Rare tiles designed by Walter Crane sells for £5,000 at Shrewsbury auction

A rare set of six relief-pressed tiles designed by Victorian artist and illustrator Walter Crane sold for £5,000 to a Dutch buyer at a Shropshire fine art auction house on Wednesday.

The set, titled ‘Flora’s Train’, was made in 1900-’01 by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian Pottery, Manchester and has been consigned to Halls’ auction of fine furniture, European ceramics and works of art.

While similar in style to book illustrations by Crane (1845-1915), the designs also showed the influence of Art Nouveau. The set comprised ‘Poppy’, ‘Cornflower’, ‘Columbine’, ‘Daffodil’, ‘Bluebell’ and ‘Anemone’.

“This was the first time to my knowledge that a set of six ‘Flora’s Train’ tiles had come up for auction,” said Caroline Dennard, Halls’ European ceramics specialist. “They are very rare and have the added benefit of being designed by Walter Crane, who is a very desirable designer.

“They were in lovely condition and were originally part of a fireplace in Southern England. The owner took them with him when he moved house. An experienced collector said he had only seen one other complete set of six tiles in all his years collecting.”

The auction’s ceramics section also included a very rare Caughley pounce pot, which sold to a collector for £2,800 after keen biding in the saleroom.

There was also an excellent £2,500 result for three early 19th century English blue and white meat plates, including a sought after pair transfer printed after Boultbee with ‘The Durham Ox’ being watched by his owner, John Day, holding a cane. The plates were keenly contested by bidders on four telephone lines, on the Internet and in the saleroom.

A French bronze figure of a maiden, entitled ‘Marguerite’, cast from the model by Eugene Antoine Aizelin (1821-1902) sold for £2,800, while another French bronze and carved ivory figure of a maiden with a mandolin made £1,400.

A bronze portrait bust of Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976) by Samuel Tomkiss (1909-’92), produced the year before the famous artist died, sold for £1,000 to a Shropshire collector. Born in Shropshire, Tomkiss later moved to West Yorkshire where he worked as a journalist in the early 1960s. He began to sculpt a series of portrait busts, some of which were cast as limited editions.

Two dapple grey rocking horses found new homes for £2,600 and £1,250, with the top seller being a finely carved and restored early 20th century example from a Worcestershire vendor.

Nineteenth century decorative French furniture was in demand as a pair of 19th century serpentine fold-over card tables and a serpentine desk both in Boulle style sold for £2,400 and £2,200 respectively, despite requiring restoration work. A Louis VXI ebonised brass line strung cabinet pedestal made £1,450 and a figured walnut bureau plat sold for £1,200.

The furniture section also included an 18th century North Wales high dresser at £1,800 and a 19th century teak campaign style secretaire chest at £1,000. A 20th century Isfahan rug from Bahrain sold to estimate at £1,000.

Halls’ senior auctioneers and valuer Andrew Beeston said: “The auction highlighted the growing market trend towards items which are decorative, including French style furniture and bronzes. Our programme of auctions next year will reflect these growing trends.”

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