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Principal to its success was an early pair of Chelsea porcelain pheasants, together with several English delft entries and a sought-after consignment of West Country pottery.
“Normally we are the poor siblings to paintings and furniture,” said a delighted ceramic and glass specialist Nic Saintey. There were few casualties in the 121-lot ceramics section that totalled £125,000 while the 87 lots of furniture fetched a more modest £94,000.

The biggest money was reserved for the Chelsea porcelain Chinese pheasants, 1750-1752, 81/4in (21cm) high, with raised red anchor marks, that had been in the collection of a local private vendor for around 20 years.

The well-painted orange birds with brightly coloured plumage were perched on white tree stump bases. The £10,000-15,000 estimate took into account their unexceptional modelling and poor condition: one had a chipped beak and tail feather and its mate had been broken and re-stuck in a dozen different places.

Condition notwithstanding, they generated interest from several early English porcelain dealers and London’s West End trade but sold within estimate at £14,000 to a London dealer. The same buyer also secured a modestly-estimated Barr, Flight and Barr part tea and coffee service, c.1810, together with seven Spode coffee cans, c.1811, at £6200.

A more rustic ceramic entry was a Victorian Fremington earthenware pedestal bowl and cover, impressed G. Fishley, Fremington, Devon and incised to the footrim 1770 and 1855. Its crudely potted coiled body was heavily encrusted with an odd combination of fruiting vines, apples and pears with cherub mask handles.

Although Bernard Leach described G. Fishley and his grandson E.B. Fishley as “peasant potters”, he admired the work of these accomplished jobbing Devonshire craftsmen who catered to all tastes, making vases and jugs for local farmers and yeomen as well as studio pottery for the more discerning West Country buyer.

Given the buoyant market for naive North Devon pottery that regularly sees Barnstable and Bideford harvest jugs sell to American collectors for £8000-12,000, Fishley ceramics must appear good value.

The vase and cover was consigned together with five other Fishley ceramics by a descendent of E.B. Fishley and all exceeded pre-sale estimates.

The vase and cover sold to a private London buyer at £4700 against a £1500-2000 guideline while an Edwin Beer Fishley pottery harvest jug, 93/4in (25cm) high, fetched £1700 (£250-300 estimate), a second harvest jug tripled expectations at £580, an E.B. Fishley puzzle jug brought £480 and a tobacco box and cover together with a green glazed Chinese-style Cadogan teapot, both by E.B. Fishley, were pursued to £780.

Like this West Country pottery, the naivety of English delft has long had its admirers in America as well as in the UK. One of the most contested ceramics was an early Lambeth blue and white delft plate commemorating the coronation of King George II, inscribed and dated 1727, within a blue wreath, 81/2in (22cm) diameter.
Sourced from a local house clearance, it had been cracked and re-stuck in several places and was estimated at £500-600. It was important and early enough to sell for a winning £7000 placed by a representative in the room bidding on behalf of a West End dealer acting for a museum.

One of the most unusual delft entries was a blue and white jar and cover fitted with a candle holder. One of around 50 lots from the deceased estate of an antique dealer, it was plainly decorated with flower bands and loosely catalogued as a late 18th century tobacco jar. Almost certainly English, it turned out to be the upper part of an invalid food warmer and was contested to £1600, presumably by a buyer who could match it with the base.

Elsewhere, a privately-entered and striking William de Morgan six-tile panel illustrating a large owl perched on an upturned crescent moon, each tile 6in (15cm), impressed DM Merton Abbey, c.1885, brought £6600 from a collector/academic continuing the strong prices seen of late for decorative Arts and Crafts tiles that have been reported in the Gazette. By contrast, the cer-amic section’s Achilles heel was the Moor-croft with only four of the 14 lots getting away.
Aside from the ceramics, the foremost furniture entry was a privately consigned giltwood looking glass, 5ft by 2ft 41/3in (1.52m x 72cm) cautiously catalogued ‘in the manner of George II’. “Mirrors are terribly difficult to authenticate as period,” said specialist Richard Bearne, who gave this example a £2000-2500 guideline. Confident it was a George II mirror, a London dealer bought it at £9800.

Bearne’s, Exeter, July 1-2 Number of lots: 644 Lots sold: 467
Sale total: £498,000 Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent