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Henry Sandon puts ‘Ceramic Collection’ up for auction

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Henry Sandon puts ‘Ceramic Collection’ up for auction

Henry Sandon puts ‘Ceramic Collection’ up for auction

Chorley’s auctioneers will offer the private collection of BBC Antiques Roadshow’s longest-serving expert, Henry Sandon MBE, known for his passion for porcelain and pottery and in particular, Royal Worcester porcelain this month. The prized collection of many of his treasured pieces will be offered in a sale titled The Henry Sandon Ceramic Study Collection on Tuesday 18th April, 2023.

Henry Sandon:

“Fifty years ago, Worcester still had a flourishing china factory. I spent much of my time taking important visitors around the factory and meeting the great artists who had spent their entire lives working at the porcelain works. People like the modeller Doris Lindner and the painter Daisy Rea had so many wonderful stories to tell. Above all, I cherish every moment I was able to spend with Harry Davis, who I believe was the greatest porcelain painter of all time.

“Attending sales at Bruton Knowles I met and became a special friend of the legendary Arthur Negus.”

Arthur Negus (1903-1985) was one of the first antiques experts of the Antiques Roadshow having starred in the popular antiques TV show Going for a Song. He took part in the pilot for the Antiques Roadshow in 1977 and was an immediate hit with viewers. This was the beginning of a brand-new genre in television, but no one could have predicted its enduring appeal to this day.

As well as being a world-recognised antique expert, Henry Sandon is an author and former lecturer, as well as the father of the renowned TV ceramics expert John Sandon. He began his career as an archaeologist, which offered a deep insight into the world of ceramics from all countries, cultures and decades. In 1966 he was appointed the curator of Dyson Perrins Museum at the Royal Worcester Factory, a position he held until 1982, but he is most well-known for his role as an antique expert on the long-running BBC television show Antiques Roadshow.

Speaking about his passion for ceramics and his extensive collection, Henry says:

“I wanted to title my collection ‘Ancient and Modern’ like the hymnbook, for it was choral music that brought me to Worcester. I came to teach at the Grammar School and to sing in the wonderful cathedral choir, and once in Worcester I discovered ceramics everywhere. I dug up Roman and Medieval pots in my garden by the Cathedral and was captivated by their history. Digging up broken pots led me to attend local auctions and antique shops filled with Worcester porcelain.

“I also discovered modern pottery. Geoffrey Whiting, one of our greatest Studio Potters, held classes in Worcester. I was a terrible pupil but from Geoffrey Whiting I learned to love his pots, and those of many other modern potters who became good friends. In 1967 the Dyson Perrins Museum of Royal Worcester needed a new curator and my enthusiasm got me the job that changed my life. I learnt the history of Worcester porcelain from scratch, helped by wonderful mentors, three of whom give me the same advice.

“Jim Kiddell from Sotheby’s, the great collector Dr Bernard Watney and my dear friend Geoffrey Godden all came to the museum to help me sort the finds from my important excavations on the site of the earliest Worcester china factory. They all told me that the best way to learn about ceramics was to form a study collection. It didn’t matter that I could only afford damaged examples of the early pottery I coveted. I knew it was important to buy as much as I could and to hold it and live with it.”

Titled The Henry Sandon Ceramic Study Collection, the auction will include many examples of Worcester artists that Henry describes above, particularly by his great friend, the late Harry Davis, as well as more modern studio pieces by another friend, Geoffrey Whiting. Pots from 2000BC to the present day will grace the sale and people will have the opportunity to buy a piece of history, as well as a memento of this remarkable man.

Henry Sandon:

“Arthur [Negus] showed me that a passion and enthusiasm like ours will rub off on others, through lectures and through the new medium of television. For Birmingham University I began teaching evening classes covering the whole history of ceramics and instead of using slides like most lecturers, I took along actual pieces from my rapidly expanding study collection, pots my students could hold for themselves. Meanwhile, appearances with Arthur Negus on Going for a Song and Arthur Negus Enjoys, led in 1979 to a new TV show, The Antiques Roadshow, which gave me a chance to share my love of ceramics with a massive audience around the world.”

Among the highlights of the collection is an important Royal Worcester plate by a member of one of the most famous Worcester family of artists, Harry Stinton (1883-1968). The Stinton family of artists were known for their scenes depicting cattle and gamebirds and were artists at the factory for almost 160 years. Harry and his father John Stinton were the most esteemed artists of the family. The Stinton dynasty began with Henry Stinton, who worked at the Grainger factory that became part of the Royal Worcester marque in 1805.

The plate in the sale is from a service commissioned in 1928, by the founder of another famous family, William Keith Kellogg (1860-1951) of the famous cereal company, trading as Kellogg’s. Kellogg ordered two sets of the service, which comprised 25 plates painted by Royal Worcester’s two best artists. The costly red background on the plates was chosen to match the colour of the famous Kellogg’s logo.

In 1985 Henry Sandon advised on the sale of the service as sets of twelve plates and was allowed to choose the one ‘spare’ plate of each design for himself. The current example is one of them. It features a rich raised border with raised gilding and in the centre is a watermill in a snow scene. It is signed by the artist and carries an estimate of £1,000-£1,400.

Henry Sandon:

“I had to sell part of my study collection forty years ago when I went to Canada as the Director of The George Gardiner Museum in Toronto, one of the world’s leading centres for the study of ceramics of all kinds. When I returned to Worcester, I gave special encouragement to many new manufactories of ceramics where I found traditional skills were still preserved but struggling to survive in tough conditions. My name and my enthusiasm for real craftsmanship helped British ceramics factories large and small and for my efforts

“I was rewarded with an MBE from the Queen for services to Charity and to the Ceramics Industry. Now that I am older than most of the ceramics in my collection, I am no longer able to pick up and hold and cherish every one of the hundreds of pieces I have lived with all around me. I need other people to help care for me, now and so it’s time to find new owners to care for all my beloved pots. I have known Simon Chorley way back since Arthur Negus’s days and so I asked him to organise this sale. Apart from just a few special favourites for my family to treasure, it is time for all of my pots to join new study collections.”

Another important piece in the sale is a Royal Worcester vase by the famed Worcester artist Harry Davis (1885-1970) – a great friend of Harry Stinton, above. Harry followed in the footsteps of his father, a china figure maker at the factory and his grandfather, one of the most esteemed gilders at the factory, beginning as an artist at the factory aged 13 under his grandfather’s wing. While there he painted a range of subjects with ease and soon gained a wonderful reputation for his work. During the war his skills were utilised drawing detailed diagrams for the Royal Engineers. He would go on to carry out a commission for a service for His Highness Shri Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja jam Saheb of Nawanager (the legendary Sussex and England cricketer) for his palaces in India and England and became foreman of the ‘Men’s Painters department’ at the factory, as well as teaching apprentices joining Royal Worcester

In 1928 Harry Davis helped Harry Swinton with the service for Kelloggs and in 1938 he painted a vase for Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman to commemorate his three double centuries on the New Road Ground at Worcester. In the 1940s Harry travelled to Buckingham Palace to paint equestrian artist Doris Lindner’s model of Queen Elizabeth II. She would later ask to see him on a visit to Royal Worcester’s bicentenary celebrations in 1951. Harry has created the vase in the sale in a baluster shape with a small gilt neck. It features a stag painted in a snow scene in experimental sunset colouring. It is signed by the artist and bears a date code for 1921. It is estimated to fetch £800-£1,200.

Auctioneer Simon Chorley:

“Chorley’s is delighted to have been instructed to sell the collection, as we have a wonderful, long-standing relationship with both Henry and Arthur. I first met Henry Sandon at the Three Choirs Festival at Gloucester in 1965, I was a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral, while Henry was a Lay Clerk at Worcester. In the early 1970s I joined Bruton Knowles and was under the wing of Arthur Negus. Henry often attended auctions and occasionally met and chatted with Arthur.”

A stoneware vase by the revered studio potter Geoffrey Whiting (1919-1988) also features in the sale. Northumberland-born Geoffrey trained as an architect, but fell in love with the craft of pottery during a visit to India. He spent six and half years in the country studying the techniques and began making simple unglazed earthenware before returning to England to set up his own pottery in Worcestershire. His minimalist style proved popular and still appeals in a contemporary context. Several of his pieces can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The stoneware vase in the sale is of slab form with resist decoration through the brown glaze. It has an estimate of £300-500.

An example of one of the older pieces in the collection is a north coast Peruvian stirrup vessel in the form of a seated warrior holding a club. From the Mochica (Moche) culture, it dates from circa 200-600 AD and is estimated to fetch £300-£400. A fun addition to the sale is a toby jug in the form of Henry Sandon by Staffordshire pottery Kevin Francis. The jug features experimental colours and was not put into production, making it truly unique. It carries an estimate of £50-£100.

Auctioneer Simon Chorley:

“After Arthur’s death in 1985, I was involved with arranging the auction of his treasured collection, Henry very much enjoyed that sale and it is now a privilege for me to be involved with Chorley’s, arranging Henry’s sale. In 2002 I was invited as a guest to This is Your Life, where Henry Sandon was the surprised recipient of the ‘Red Book’ and the final surprise guest was Anne, Arthur Negus’ daughter. She enthused about her late father’s great friendship with Henry and is now thrilled that Chorley’s are conducting Henry’s auction, a conclusion to those two friends and magnificent broadcasters’ life-long enjoyment of collecting.”

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