In most guises this demitasse blue ground and gilt piece would command perhaps £10-20 but this one carries the registered No.580303 R4332, the marks of the Liverpool retailer Stonier & Co and magical words White Star Line. To the saucer is the monogram for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company.
Spode created a number of designs for White Star (the pattern books list the first in 1899) but this particular design (R4332) was the most luxurious and was introduced in 1911 for use on the grandest ships of the day.
Importantly, this is the pattern believed to have been used in the First Class dining rooms on the Titanic, the Olympic and the Majestic.
Pieces have been recovered from the Titanic wreck site (together with other ceramics in other patterns by other manufacturers).
Others, such as this, were sold at the time as White Star souvenirs, given as gifts by the company, or remained in use until the Olympic was broken up in 1935 at the time of the merger with Cunard.
The knowledge that several have been offered at auction before – including that sold by Bonhams in 2011 for £3500 – made the estimate of £80-120 appear somewhat modest.
However, the hammer price of £8400, bid via thesaleroom.com at the auction on July 1-2, may be some sort of record.
Liner china – ceramics associated with shipping lines and the golden age of maritime travel – can occasionally throw up surprising results. Pieces from the early Victorian period are particularly desirable.
The Partridge sale also included three Staffordshire brown transfer-printed wares made for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company.
The firm, established in 1823, served the cross-channel routes between Britain and Ireland for over a century. For 70 of those years it transported the Anglo-Irish mail, assuming responsibility from the Admiralty in 1850.
These three pieces, a 6in (16cm) dish and two egg cups c.1850, include the company’s logo centred by a vignette of a steam clipper at sea. They are marked to the base for AB Buxton of Liverpool – a firm that the London Gazette of 1833 lists as an earthenware dealer trading from Cleveland Square, close to the Albert Dock.
Despite the poor condition (one egg cup has a large rim chip and the dish is badly stained), they improved on an estimate of £20-40 to sell at £1200, again to a bidder on thesaleroom.com.
The two poster girls
The Transport Memorabilia sale held by Henry Aldridge & Son (20% buyer’s premium) in Devizes, Wiltshire, on June 20 featured a White Star poster sold for £36,000.
The rare 3ft 4in x 25in (1.01m x 63cm) poster features a rendition of the Olympic and Titanic ships in the run-up to the official launch in 1911. Enquiries are directed to Thomas Cook and Son, the venerable firm of travel agents that closed its doors in 2019.
This image was clearly a favourite of the White Star Line publicity department. The artwork by Montague Birrel Black (1884-1964) was used in a number of different promotional materials including postcards, menus, a second-class passenger list and on the cover of a 1911 souvenir edition of the Shipbuilder.
Nonetheless, this is a rare poster, with only a few copies having been offered for auction over the past 25 years. Once the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, the White Star Line would have destroyed as many of these posters as they could.
The Titanic may have seemed the height of luxury for many ahead of that fateful 1912 voyage, but for Third Class passengers, mainly emigrants from Ireland and Scandinavia heading for the US, the accommodation on such transatlantic voyages was not as salubrious.
Catalogued as ‘exceedingly rare’, a Titanic Third Class promotional brochure, 4 x 6in (10 x 15cm), in very good condition, sold on low estimate for £4000 at marine and scientific auction house Charles Miller (24% buyer’s premium) on July 7. It came from a private source and sold “to a private buyer who just fancied it for a while”, says Miller.
The colour-printed covers feature an Olympic class liner steaming into New York and passing the Statue of Liberty.
Of the 706 Third Class passengers, just 178 survived the Titanic disaster.