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Nevertheless, a rarity still commands big-budget collectors, as evidenced by this apparently unrecorded Brown-Westhead & Moore model of a cat, below right, offered at Canterbury Auction Galleries (20% buyer’s premium) on February 7.

The Hanley factory produced high-quality ceramics across the range of the market in its existence from 1862-1904, the high years of majolica production in which BW&M played its part.

Today its best wares rarely appear on the market. Back in 2011 at Essex auctioneers Boningtons, a French collector bid £17,000 for a 22in (56cm) tall figure of a bear stealing honey from a hive.

The Canterbury group of the cat sitting on books, one entitled All About Mice, was smaller at 8in (20cm) tall but raised similar enthusiasm.

Dated 1877 and with the impressed factory mark, it took a five-times estimate £13,000 from a South Yorkshire bidder.

One of the major names in the field is George Jones, the former designer at majolica pioneers Minton, who produced top-quality pieces at his own Stoke factory from 1866. His reputation blossomed and remains extremely high among collectors although, as with the whole genre, prices have slid.

Illustrated far left is a c.1876 jardinière with the impressed monogram and crescent mark for George Jones which was offered at Hansons (17.5% buyer’s premium) at Etwall on February 17.

The 17in (43cm) high jardinière, with finches in exceptionally high relief flying among orchids, had suffered some damage and losses but, against a £1000-1500 estimate, sold at £1850.