Lowestoft mug

A Lowestoft mug decorated in underglaze blue with a herring smoker made for John Cooper in 1768 – £17,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

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This rare blue and white mug, that came for sale at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on September 13, is inscribed John Cooper 1768 and decorated with a scene of a figure smoking three lines of herring – an important part of the Lowestoft economy in the 18th century.

The handle’s terminal is inscribed RP with the painter’s number 3 to the footrim for factory artist Richard Phillips, making this one of only two pieces bearing Phillips’ initials or signature (the other is a mug in the Norwich Castle Museum). The date places it within the first decade of production at Lowestoft (1757-1802).

The herring smoker mug is understood to have remained in the Cooper family until 1902. Later in the Casley collection of Lowestoft and illustrated in Christopher Spencer’s Early Lowestoft (1981), it came for sale from a private collection in East Anglia.

Despite its obvious condition issues, it was expected to bring £8000- 10,000 as part of the Salisbury sale of English & European Ceramics & Glass.

Bidding between two parties, one online, one on the phone, ended at £17,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).

Historically the top prices for Lowestoft have been for pieces painted in blue with local views.

In 2010, £24,000 was paid at Bonhams for a flask from the Godden collection painted in underglaze blue with a local shipbuilding scene to one side, while the auction record for the factory stands at £30,000, paid at Russell Sprake in 2011 for a guglet and basin painted with various scenes around the town and coastline.