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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Longton Hall Porcelain

( Originally Published 1913 )

"Pair of sauce-boats, in puce, 6pounds 6s. Leaf dish, in cobalt blue, 5pounds. Marked plate, 5 15s. 6d. Pair of ewers, 22. Large mug, enamelled with Chinese figures, 6 16s. 6d. Group of birds on a tree attacked by a dog, 12 12s. Statuette of a shepherd, 52 12s. Statuette of a girl, 28." I am quoting from a report of the prices obtained at a great auction of Longton Hall porcelain, and I could fill this chapter with such prices alone.

Before me lies the catalogue of that sale.It is the "Catalogue of the William Bemrose Collection," sold at Derby during the first week in March, 1909. At hand lies the sumptuous volume on "Longton Hall Porcelain" which Mr. Bemrose produced in 1906. Let us chat about Longton Hall porcelain for a while.

Becoming the Rage.Longton Hall porcelain may become more costly than "Chelsea" or "Bow." One reason for that is its apparent rarity, but there is more of it about than most collectors suppose.A good deal of it masquerades as "Bow" and some of it as "Chelsea." In days when little was known of Longton Hall porcelain, anything that looked like "Bow" was christened" Bow" in the auction-room.A good many collectors of "Chelsea" and "Bow" possess Longton Hall china without knowing it. But because it has been thought so rare it may become the new porcelain rage.

The Supposed Type. "Longton Hall? Oh, you mean, stumpy, clumsy old vases, with bouquets of flowers growing out of the top of the vases," is what the ordinary collector of English old china would say. But that is only one type of "Longton Hall." And as to the mark: "Oh, two capital letters L reversed and crossed, with one, two, or three dots under them, vertically." But Longton Hall china is so seldom marked.It is this tradition, of the mark and the type of vase, which prevented Longton Hall from becoming studied and detected so long.

A Find.The other day a collector bought a vase which the owner had labelled "Bow" and priced at 8. He took off the name and the price; wrote "Longton Hall" and 28 upon it, and left it to be sold anew. Such is the profit upon knowledge. But in other ways also it is worth the readers' while to see if they do not possess, without knowing it, a piece or two of Longton Hall.

Examples of "Longton Hall." I look at the illustrations in the Bemrose Sale Catalogue, and I find pictured the group of two children with a goat, which sold for 24 3s. Anybody who saw it in a dealer's window might have sworn that it was "Bow." And "Bow," most people would say at sight of the statuette of the shepherd which realised 52 12s. the other day. When I look at the picture of it, in the sumptuous book, I see that its colours are blue, green, and rose-red; it has the rococo base (with the curves and floral scrolls). The shepherd's knee-breeches are dark blue and gold; the gold rings on them partly conceal the "Littler" blue, that blue which is distinctive of "Longton Hall," and they make the effect gorgeous enough to suggest "Chelsea." There, too, are the "Chelsea " flowers and leaves, in a hollow of the base.

I examine another picture ; it is thus described in the book: "Tureen, cobalt-blue ground-lay, reserves enamelled with exotic birds and flowers, richly gilt." Worcester square-mark ware it might pass for if the blue ground lay were scaled. "Chelsea" of the best period it might pass for without question.At Derby the other day it would have been sold as "Longton Hall," if it had been sold at all.But I do not find it catalogued; it was probably withheld, to be kept as a heirloom.I look at the picture of a plate, leaf-shaped border, painted the Littler blue, gilt outer edge, gilt inner edge, and the centre filled with exotic birds; it fetched 42 is. at the sale. A vase, blue ground, gold marbling, white reserves with flowers in them, five and a half inches high, marked gold Chelsea anchor, sold for 12 is 6d.You see how far the imitation of "Chelsea" was carried at Longton Hall.

The gold anchor has always been a rather mysterious mark. The usual statement is that only the finest "Chelsea" was marked in gold.

A mug, "mark incised X," was sold for 4; it was painted with birds and flowers. The X suggests "Bristol" of course. I suppose the X threw doubt on the mug in the minds of the dealers present.But "Bristol" is hard and "Longton Hall " is soft.

I have written enough to show that it is worth while to search for this particular kind of porcelain, and to search for it among pieces which have hitherto borne another label. In a subsequent chapter I will try to expound the peculiarities and the tests of "Longton Hall."

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