Henry Sandon

The late Henry Sandon, who passed away on Christmas day.

Image: Sandon family.

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An acknowledged authority on Worcester porcelain and a specialist across all fields of ceramics, he became familiar to millions of viewers after joining the BBC's Antiques Roadshow in 1979.

His son John Sandon, who is also a ceramics expert and a former Bonhams' specialist, told the BBC that his father was like a “favourite uncle” to those who tuned in each week. He confirmed his father had died peacefully at a care home in Malvern, Worcestershire, on Christmas day.

Chance encounter

As a young man, Henry Sandon (b.1928) moved to Worcester to teach at the grammar school and sing in the choir. He had a great interest in archaeology but fell in love with ceramics by chance.

“Once in Worcester I discovered ceramics everywhere,” he said. “I dug up Roman and Medieval pots in my garden by the Cathedral… which led me to attend local auctions and antique shops filled with Worcester porcelain.”

Henry Sandon

Henry Sandon with a dish commissioned by his three sons featuring Ozzie the Owl. Ozzie was a 17th century slipware owl brought along to a Roadshow in Northampton in 1990 which Sandon loved. The dish was designed by Sally Tuffin and made for Sandon by Dennis Chinaworks.

Image: Sandon family.

In 1967 Sandon was appointed curator of the Dyson Perrins Museum at the Royal Worcester Factory, a position he held until 1982.

“In 1967 the museum 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 gave me the same advice: Jim Kiddell from Sotheby’s, the great collector Dr Bernard Watney and my dear friend Geoffrey Godden 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.”

Toby jug in the form of Henry Sandon

A toby jug in the form of Henry Sandon by Staffordshire maker Kevin Francis Ceramics. Estimated at £50-100, it sold for £550 at Chorley's auction of the Henry Sandon collection in April 2023.

Sandon later attended auctions at Bruton Knowles (forerunner to Chorley’s) where he met and became friends with the legendary antiques specialist Arthur Negus (1903-85). They then both appeared on the Antiques Roadshow together, where Sandon regularly featured for decades.

Sandon sold part of his collection 40 years ago when he went to Canada as the director of The George Gardiner Museum in Toronto but earlier this year sold another tranche at Chorley’s after moving into the care home. The auction on April 18 at comprised 1000 items across 380 lots – read ATG’s report of the sale here.

‘Infectious personality'

John Sandon told the BBC his father was not just “a giant in the world of antiques” but also “synonymous with Worcester, due to his enthusiasm for Royal Worcester pots and his infectious personality”.

“To the millions who tuned in every Sunday evening to watch the Antiques Roadshow, Henry was like a favourite uncle, whose enthusiasm for even the humblest piece of chipped china was infectious,” John Sandon said.

“His joy when he discovered a rare Staffordshire pottery owl jug, nicknamed 'Ozzie', was a magic TV moment few will forget.”