Lucky find at Devon pannier market

29th September 2020

A tile bought in a Devon Pannier market for just £8 has sold at auction in Salisbury for £4,750.

The six inch square tile (lot 120) was designed by William De Morgan in the late 19th century and featured a fantastical long-tongued beast in blue and silver lustre. It was being sold as part of a large section of wares produced by the famed Victorian designer in our Arts and Crafts auction on 6th October, where it exceeded the pre-sale expectations of around £1,000, despite having been drilled twice.

It was spotted by the lucky vendor at Tavistock Pannier Market, which they visited as lockdown restrictions began to lift back in June. It was listed on a stall as “A Cornish tile” but the canny buyer immediately recognised it for what it was and snapped it up, taking it promptly to the Salisbury auctioneers who set the auction record for a William De Morgan tile back in 2013.

“Lockdown was a frustrating time for collectors, as it was for everyone,” explained Michael Jeffery, Design specialist. “All auctions, fairs and markets had been cancelled and although an online market thrived, it’s not the same as being able to get out and handle items and find treasures. So to come across a tile like this on your first outing in months must have been a real treat.”

William De Morgan started experimenting with lustre glazes in the 1870s, inspired by Middle Eastern ceramics of the 15th and 16th centuries. His designs came into their own after he moved his factory from Merton Abbey to Fulham in 1888 and mastered many of the technical aspects of his work which had previously eluded him.

“Ironically, he didn’t have much financial success during his time at the Fulham pottery,” said Jeffery. “It is really since his death that collectors have become inspired by his works, and especially in the last decade that prices have really taken off.”

The sale on 6th October contained 30 lots of De Morgan’s designs, including a double gourd vase with ruby lustre decoration (lot 104) that sold for £9,400.


All prices quoted include buyer's premium.


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