the piece pictured on the front cover of Cross’ book) and a 22in (54cm) high silver and blue vase decorated by Forsyth with the figure of Apollo riding a chariot. They sold at previous record sums of £32,000 and £34,000 respectively.