Beswick horse

Beswick shire horse mare – £11,300 at Potteries Auctions.

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In the collectable ceramics market colour can count for a lot. The familiar model of the shire horse mare, designed by Arthur Gredington in 1940 and in production right up until 1999, was sold in the thousands in the typical colourways of brown or pale grey and will today typically bring £20-30. But should this figure (model 818) be found in other hues (there are supposedly 11 different colourways), the price can increase 100-fold or more.

Back in June 2017 a very rare model in a Strawberry Roan colourway took £6600 at Potteries Auctions, which sold another in Iron Grey for £5700 in 2021. The firm has also sold examples in Skewbald (£4400 in November 2020), Piebald (£1900 in November 2017), Chestnut (£1100 in November 2017) and Rocking Horse Grey (£1000 in September 2010).

The Fine Art sale at Potteries Auctions on November 10 included a version of model 818 in Painted Gloss White.

Just a few of these are known. Although its only polychrome details are to the head, the fetlocks and a braided mane, it is thought that creating the white colour was an expensive and lengthy process. 

It was hammered down at £11,300 (plus 20% buyer’s premium). Specialist Bill Buckley said it came in with a herd of a dozen other horses from a private vendor from Chester with a guide of £1000-2000.

“I did think it would fetch considerably more as the 818 model is extremely collectable,” he said. “I wasn’t aware another had been sold at auction before although I was told one turned up on eBay about 10 years ago. The buyer is from the UK and there were at least two UK disappointed underbidders.”

The previous auction high for Beswick was the £9500 bid at Bonhams in 2003 for one of four known casts of the Spirit of Whitfield. Modelled in 1987 by Graham Tongue, it depicts a pit pony called Kruger who retired from the Chatterley Whitfield colliery in 1931. Another was sold at Peter Wilson of Nantwich in May 2005 for £8500.

Despite the soft underbelly of the collectable ceramics market, impressive sums have been paid of late for rarities. In July, Potteries Auctions set a new record for any Doulton figure when a Bunnykins trial group, Celebration Time, made in 1998 in anticipation of the Millennium was sold to an Australian collector at £35,500.