‘Goodday from South Africa. Any information about this item marked Lambeth?’ read the post.
Multiple replies from members quickly arrived. ‘Awesome’, ‘Amazing’, ‘Wow that’s a bit nice’, ‘The only whole example I’ve ever seen’, ‘Very rare item’, ‘Prepare yourself for a lot of interest’.
The object of such admiration later arrived by post from South Africa at the office of Alan Blakeman of Yorkshire bottle advertising specialist BBR Auctions.
He had been driving back from the Stanley Bottle Show in County Durham in February when it arrived and his wife opened it.
“I was blown away – an absolutely fantastic and highly significant find”, Blakeman said.
The distinctive cuboid form with conical neck was associated with selling mustard, but this hand potted vessel was unusually large at 6¼in (16cm) tall and unusually decorative.
It was impressed to one of the faces with the façade of a classical building and the words John Hunt Colour Works Lambeth.
Members of the Oxfordshire club had done some useful research. Hunt is recorded working as a mustard maker and bone and guano merchant at a number of Lambeth addresses in the second quarter of the 19th century. In Robson’s Commercial Directory for London for 1837 he is listed as ‘Soap, mustard & colour manufacturer & bone merchant, High Street Lambeth’.
Plainer and smaller versions of this jar are known impressed with just two or three lines of lettering although this ‘building’ variant was deemed a much rarer beast. According to one club member, it was previously known only from a broken jar labelled John Hunt Mustard Works Lambeth that was unearthed in a river in Australia.
When back in the office, Blakeman contacted the sender to learn that this South African jar had been in a display case in the home of a grandparent for many years and had only been rediscovered during a spot of de-cluttering.
He happily agreed to add it to BBR’s April 23 auction at the Elsecar Spring Extravaganza and predicted it would be the talk of the show.
He was not wrong. It set a new auction record for a Victorian mustard pot when it was hammered down at £4500 (£5300 including premium).