A scientist by trade – he worked at the Culham Centre, the UK’s national laboratory for fusion research – he joined the Pewter Society in 1964 (hardly ever missing a meeting) and was later the driving force behind the creation of the Antique Metalware Society in the late 1980s. Douglas also co-wrote Marks and Markings of Weights and Measures of the British Isles (1996).
His collection, well known to fellow enthusiasts who had been invited to his Oxford home, was offered at Bonhams Oxford (27.5/25% buyer’s premium) on April 19.
He owned a number of trophy pieces, not least a 5½in (14cm) Plantagenet pewter saucer or spice plate last sold as part of the Sandy Law collection in 1997. This piece, thought to date from c.1400, is comparable with the celebrated ‘Tong Castle Saucer’, excavated in 1978 from a well in the keep of Tong Castle, Shropshire, that is now in the Collection of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers.
It has the same two marks: a pewterer’s hammer and the Lombardic initials RE. In exceptional condition (it shows extensive nature’s gilding throughout), it had sold for £5200 at the Law collection sale (Phillips Chester, September 1997) and made a decent return selling last month for £9000 (estimate £8000-12,000).
Sold at the top end of a £6000- 8000 estimate was a c.1660 Charles II pewter two-handled caudle or posset cup. It has the ownership initials MW scratched under base alongside the unidentified touchmark WI.
This 6½in (17cm) form with two cast scrolled handles is not uncommon in silver but remarkably this is one of only a very small number of recorded 17th century examples in pewter.
Pictured in Peter Hornsby’s Pewter of the Western World (1983), it has a long collecting history having been owned by Bertie Isher, Kenneth Bradshaw and David Little – all of them leading collectors.
Another form more common in silver is the Georgian strawberry dish with its distinctive lobed rim.
This example, with 18 flutes measuring 12in (30cm) across, carries the touchmark of the London pewterer Thomas Chamberlain plus the arms of Simon ‘the Fox’ Fraser (1667-1747).
An engraved ducal coronet dates it to around 1740 when Fraser was elevated to the Jacobite peerage of Scotland by ‘the Old Pretender’ James Stuart. These titles were not recognised in English, Scots or Irish law, but they were used in Jacobite circles in Continental Europe and recognised by France, Spain and the papacy.
When writing about this dish in the Journal of the Pewter Society (2002), Douglas references the very small number of other recorded examples and concludes ‘these fluted strawberry dishes are obviously very rare and to find one with such dramatic associations produces a thrill not often experienced’.
Estimated at £2000-3000, it brought £6000.