First there was just a single Spook (HN58) – a design by modeller Harry Tittensor introduced in 1916 in the modest of the First World War.
Then in 1918 Doulton’s art director Charles Noke adapted the mould to add an addition ghoulish figure that became Spooks or Double Spook (HN88). Both models were available to order until 1936. Spook was made in many as eight different treatments from monochrome flambe red to the lustrous Titanian glaze with Spooks created in just three different colourways. All are today considered great rarities.
Two examples of Spook (HN58) have appeared for sale in recent years – one in a red cap and blue titanium glaze cloak selling for £2800 at Bonhams in August 2020, another in a lustrous glaze bringing £2900 at Arthur Johnson & Sons in July 2021.
The double figure Spooks (HN89) is more costly still. One with red hats and pale blue cloaks took £3300 at Sworders in September 2005 and another £3200 at Duke’s in March 2020.
Rare HN examples
However, the example pictured top, offered for sale at Potteries Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) in Stoke-on-Trent on March 10-12 bettered them all.
his rare example in a green Titanian type glaze with the figures wearing green and black caps was estimated at £2500-5000 and took a hammer price of £5300. This was one of several rare HN series figures in the sale held in Silverdale, roughly five miles from the Doulton factory in Burslem.
A version of A Mandarin (HN611) painted in shades of lilac and maroon took £1700 despite some faults to the side and back of the tunic. This figure (again made in several colourways) appears to have been inspired by Chu Chin Chow, the musical comedy that ran for five years in London’s West End from 1916-21, followed by a silent film of the same name in 1923.
Charles Noke’s model has been shown to have been borrowed from a character in Edmund Dulac’s Picture Book for the French Red Cross published in 1915.
Examples have brought some very substantial sums in the recent past. One in predominantly blue, yellow and black attire dated to the first year of production (1924) took £4600 at Adam Partridge in May 2020 while another in a blue, green and yellow Titanian glaze made $8000 at Florida firm Lion & Unicorn in October 2021.