Caroline Dennard tells the story of a monumental discovery at the height of the pandemic.
The current coronavirus situation has inevitably changed the course of the way we undertake many parts of our business, with e-mail valuations acting as a safe and easy ‘go-to’ for many prospective vendors. During the height of the pandemic I received such an e-mail illustrating, amongst other things, a charger created by one of our local potteries Maw & Co. In the absence of dimensions or further details, I took this to be a piece of average size, created during circa 1890 during the factory’s expansion from tiles into decorative wares. Noting a stapled repair, I humbly estimated the piece at £80/£120 subject to closer inspection.
Some time passed and the vendor decided to proceed to sale. Imagine my surprise when, armed with a medium size box and packing, I am instead greeted with delivery of an absolute behemoth of an object! At a previously unheard of 92cm in diameter, I will admit I was initially perplexed as to where it would even safely be stored and it was quite clear that I was going to have to re-assess my initial valuation. After the initial excitement and minor logistical issues died down, I happily began to delve into the history.
Maw & Co was established by two brothers George and Arthur Maw in 1850, after a prompt by their father who thought the tile industry would be a good business opportunity as it combined their artistic talents with their entrepreneurial skills. Following a short stint in Worcester, the factory moved to Broseley in 1862. By 1880, their workforce had grown so much that they were noted to be one of the largest tile producers in the world, producing a very impressive 20 million tiles per year. Indeed, their tiles can be found in many important places – from London Underground stations, Royal residences both home and abroad, cathedrals, hospitals and even warships.
By the 1880s, the company expanded their production to high quality art pottery and employed highly respected artists such as Lewis Foreman Day and Walter Crane. “Art Pottery” is a term used to describe a style of pottery that reflected contemporary artistic taste. As a product of the Arts and Crafts movement, it was a part of a conscious effort to move away from the constraints of mass-produced machine wares, which had dominated the market by the mid-19th century and served to only stifle individuality and creative expression.
The complexity of firing a charger of this size means that it is most likely a one-off piece or special commission and it could well have been an intended piece for one of the many exhibitions Maw & Co won awards at, including London (1862), Paris (1867), Philadelphia (1876) and Adelaide (1887). Although I initially suspected the stapled repairs visible to the reverse were the sad result of damage, they could have been placed immediately after it was created in order to stop the item simply falling part after it came out the kiln.
Although further research is still ongoing into the mystery of this item prior to entry into auction on the 9th December, I am hopeful that with access to archival documentation we may be able to tie down the true origins. In the meantime, it has been a welcome surprise and just another reason why one should never take something for granted and how the antiques industry is always an exciting, continuous learning curve.
If you are looking for a unique and meaningful Christmas gift this year be sure to take a look at our Christmas Auction catalogue and give the gift of history this Christmas.
Viewing by appointment:
Sunday 6th December 2pm - 4pm
Monday 7th December 9.30am - 4.30pm
Tuesday 8th December 9.30am - 4.30pm
For further information about this auction please phone 01743 450 700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org