Peter Wilson Auctioneers To Offer The Harry Sheldon Wedgwood Collection

. August 13, 2011 . 0 Comments

Wedgwood ceramics collected by a man who started work at the Etruria factory straight from school, rising to the position of manager of the Jasper warehouse, are to be sold by Nantwich, Cheshire, auctioneers Peter Wilson. The sale is on September 7-8.

Wedgwood’s master potters became Harry Sheldon’s friends and as the odd job boy in the historic “Ornamental Works” section of the factory, he was soon learning his trade. Incredibly, he bought his first piece at the age of 14 with what was left over from his 11s/6d weekly wage – 57 pence in today’s money.

Throughout his life, Harry continued to study and collect the great wares from the past, building a vast collection of Wedgwood, which was stored in the attic of the Sheldon family home in Newcastle, Staffordshire.

Harry’s knowledge was highly respected and he became an active member of collectors’ groups on both sides of the Atlantic. He travelled to America regularly to participate in international Wedgwood seminars and to lecture at the Mint Museum, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Harry died, in 1996, and in 1998, his collection was dispersed in a landmark London auction. Since then, his American collector friends who vied with others from around the UK to buy pieces from it assumed the Harry Sheldon Collection was no more. They were wrong.

Harry’s son, also Harry, was bequeathed various pieces in his father’s will and in the years that followed, Harry Jnr built a Wedgwood collection of his own. This second sale, which Peter Wilson are honoured to have been asked to conduct, is Harry Sheldon Jnr’s tribute to his father and a small measure of how he was influenced in an appreciation of the finer things in the world of art and antiques.

“As a young lad, I was always interested in antiques and collectables, following the steps of my mother and father,” Harry Jnr said. “One of my first purchases was a Sambo money box, price two shillings (10p). Later in life my work took me into the construction industry, so I was able to afford to buy more and more collectables. Wedgwood, Minton and Royal Doulton became my passion.

“When my father passed away, he left some of the items to me. Some I have kept for sentimental reasons, but others have been included in this second sale along with other pieces from my collection, which hopefully, will give Wedgwood collectors the chance to obtain something a bit special or something out of the ordinary.”

Pride of place in the sale will be reserved for Harry Snr’s massive 18th century Apotheosis of Homer vase which he had painstakingly restored. The vase came originally from Winnington Hall, Northwich, but was damaged, apparently beyond redemption. The pieces were sent back to Wedgwood in 1974 to be copied, but Harry was allowed to buy the broken bits which were considered worthless and beyond repair, so that he could stick them all back together. Black boot polish added the finishing touch.

Harry never forgot that back in 1930, a Mrs Warrilow worked in the department where black basalt was sorted after firing. Visitors were never allowed in, because the pieces came from the oven looking dull and grey. After a rub with sandpaper, a paste of polish and turpentine was brushed on and left to dry. It was then rubbed with a smooth duster to produce what Harry called a “bloom”. As a junior, it was Harry’s job to go to a shop in the village to purchase three dozen tins of boot polish at a time, for Mrs Warrilow’s secret process. Years later, all of Harry’s basalt was given a beautiful 18th century finish, including the smashed Homer vase, now restored to its former glory. The vase is estimated at £300-500.

The sale comprises approximately 100 lots. From Harry senior’s collection is an unusual tricolour on black basalt plaque, circa 1800, depicting a goddess riding a chariot (estimate £100-150); a Wedgwood majolica ‘Corinthian’ stick stand (£600-800); a pair of lidded twin-handled vases painted with a lake scene (£80-120); and among a number of ceramic pieces by the French Artist Emile Lessore (1805-1876) a self portrait etching. It will be sold along with a naive oil on canvas ‘Birthplace of Josiah Wedgwood, Churchyard House, Burslem’, and nine watercolours of the Wedgwood factory by B.J Hodgkiss, a porcelain painter there (£100-200).

For Harry Jnr, the sale is full of memories. When the Etruria works were demolished in 1965, Harry Snr was able to salvage a few mementos. They included three potting wheels, a potter’s stool, the factory’s bell wheel and six 1930s grinding balls used for mixing pigment. They are estimated at £100-150.

Said Harry Jnr: “There are two books in the sale, one is a Wedgwood library book from Etruria, and the other was a gift from Kathleen Farrier, the famous singer, to the Harrison’s at Maer Hall, the former seat of Josiah Wedgwood II, thanking them for a lovely time spent there. These two books were purchased by my father from a sale at Maer Hall, while the large book ‘The Imperial Russian Dinner Service 1909’, illustrates every item in the service (£120-160). This fantastic book was very special to my father, as were the two-volume first edition set of ‘The Life of Josiah Wedgwood'” (£100-150).

A blue Jasper dip version of the famous Portland Vase, the base applied with the head of Paris in white, is estimated at £500-800, as is an early 19th century black basalt Bacchus wine ewer, modelled with a satyr gripping the horns of a ram’s mask and a mid 20th century pair of black Jasper dip lidded vases, decorated with the dancing hours. A pair of mid 20th century lidded black Jasper dip vases with twin satyr mask handles decorated with ribbon swags between engine turned fields is estimated at £300-500.

Away from Wedgwood, one of the choicest pieces in the sale is from Harry Jnr’s collection: an early example of Royal Doulton’s magnificent figurine Princess Badoura, a model based on an Arabian Nights story. Harry Jnr himself went into the pottery industry straight from school, working for Royal Doulton, and it was this experience that inspired him to buy one of the company’s flagship models later in life when he had sufficient funds. The figurine is estimated at
£2,500-3,000.

The sale is on view at Peter Wilson’s Victoria Gallery, Market Street, Nantwich, on Sunday September 4 from 2-4pm; Monday September 5 from 10am-7pm; Tuesday September 6 from 10am-4pm and on the morning of the sales from 9-11am.

Category: Antiques

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