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An old spoon, thought by its Somerset owner to be worth under £100, served up a big surprise when it was sold on January 19th.
“It is a rare spoon dating from the reign of King Charles II,” says Lawrences’ specialist, Alex Butcher. “It was made in London in 1683 and is engraved with the legend `This Spoon was bought upon the Frozen Thames* January:28:1683/4` which makes all the difference to collectors.”
Alex explains why: “Eight frost fairs were held on the Thames between 1607 and 1814; the first recorded frost fair was in the winter of 1607/08. The frost commenced in mid December, and by mid-January the ice between Lambeth and Westminster was firm and thick enough to allow a large number of people to walk on it in perfect safety. Booths were set up for the sale of fruit, food, beer and wine and shoemakers and barbers plied their trade on the ice, such as bowling, shooting and dancing. During the winter of 1683/84 the frost lasted from December to early February but the fair was confined to the second half of January. The ice was thick and firm, and the number of shops, booths and people on the frozen river made it appear like another city. The booths, which sold all sorts of goods and merchandise and covered a variety of trades, were arranged in formal streets from the Temple to Southwark. A printing press was set up on the ice and the practice of having their names printed with the date and the phrase "printed on the Thames" became so popular with the people that the printer made a small fortune. People indulged in practically every sport including dancing, skating, sledging, bull-baiting, bear baiting, fox-hunting, football and skittles. Even King Charles II and his family visited the frost fair and had their names printed on a sheet of paper by G Groom on January 31st 1684, just three days after the date on this spoon.”
Novelty spoons with a history that links them to such a specific time and place in such unusual weather conditions are very appealing and this 7.75” (19.5cm) spoon scooped up bids in excess of its tempting but cautious estimate of £1200-1500 before a buyer forked out £14,000 [hammer].
Oliver Morel (1916-2003) was a furniture maker, teacher and farmer. “He made his furniture in the Arts and Crafts tradition of exemplary craftsmanship with superb materials and a simple honesty of design, “says Lawrences’ Simon Jones who got the lots in for sale. “In 1934 Morel became an apprentice at the famous Edward Barnsley Furniture Workshop in Hampshire. Edward had inherited the Arts and Crafts mantle from his father Sidney who had established the Cotswold tradition of making furniture with his colleague Ernest Gimson. Morel moved to Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds in the 1960’s, where he established a workshop making high quality furniture.”
Consigned for sale by a West Dorset Vendor who had known Morel personally, the sale included 10 items of his furniture. The highlight was a large collectors cabinet, Morel’s last large commission. Feverish bidding saw the cabinet make £18,300, an auction record for the maker. Other highlights included a Secretaire Cabinet (£9760), a domed top blanket box (£1950), a dining table (£1700) and a gun cabinet (£1580).
The collection made just under £40,000 on the day.
Image is of the large Collectors Cabinet (£18,300).
Good provenance proved to be in demand in Lawrences’ recent auction of 300 lots of pictures in Crewkerne.
Not surprisingly for a county so steeped in hunting and field sports, a celebrated pair of Snaffles’ prints of `The Finest..` and `The Worst View in Europe` was chased to just above estimate to make £2,000 but traditional subjects in watercolour showed renewed strengths, too: a fine watercolour of the Market Place at Padua by William Callow was bid to £5,730 whilst a pair of 1930’s views of Hong Kong by Eizo Kato made £5,600 (the second highest price ever recorded for a pair of his pictures). The Callow watercolour came from the Anderson family collection at Limington House near Yeovil. From the same house, two views of Raby Castle by Joseph Miller, by descent in the family of Elizabeth Russell, Duchess of Cleveland, made just over £8,000, a record price for the artist.
A Scottish family portrait of James Erskine, Lord Alva and his family by Francis Lindo dated from 1761 and came from the sitters’ family. Presented in its original frame, this also made a new record price of £16,470. The last lot of the day was a seasonally wintry scene of Ludham, Suffolk, by Edward Seago. Consigned for sale from a local private collection, it was in fine condition and appealed to numerous bidders before the hammer fell at £18,300, double the mid-estimate. “Collectors like to buy pictures with a history,” says Richard Kay of Lawrences. “We were lucky to have such a good selection of pictures that were appearing at auction in some cases for the first time. When a clear link can be made to noble lineage and the estimates are realistic, buyers spend much more determinedly.”
Lawrences' recent sale of Decorative Arts and Ceramics saw remarkable prices for the old and the new, reflecting the breadth of an auction that recorded a host of high prices.
Early successes in the Decorative Arts section included world record-breaking prices paid for superb pieces of furniture made by Oliver Morel (1916-2003). Amongst the eleven lots on offer, all of which had been commissioned by the vendor from Morel himself in the 1980's, was a large collectors cabinet made of walnut but with detailed inlays made of Indian laurel, rosewood, blackwood, partridge wood, yew and holly. The flawless and meticulous craftsmanship lifted the price to £18,300 whilst the whole collection realised £36,200.
Another good price in this section was the £1,700 paid for Demetre Chiparus's bronze and ivory figure of `Innocence` whilst five various glasses from the Minerbi service by James Powell and Sons (Whitefriars) were in clear demand and made £2,920.
Items of quality from the Far East continue to yield strong prices: two small Japanese netsukes of a bird and of a boy took £4,270; and a jade boulder carving took £5,360. These had each been spotted in the firm's general saleroom and selected for a specialised sale where worldwide interest returned remarkable results for the delighted owners. A Chinese enamelled box from the Anderson family at Limington House near Yeovil made £4,630 whilst a pair of Chinese blue and white garden seats settled comfortably at £3290, nearly double the low estimate.
Closer to home, and English pearlware stirrup cup in the form of a fox mask produced a price that summed up the spirit of the chase seen throughout the day when it sold at £1,460, well ahead of expectations. This had come from Cefntilla, the Welsh seat of the Lords Raglan since the 1860's.
Diamonds had to jostle for attention with less sparkly jewels in Lawrences' recent auction in Crewkerne.
Amongst the 340 lots on offer, an early surprise was the high price paid for a string of amber beads and a matching bracelet. Strung into a 90cm row, the beads varied from a warm yellow/gold to a rich red/brown. Against keen competition, they were bought for £8540. In addition, a single row of fine natural pearls added elegant lustre to the sale by making £10,700.
A quarter repeating gold cased pocket watch by Josiah Emery dated to c.1790 and the dial was decorate with a running fox and the inscription `Tally Ho - Raby Hunt`. "It is likely that the watch belonged to the 1st Duke of Cleveland at Raby Castle," says specialist Anthony Kilroy. "He was so keen a huntsman that he forbade the construction of a railway line in 1820 as it encroached upon one of his favourite coverts." The watch passed by descent through the family of the Duke's second wife, Elizabeth Russell and was consigned for sale by her descendants who lived at Limington House near Yeovil. Sold with a gold chain and five fob seals, the lot made £7800.
Amongst a strong selection of good diamond jewellery, a late Victorian tiara set with numerous stones but missing its central section, nonetheless attracted many bids before being bought for £11,950 whilst a diamond and demantoid garnet star brooch pendant soared to celestial heights by making £10,980. "There was strength throughout the sale," said Lawrences' jewellery specialist, Miranda Bingham. "We expect to see diamonds sell well but such keen demand for amber and pearls shows another focus in the market and our vendors are delighted."
Glimpses of our history determined the highest prices in Lawrences’ recent auction of silver and vertu in Crewkerne.
Ounce for ounce, a single spoon proved to be the greatest attraction. It was made in 1683 and sold at a `Frost Fair` on the frozen River Thames. “During the harsh winter from December 1682 to early February 1683, the ice was considered thick enough to support a crowd in late January. Booths, traders and stallholders sold all manner of objects that could be mementoes of a Frost Fair and a merchant selling an engraved spoon as a commemorative souvenir would have been kept busy,” says Lawrences’ specialist Alex Butcher. The rarity and fine condition of this special spoon stirred up interest to make £14,000. The owners, from Somerset, had expected that it could be worth about £100.
An unusual cased set of three tea caddies by Edward Aldridge dated from 1766 and brewed up interest to make £5,490 whilst a finely engraved 1859 `Castletop` card case showing the esplanade at Scarborough was bid to £4,390. A table snuff box by celebrated Birmingham silversmith Nathaniel Mills was decorated with a locomotive engine and commemorated the opening of Arbroath and Forfar railway in 1839. A good head of steam from interested railway enthusiasts coupled with fine craftsmanship and excellent condition saw this box puff its way to £9,390.
One of the last lots in the 650-lot sale was a portrait by William Grimaldi of the Duke of Wellington, drawn at the Duke’s London home at Apsley House before he departed for his ambassadorial role in Paris and his further campaigns against Napoleon. Consigned for sale from a Dorset family collection, the 19 by 14.5cm miniature was bid to £14,600, just above its upper estimate.