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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

2,000 pieces of Spode at Bonhams auction

With English afternoon tea making a comeback the sale of 2,000 pieces of Spode porcelain service – at Bonhams sale on July 23 and 24 – offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone wishing to purchase the ultimate tea set.

This is without doubt the best collection of Spode to come to the market in years. In scope, scale and importance the Copeland Collection is rivaled only by the world-renowned Spode Museum in Stoke-on-Trent. Many pieces appear in the standard reference books on Spode and Copeland and the entire collection tells the complete story of the Copelands and their pottery manufacture.

Bonhams ceramics specialist Fergus Gambon, comments: “If you are after a gold embossed Spode tea-service, this is a sale you don’t want to miss. After years of being unfashionable, the tea service appears to be back in vogue. The shops are full of delicate cups and saucers printed with floral designs in vintage style, the perfect equipment for a traditional tea party. Bonhams sale of the contents of Trelissick House includes the renowned Copeland Collection of Spode and includes numerous tea and coffee services, many from the Regency period. Unlike modern examples, they are entirely hand-painted and gilded and provide an opportunity to drink from the same cup as a Regency dandy.”

John Sandon, Head of Ceramics at Bonhams, says: “The Copeland China Collection is extraordinary in so many ways. It is a totally comprehensive review of two hundred years of production at the great Spode and Copeland factory. It is also a very personal, family collection and this is what makes it really special. Set out on the dining table is the dessert service given by Josiah Spode to William Taylor Copeland on his marriage in 1826. Nearby stands the vase emblazoned with the family’s coat of arms, presented to Ronald Copeland when he retired in 1971. So many pieces have these close family connections. An incredible Copeland ceramic plaque painted by C.F.Hürten was made for Kibblestone Hall, the Copeland family’s Staffordshire home. Ronald’s son, Spencer Copeland brought it to Trelissick along with his father’s extensive collection of early Spode porcelain. Spencer added to the collection, concentrating on major pieces from the Victorian period, like the jeweled porcelain ewers that were shown with pride at the 1851 Great Exhibition.

When William Taylor Copeland established a new partnership with Thomas Garrett to run the china factory, their whole workforce was invited to celebrate with a feast held in two local inns. After the party that took place in 1834, someone had the idea to gather up all the bones from the meal and turn them into bone china. A pair of cups and saucers was made from these bones, to present to the factory’s owners. These spectacular cups are one of the highlights of the sale. You can’t get much closer to the workers at Copelands than these cups, made from the left-over bones—a unique piece of English ceramic history, decorated with extraordinary pride, and spectacularly beautiful too. This is my favorite lot in a remarkable sale. The estimate for the pair of cups is £8,000-£12,000.”
He adds: “But antique cups and saucers in the sale will all cost far less than you have to pay for most new ones. Tea sets for a little as £200 and many cups and saucers will work out as little as £20 each. What an opportunity.”

Anyone who has ever eaten off a Copeland Spode plate, exquisitely hand-painted with the flower of a rhododendron, will be curious about this family. Its members were master craftsmen, able to marry their interest in Cornish china clay with their pottery business in the Midlands, thereby producing items of such excellence as to become immediately collectable. They retained some of the ware for themselves, added to it, and then built up their own collection.

There are in Cornwall few houses which demonstrate so powerfully how industry and commerce can meet with landed estates. In 1920 the estate was purchased by a governor of the Bank of England, Lord Cunliffe. He was one of those rare examples of the successful businessman and the art connoisseur being found in the same person; it was he who was responsible for so much of the present collection. He was also responsible for a handsome bequest of artifacts to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.