Chamberlain Worcester teapot, cover and stand from the Horatia service, £42,000 at Bonhams.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Bonhams’ (28/27/21/14.5% buyer’s premium) April 23 auction titled Nelson Forever! A Naval Legacy in Ceramics and Glass dispersed a single-owner collection with a very specific focus.

Assembled by a leading collector over the past 30 years, the 138-lot sale included ‘Nelson’ commemoratives in delft, slipware, pearlware and creamwares plus pieces from some of the porcelain services owned by the man himself. For Nelson collectors, these are the grail.

Nelson was a great admirer of fine porcelain and owned several celebrated services by British and European factories - some commissioned himself at great expense, others given as presentation gifts.

Services by the Meissen, Naples, Berlin and Worcester factories furnished Merton, the Surrey home Nelson and Hamilton shared together. Most are mentioned in the inventory of her possessions when she was forced to part with almost everything in return for loans in 1813.

The most famous of the Nelson commissions is the so-called Horatia service, ordered from the Chamberlain’s factory during a well-documented visit to Worcester in 1802.

Only the 150-piece breakfast set had been completed at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. It must have been a blow to Emma Hamilton to receive a bill from Chamberlains for 120 pounds 10 shillings and sixpence, only one week after Nelson’s state funeral in January 1806.

A total of eight lots from the Horatio service were included in the sale, topped by a teapot, cover and stand pictured in ATG No 2641. Last sold at Sotheby’s in 2001 when it made £27,000, it took £42,000 this time (pictured, top).

Danish destruction

A London-decorated Paris porcelain teapot and cover from the ‘Baltic’ service was also making a return to the rostrum. As part of a Waterloo-themed auction held by Bonhams in 2015, it had sold for £28,000 (£35,000 with premium).


London-decorated Paris porcelain teapot and cover from the Baltic service, £20,000 at Bonhams.

It carries the words 2nd April, Baltic - references to the day in 1801 when Nelson destroyed the Danish fleet at Copenhagen with additional dates, 14th February and Glorious 1st, remembering victories at Cape St Vincent in 1797 and the 1794 Battle of Ushant.

The service - embellished in a London decorating workshop on both Copeland and Paris porcelain blanks - was part of a presentation of chinaware given to Nelson in 1802 by the Ladies of the City of London. A tea set was listed in an 1805 inventory with other elements of the service owned by family members.

Only occasionally do pieces turn up for sale, although in February 2022 a beaker took £3200 at 1818 Auctioneers in Cumbria and in June 2021 a coffee cup took £2000 at Hansons. Here the teapot sold at the low end of a £20,000-30,000 guide.

The same bidder purchased, at the low estimate of £15,000, a Coalport cup and saucer painted with a portrait of Lady Hamilton that is signed and dated 1804 by the celebrated porcelain decorator Thomas Baxter.


Coalport cup and saucer by Thomas Baxter, dated 1804, £15,000 at Bonhams.

Painted in the year before Trafalgar, this is probably the piece referenced in a letter Nelson wrote to Emma on board HMS Victory on May 27, 1804: “Your dear phiz [face] - but not the least like you - on the cup, is safe; but I would not use it, for all the world; for, if it was broke, it would distress me very much.”

The cup and saucer were probably a personal gift from Emma to Nelson. It is known that Baxter visited her at Merton, the Surrey home she shared with Nelson, on multiple occasions where he sketched her from life.

Dancing lady

Also by Baxter for Coalport was a pair of vases from the once celebrated garniture known as The Nelson Vases. Decorated in 1801 with puce vignettes of a dancing lady based on an image of Emma, these were two of the five elements first offered for sale by Albert Amor in London in the early 20th century.


Pair of Coalport vases by Thomas Baxter from the garniture known as ‘The Nelson Vases’, £2500 at Bonhams.

They were thought back then to have belonged to Nelson and had been given to him by Emma.

By the time they were rediscovered and shown by Geoffrey Godden at the International Ceramics Fair 1991, the direct Nelson connection was seriously questioned as the ‘Emma Hamilton’ images had been copied from prints rather taken from life by Baxter at Merton. The vases were offered here at £3000-5000 and sold for £2500.

It was in c.1799 that Nelson and Emma (who had first met in Naples in 1793) became lovers.

By that time porcelain celebrating her renowned beauty was already being sold by some of the European factories.


Berlin (KPM) cabaret service painted with figures of Emma Hamilton performing the Attitudes, £8500 at Bonhams.

Dated to c.1795 was a 13-piece Berlin (KPM) cabaret service painted with figures of Emma performing her famous ‘Attitudes’, the tableau vivant in which she appeared in a gold-edged black box mirroring the poses of the figures painted on the ancient Greek vases in Sir William Hamilton’s collection. It was the talk of the upper classes.

The vignettes to the lavish presentation set copy the well-known set of prints produced by engraver Tommaso Piroli after drawings by Friedrich Rehberg.

Last sold at Christie’s King Street in July 2001, and part of the National Maritime Museum’s 2016-17 show Emma Hamilton, Seduction and Celebrity, it took £8500.

Individual successes

The market is clearly thin at the top for even this, the very best of ‘Nelson’ porcelain. Nonetheless strong competition came for individual items.


Battle of the Nile creamware mug, c.1810, probably Dawson & Co, Sunderland, £1600 at Bonhams.

Sold at £3800 (estimate £800- 1200) was a Chamberlain Worcester beaker painted with a portrait of a relatively young Nelson and background referencing the Battle of the Nile (August 1798).

It is likely that the painter responsible for these tumblers was John Wood, the principal figure painter employed by Chamberlains at this time.

A similar beaker is known inscribed Peace that was made four years later to commemorate the Peace of Amiens in 1802. However, this is probably the piece referred to in the Chamberlains factory order books in 1798 as, ‘1 Pint Tumbler, Nelson’s Victory, yellow and gold’ at a cost of three guineas’.


White stoneware figure of Nelson modelled by Pierre Stephan, £11,000 at Bonhams.

Plenty of competition emerged for a 12in (30cm) unglazed white stoneware figure of Nelson standing in full military dress modelled by Pierre Stephan. It went to an online bidder at £11,000 against a modest £1000-1500 estimate.


Spode coffee can and saucer from the Rev William Nelson service, c.1806-08 painted with two crests, £850 at Bonhams.

Not only is this the only recorded example of this figure, but it has a Nelson family provenance. It descended from Rev William Nelson (the admiral’s brother) at Trafalgar House, Wiltshire, until it was sold twice by Sotheby’s (first in October 2005 and then in January 2018).


English delft blue and white bowl c.1780 inscribed Success to the Lord’s Rodney & Hood, £2800 at Bonhams.

Stephan, who worked as a freelancer making moulds for a variety of British factories including Derby and Wedgwood, created a series of portraits of prominent figures, including the models of Admirals Hood and Rodney in black basalt (sold in this sale for £1600 and £3500 respectively).


Novelty Prattware pipe, c.1782-1800 modelled as HMS Royal George, £2200 at Bonhams.


English slipware pot with the inscription Success to the British Neavy, God Save the King, HML 1799, £1200 at Bonhams.


Pearlware jug, c.1800 inscribed G R, Success to the British fleet and painted with three uniformed infantrymen aiming muskets, £1100 at Bonhams.