Cheers to the late collector who followed a craze and never looked back

23/08/22

Countless collectors embraced the hobby first by following the craze of around 40 years ago of identifying Victorian rubbish dumps on old maps. They proved to be honey pots for old pop bottles, stoneware ink and ginger beer bottles, pot lids and other long-forgotten bric-a-brac, discarded by one generation but prized a couple of generations later.

One such individual for whom collecting became a lifelong passion was an auction-goer present at pretty well every sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries since it began business in 1991. Over the years he watched the value of his Victorian and earlier bottles grow and with the knowledge and connoisseurship acquired over the years, he widened his interests, refined his collection and purchased the best pieces of other antiques and fine art he could afford.

Now that the collector is deceased, his family have decided the time is right to return pieces from his collection to the saleroom where many of them were purchased, giving others the opportunity to treasure them as he did.

The prices achieved surprised even hardened auction-watchers. The two-day August sale saw six like-minded bidders battle it out for 12 lots of some of the rarest bottles on the market, spending a total of £16,120 between them. Most wanted were rare coloured examples, which always attract a premium. Top of the heap was a group of 27 late 19th and early 20th century soda water, lemonade and ginger beer bottles from such makers as "R White, Camberwell", "Ray Soda Water Manufacturer, Grey Coat Place, Westminster" and “E.R Ing, Swindon”. The inclusion of blue glass examples and others with rare patent methods for keeping the contents aerated drove the price to £6,600, against an estimate of £80-120.

A Welsh buyer with an eye for stoneware ginger beer bottles and gin flasks purchased all four lots offered for a total of £1,500. Most valuable proved to be a group of 32 Kent examples including those retailed by establishments such as "The Globe, Ashford", "T E Cook & Son, Folkestone and Dover" and "D.W Hiddett, Mortimer Street, Herne Bay".

An indication of the deceased collector’s wide-ranging and refined tastes was the inclusion of a small but exquisite 19th Century Chinese white jade pendant, the design pierced and carved with a bird and flowering tree It measured just 2ins (5.1cm) by 2.25ins (5.6cm) and sold for £4,700, appropriately to a Chinese buyer bidding from his home in the U.S. It had been estimated at £1,000-1,500.

As ever, pre-owned and loved jewellery produced strong prices, the most valuable proving to be a stunning 3.4ct solitaire diamond ring complete with Gemmological Certificate, which sold to the Trade for £8,000. Auctioneer Cliona Kilroy said the price was an indication that big stones are becoming increasingly popular.

An equally notable entry was a set of costume jewellery made for Christian Dior by leading designer Mitchel Mayer. The set comprised en tremblant floral necklace with matching brooch and earrings, the setting enabling the paste stones to “tremble” with the wearer’s movement. It was taken to one of the saleroom’s free Friday valuation mornings and its stunning quality attracted much bidding before being taken by an online German bidder for £1,650 against an estimate of £200-300.

The saleroom’s adoption of online live bidding has opened up sales to a growing worldwide audience. For example, the most valuable clock in the sale was purchased by a Canadian collector. The fine 19th century burr walnut, ebonised and gilt brass-mounted bracket clock with regulation dial and eight bells/Westminster chimes dial to the arch was by London and St Albans maker Thomas Mercer. It sold on estimate for £3,500.

A gem from the golden age of American map-making is heading back home. A 32-section, linen-backed folding engraved map with hand-coloured outlines titled "United States of America: by H. S. Tanner, 1836", was further inscribed "Engraved by H. S. Tanner: assisted by E. B. Dawson, W. Allen and J. Knight", while the title was printed with a vignette after James W. Steel. The sheet size was 46.75ins x 61.75ins and the map sold to the U.S. bidder online for £2,600 against an estimate of £800-1,200, much to the delight of the owner who took it to a Friday free valuation day at the saleroom. Henry Schenck Tanner (1786, New York-1858, Philadelphia) undertook the arduous task of mapping the entire United States at the time and is regarded as a key figure in American cartography.

Top price in a small collection of the works of T.S. Eliot was a 1st edition of "Four Quartets",  signed by the author and published by Harcourt, Brace & Co, New York. It sold to a London buyer for £1,750. The books had been entered privately. A number of inherited volumes which have not been included in this sale were in envelopes posted and addressed to W J Crawley, Sales Director at Faber, in the 1950s. It is thought that this volume came from that source, but there was no evidence to confirm this.

In the militaria section of the sale were a British officer's battlefield-find sword and a framed shako plate and smaller eagle from a French ammo pouch. Relics found on the Waterloo field, they came from the museum created by Sergeant-Major Edward Cotton (1792-1849), a Waterloo veteran. Cotton was born on the Isle of Wight and enlisted in the 7th Hussars in London in 1813. He saw active service in the Peninsula War, being present at the Battles of Orthez and Toulouse in 1814.

At Waterloo, he was stationed on the right of Wellington’s line, and was heavily involved in the counter-charges against the massed French cavalry, at one point saving the life of a fellow Hussar Edward Gilmore who lay trapped under his wounded horse. The museum was dispersed in 1875 and museum tag and relics sticker together with details of the grand sale was convincing enough provenance for the Essex buyer who secured the lot from its local owner for £1,450 against an estimate of £300-500.

Proof that good quality furniture remains wanted was the £1,250 bid by a UK buyer for a Victorian oak partners’ desk, the top inset with black leather and fitted three frieze drawers to each side, and three drawers and cupboards enclosed by a single panelled door to each pedestal.

However, all eyes were on “Sweetpea”, the model steam train that carried visitors (or perhaps their children) around a track as Mote Park in Maidstone. The 5-inch gauge, scratch-built model was entered into the auction by the family of a deceased member of Mote Park Club and was purchased by a new enthusiast. The train will be used as a basis for his own track and layout to raise money for charities, the new owner paying £1,850 for the privilege.

Entries of good quality furniture, antiques, works of art, jewellery and collectors’ items are invited for the next sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, which is on October 1-2. Free saleroom valuations can be arranged, either in person with an appointment or by email, accompanied by good quality images. Valuations for probate purposes are carried out under strict Covid safety conditions. For further information, please contact the saleroom, telephone 01277 763337 or general@tcag.co.uk.

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