English and European Ceramics and Glass

Wednesday 16th June 2021. Starts at 10:00am

We are honoured to include in the auction the collection of Lady Kate Davson, known to many by her maiden name of Kate Foster.

The daughter of Ludovic Foster and Pamela Wilberforce, Kate was brought up near Pulborough in Sussex. Educated at Downe House School, near Newbury, she then attended a secretarial college before learning Italian in Perugia. She was proud to be the great-great-great grand-daughter of William Wilberforce (see lot 438) and was prominent in the bicentenary celebration of Britain’s abolition of the Slave Trade in 2007.

Kate started work at Sotheby’s in 1959, working under T H (Tim) Clarke and Jim Kiddell in the Works of Art department. It was here that she developed her love and knowledge of European porcelain, and in 1966 she published her book Scent Bottles – being the first to separate out from known Chelsea examples those produced by the (as it was then known) ‘Girl in a Swing’ factory.

In 1973 Kate set up her own firm, Kate Foster Ltd. Initially based in Ryder Street, St James’s, she later shared a shop in the Halkin Arcade in Knightsbridge with the silver dealers Brand Inglis and Timothy Schroder. She was one of the original exhibitors and lecturers at the Haughton International Ceramics Fair from 1982 and regularly exhibited at other prestigious events across Europe and America. A keen academic, she founded the French Porcelain Society in 1984 and was a regular contributor not only to the journals of that society, but also to those of the English Ceramic Circle and Die Gesellschaft der Keramikfreunde.

Kate married Christopher Davson (1927-2004) in 1975. She gave up her London shop some 16 years later in 1991 but continued to operate from their Sussex home in Rye. Although she became Lady Davson in 1998 she preferred to be known as simply Kate.

Her talents and interests were many and varied. Alongside her husband Christopher, an archaeologist, she travelled to Egypt and the Holy Land. As a committed Christian, her membership of the IEF (International Ecumenical Fellowship) saw her travelling across Africa, especially to Uganda and Kenya. A member of the IEF from 1994, she was also its President twice from 2007.

Musically, she was a talented flautist and expanded the musical side of the Rye Festival, for which she served as chairman in the late 1980s. She introduced Sir Jeffrey Tate, the eminent conductor, to the Festival in collaboration with Mitzuko Uchida, the famous pianist. Ever one for combining her interests, she also introduced Sir Jeffrey to the world of porcelain collecting.

Her fluency in French and German aided her travels around Europe, which she enjoyed from a young age, and helped her gain access to some of the Continent’s most renowned collections of porcelain – early Meissen being a particular love.

She was a prominent figure in Rye, regularly offering her garden for events and parties, including hosting for the Friends of Rye Art Gallery and raising funds for the Peasmarsh Music Festival.

In 2013 she moved from Rye to Canterbury and continued to be an active member of the community, speaking at an event against modern slavery in 2018 as a direct descendant of William Wilberforce.

The 43 lots included here from her collection reflect not only her deep knowledge of rare and early porcelain, but also the varied and esoteric nature of her interests, from the very origins of European porcelain at the hands of Johann Böttger to the Oriental influences on the first London factories.

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