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Colin Melbourne’s model of a red and white clown on a horse for Beswick – £1600 at Potteries Auctions. Also shown is an early model of a shire foal (951) – £1100.

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The models created by Melbourne (1928-2009) from 1955 (he also worked for Crown Devon, Wade, Wedgwood, Royal Norfolk and Midwinter) never matched the commercial success of more mainstream wares.

Melbourne’s mid-century modernism represented Beswick at its most avant garde and appealed to a different type of buyer than the collector of more naturalistic livestock and equine models. While some of his creations were theoretically in production from 1956-70, none sold in any great number and some are very scarce indeed.

Melbourne’s models currently represent a lively collecting niche, as shown by Potteries Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) in Stoke-on-Trent on May 7-8.

Among the most popular pieces in a massive single-owner collection of Beswick and Doulton wares – thousands of pieces offered in 992 lots – was Melbourne’s model of a red and white clown on a horse. The smaller of two sizes of this model (number 1470) at 5in (12.5cm) high, it was issued by Beswick from c.1956-62.

In 2017 another of these had sold for £250 at Hansons as part of a collection of Melbourne animals topped by a rare floral decorated pig (model 1473) sold at £480. The example at Potteries was pitched at £300-600 but took £1600 – probably an auction high for a Beswick Melbourne figure. The other Melbourne figures made more typical sums of between £100-250, with the scarcer of two owl models (model 1462) selling for £320.

Leading the farmyard animals at £800 was a model of the black galloway bull (1746A) while, among the horses, an early model of a shire foal (951) in a rare rocking horse grey colourway took £1100 and a white gloss model of the cantering shire horse (975) sailed over hopes of £80-120 to bring £2300 from a buyer using thesaleroom.com.