Staffordshire greyhounds

Pair of Staffordshire greyhounds c.1850-60 – £6400 at W&H Peacock.

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Some 25-30 years ago they were far more expensive than now. But there are exceptions.

This pair of recumbent greyhounds, c.1850-60, are a rare model with particularly desirable decoration. Unusually large at 8in (20cm) across, they are coloured with ‘blackberry’ spots, ‘Disraeli’ curls and a coveted turquoise ground.

They share much in common with a similarly decorated pair of standing hounds (one with a hare in its jaws, the other with its prey lying on the turquoise base), examples of which occasionally come for sale in the £400-800 price bracket. They may indeed have been made in the same unnamed pot bank factory.

However, the recumbent model by ‘the Turquoise factory’ is deemed something of a collecting trophy. A pair of these took £1700 at Peter Wilson in Nantwich in January 2015 and another made £1300 at Mellors & Kirk in Nottingham in February 2019. More recently in December 2021 a single example brought £1450 at David Lay in Penzance.

However, all these numbers were made to appear modest by the well-presented pair estimated at £100-150 that were offered by W&H Peacock in Bedford on April 1. Like most examples of the model these had some damage – a break to a front and back leg of one and a base chip to the other – but in relative terms they were in good condition.

The dogs were consigned at a regular W&H Peacock valuation day. Bidding started at £1000 online but it ended up being fought in the room between five UK based phone bidders, taking the hammer price to a mighty £6400 (plus 17.5% buyer’s premium).

By most reckoning, this was the highest sum paid in the Victorian Staffordshire category for many years – and might even be a record for a pair of ‘comforter’ dogs.

Alan Sturrock, president of the Staffordshire Figure Association, told ATG he had been surprised at the level of competition but concluded: “The buyer won a wonderful and rare pair of greyhounds from a very desirable pot bank, the like of which will probably not reappear at auction for many years. They have certainly been the talk of the Staffordshire community this last week.”

The popularity of pairs of pottery dogs in the Victorian era is often equated with royalty: Queen Victoria’s much-loved King Charles spaniel Dash and Eos, Prince Albert’s favourite greyhound, providing the Staffordshire potters with ample role models.