Craigievar Castle

Being descended upon by a high plural of grandchildren and a number of their parents for a prolonged stay has prompted my wife and I to flee for a “summer” holiday in the rain soaked highlands of a once sunny Scotland. I am sure the sun has shone in these highlands before and I am certain it will again, but for the duration of our stay here the forecast isn’t even hinting on the likelihood of that happening.

We came here over thirty years ago when our children were the same size (but perhaps not as boisterous) as our grandchildren and we loved it. This year, through the clouds, the winds and the rain, we love it still. It is such a beautiful place.

Scotland is famous for many things and yesterday we visited an example of one of those things. A charming 16th century castle. Built at the very end of the 16th century Craigievar Castle was originally owned by the Mortimer family as they took a step up the social ladder and became barons of Craigievar. It was however the Forbes family who took on the tenure for most of it’s years. From 1610 until 1963 to be exact and what is even more exciting is that the three daughters of the last family to live there, who are all in their seventies, still visit to ensure everything is still left as it was under their occupancy.

Queen Victoria was known to visit Craigievar Castle (and given exclusive use of the indoor toilet) but to me the most amazing thing about this Castle is the originality of the furniture and effects dating right back to the early 17th century when the Forbes took control. That is what we call in the saleroom a good provenance.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Loetz

The Loetz company was established in 1840 by Johann Loetz in the Czech Republic and after his heirs sold it on, it eventually came under the leadership of Max Ritter von Spaun in 1879 who guided it to international fame and recognition. During the 1880s and 1890s, Loetz iridescent glass designs typified the Art Nouveau style.

Often referred as ‘The Austrian Tiffany’, Loetz was actually just producing Tiffany- style glass made and marketed at much lower prices after realising there was a real market for it. Indeed some of their work was barely distinguishable from the real Tiffany available at the time. Tiffany patented their iridescent favrile glass designs in 1894 and Loetz was not far behind obtaining patents for their iridescent glass with a ‘metallic shimmer’ in 1895 and 1896.

Loetz, however, didn’t want to be merely remembered or acknowledged for making excellent copies of others’ work and set about creating its own designs of which their most famous and highly-acclaimed series, Phanomen, was to be born. Phanomen pieces are characterised by their trailed combed threads or bands, often referred to as rippled or featherlike and their metallic iridescence. This clever design, where by hot glass threads were wrapped around the hot molten base and then pulled onto the object’s surface to achieve this wave effect while the glass was still malleable, was patented in 1898.

Other key characteristics of Loetz design include blue colour iridescence as well as what is often described as a gleaming oil-on-water effect and many of their motifs follow stylized Art Nouveau examples such as plants, feathers and nature in general.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Mauchlineware

This summer, as part of our summer break my wife and I plan to travel the highways and byways of Scotland, with the top of my extended mid-life crisis sports car tucked away in the boot and our hair (well at least my wife’s) blowing in the wind. One of the towns I am keen to visit on this exciting drive through Scottish history is Mauchline.

Mauchline is a town in East Ayrshire in Scotland which became famous in the 1800s for the production of box-ware, now commonly referred to as Mauchlineware. Mauchlineware was souvenir ware made from sycamore trees. This Scottish souvenir wood ware was exported all over the world from Europe to Australia and America.

The success really came from the trend in the late 18th century for snuff-taking. Snuff boxes had been gold and silver, tortoiseshell and papier-mâché but the wooden ones failed to keep the tobacco fresh. This was all to change when James Sandy perfected the integral wooden hinge making wooden snuff boxes airtight and so began a new industry in handmade wooden boxes.

All manner of small and later large items were made in Mauchlineware from cigar cases, bookmarks and pin cushions to vases, jewellery boxes and other household objects. An incredible range of boxes including the aforementioned snuff boxes were produced in every shape and size one could wish for.

Designs were transfer printed and then varnished; some receiving up to 26 layers of varnish and the pictures transferred were popular landscape scenes, famous landmarks and attractions from across the world. Mauchlineware was specifically aimed at the tourist market, both domestic now the British people were travelling further by rail, but also with the export market in mind.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Tennis Memorabilia

Every summer as the Wimbledon Tennis Championship rolls it’s tennis balls onto our television screens once again I feel a certain nostalgia for our old family sitting room and the sight of my mother groaning, cheering and jumping up and down to her darling of the centre court Virginia Wade. 1977 was an especially good year for me as not only did it see me marry my childhood sweetheart but it also saw my mothers efforts to help Virginia on her way to victory finally vindicated as she was crowned Queen of the centre court.

Tennis despite being a relatively young game, invented in 1874 by Major Walter Wingfield, has many avid memorabilia collectors and early rackets are very sought after. From the mid 1870s and the 1930s the shape of the tennis racket changed enormously, so early examples with their asymmetrical heads can be very valuable regardless of any association with a known player. Those however associated with legendary players like Fred Perry are a true collectors dream and can attract thousands of pounds at auction.

Presentation trophies too are collectable though novelty items which reflect the popularity of the early game are also of interest. Teapots, clocks and particularly jewellery were produced, a wide range of which featured racket and ball motifs.

Wimbledon specific memorabilia is always collectable. Programmes from the 1930s and earlier are now very rare and a must for collectors. A particularly popular programme would be from the first Championship held at the present site in Church Road in 1922. Programmes before this when the club was located in Worple Road, also in Wimbledon, are extremely sought after, especially from the First Championship held in 1877, when would you believe, only 160 people attended.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Mount Washington Glass

Recently a stone chip on my car windscreen, which over the months I had grown to love, broke free and cracked my whole screen. Chatting to the technician who fitted my new windscreen I found he had a passion for glass collecting. When I explained the irony of this his eyes rolled and I gathered I was not the first. His favourite glass was Mount Washington.

Mount Washington was established by William Libbey in 1837 and after moving to New Bedford in 1870 began to produce American art glass for which it was hugely successful. It made some remarkable ranges and patented many types of glass.

One such glass was Burmese glass, with a satin or plush finish. This finish was created by exposing the glass to acid and it is unique in its creamy yellow and peach colourings. The peach colouring comes from a second firing when the base of the piece stays cooler and areas at the top are heated to such an extent that the peach colour reverts back to yellow giving a distinctive two-tone effect.

The creation and recipe of Burmese glass was patented by Mount Washington in 1885 and early pieces are usually very simple. Over 300 hundred shapes were created in the Burmese range and by 1888 the shapes and decoration had become more elaborate. Decoration usually consisted of enamelled or applied patterns.

In 1886 the company patented a very simple glass called ‘Peachblow’, sometimes referred to as Peachskin, which again had an attractive two-tone effect this time in pinks and greys. Unfortunately it never had the commercial success of the Burmese range and was only produced for two years, ironically making it is very collectable today.

Art glass of all types is very popular in the salerooms today and Mount Washington ranges should be on everyone’s shopping list.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Ditchfield Glass

In all the years I have been writing one of the men I have never ever spoken of is John Ditchfield. Why ever not, I ask myself. Last week in one of our many stores housing goods catalogued and awaiting their chance to star in one of our auctions I happened upon a small but gorgeous collection of glass by this very man.

Over thirty years ago this very talented gentleman established his own company “Glasform” in deepest darkest Lancashire. One could have been forgiven for thinking this was just another man blowing a bit of molten glass into a few shapes to sell to the unsuspecting public purchaser, from a shop in a county somewhere in England, but one would be so wrong.

What sets all contemporary production, art or otherwise, above the rest is quality, style, originality, inventiveness, and collectability and Glasform has this in, what we in the world of the antique call, bucketloads. Whether endorsements by David Dickinson, Eric Knowles and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen are good for a glassblower I dare not comment, but Glasform has had hearty accolades from all three along with many others from the world of the rich and famous.

From the age of sixteen John Ditchfield spent seven years learning the art of glassblowing from Franco Toffolo in his Venetian glass factory in Blackpool. After a short career change John came back to manage the factory. He studied Tiffany glass and toured Europe in pursuit of excellence and invention in his art. All this helped him in his subsequent Glasform productions of beautiful, iridescent art glass from Lancashire and our next auction is a chance to start your collection.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre

Susannah Margaretta ‘Daisy’ Makeig-Jones was the designer responsible for Wedgwood’s hugely successful Fairyland range which was produced from the 1920s until Makeig-Jones left the company in 1931.

Makeig-Jones, nicknamed Daisy was first taken on at Wedgwood as an apprentice in 1909 before becoming a designer in 1912. She grew up in rural Yorkshire and her childhood filled with stories of myths and legends is believed to have inspired many of her designs alongside the work of children’s illustrators like Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielson. Her rich colours and gold decoration is representative of old oriental porcelain.

The designs contained beautiful landscapes with mythical creatures such as goblins, ghosts, fairies and elves and were a huge contrast to the more traditional Wedgwood styles of the time but still achieved huge commercial success. Many people believe that the designs appealed to the public’s desire to remember a more innocent age following the horrors of the First World War.

The value of Fairyland Lustre depends largely on the condition of the pieces but earlier examples are more sought after as Daisy Makeig-Jones decorated these herself, before she took on a more supervisory role.

The patterns are characterised by rich gold lustre a technique that used a mixture of metallic oxide pigments suspended in oil and painted onto the surface of earthenware. When the pieces were fired the metal reduced and formed a thin shiny, reflective film with gave an iridescent effect. The technique meant that Fairyland Lustre was very costly to produce and therefore expensive to buy but that didn’t affect its popularity with collectors either at the time or today.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Spode

Spode was established in 1776 in Stoke-on-Trent by Josiah Spode who wanted to set up on his own after years of working for other ceramic manufacturers. Spode is generally acknowledged as developing the first recipe for bone china. Experiments were taking place in the Spode factory from around 1796 to create fine white porcelain with a recipe containing high quantities of calcined ox-bone alongside china clay and stone; originally known as ‘Stoke China’ it was later renamed ‘Bone China’.

Josiah died suddenly in 1797 and his son, Josiah II continued his work, establishing the factory as the largest and one of the best porcelain manufacturers of the early 19th century ‘Golden Age’ of British ceramics. This included being appointed ‘Potter to the Prince of Wales’ in 1806.

As well as being recognized as creating the original bone china recipe, Spode is also highly acclaimed for the part they played in the development of transfer printing in its early days. Josiah II perfected the process of transfer printing onto earthenware, producing some of the finest blue-and-white designs ever made. Their most famous pattern is probably ‘Italian’, also known as ‘Blue Italian’ or ‘Spode’s Italian’.

The Italian pattern was first introduced in 1816 and is still produced today; it is believed to have appeared on as many as 700 different shapes across the Spode range. The origins of the classical scenes of the pattern are, unfortunately for collectors, unknown. Although many of Spode’s designs can be sourced back to pictorial scenes or prints of the time, the origins of the Italian pattern remain a mystery and despite research by many interested parties, no single Italian scene has ever been found that encompasses all the features of the pattern.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Swansea Porcelain

William Billingsley was a name to conjure with in the porcelain world in the late 18th and early 19th century. He flittered around from one factory to another and even tried to start a few of his own, never being very successful. His claim to fame however is his recipe for soft paste porcelain. This produced some of the finest quality porcelain of the 19th century, particularly at Swansea, a factory he was associated with between 1814 and 1817.

Swansea pieces were made from Billingsley’s highly translucent soft-paste porcelain that was unfortunately extremely delicate and subject to high losses in the firing process. The challenge was to strengthen the mixture used to produce the porcelain without reducing the pure whiteness and translucency. There have been three general mixtures identified, all which suffered some issues in the kiln. The first was very similar to the recipe for Bone China but mixed with Blue Clay or Lime, giving it a slight green tinge and the name ‘Duck Egg’, the second following a very similar recipe but with a hand fritted body is described as ‘Glassy’. The third recipe, and probably the most robust of the three, included a higher soapstone content giving a translucency with a yellowish colour, it is referred to as ‘Trident’ largely due to the impressed mark that most Trident pieces carry.

Swansea porcelain was renowned for its elegant and high quality painting, regularly receiving commissions from members of the aristocracy. Many of the designs were inspired from the fashionable French style with flowers being a particular favourite often with gilt detail and borders. Painters such as David Evans, Thomas Pardoe and William Pollard were employed specifically for their excellence in flower designs.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

The D’Oyly Cartes

Like many people, my wife and I are members of the National Trust. Also, I am sure, like many people we have our favourite houses and one of those is Coleton Fishacre, near Dartmouth in Devon. Having recently seen a collection of D’Oyly Carte ephemera on a probate valuation I was involved in, Coleton Fishacre and it’s wonderful garden came flooding back to my mind.

It was Richard D’Oyly Carte (1844-1901) who started the D’Oyly ball rolling. He was the impresario behind Gilbert and Sullivan and it was he who founded the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. He also built the Savoy Theatre (the first to be fully electric) and opened the Savoy Hotel in the 1880s.

However, it was Rupert, Richard’s son, who after succeeding his father as chairman of the Savoy Hotel Company in 1903 at the tender age of 27, built Coleton Fishacre in the 1920s.

The house was a breath of fresh air to the D’Oyly Cartes, compared to the fast paced London life they lived during the week. Every Friday they came to Coleton where they sailed, fished, swam, played tennis and rode horses. A perfect weekend cottage getaway, only a slightly larger than average scale.

Sadly the D’Oyly Cartes son Michael was killed in a car crash and the couple never really recovered, eventually drifting apart. Their daughter Bridget, as Rupert’s only surviving child, inherited Coleton Fishacre, the Opera Company and the hotel empire.

Bridget successfully managed the businesses for many years and became a Dame of the British Empire in 1975, dying in 1985. D’Oyly Carte memorabilia is not a common sight in the salerooms and it’s appearance always creates a buzz from specialist collectors. Keep your eyes open.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website