Tag Archives: Dollie Rhead

The Rhead-Cronin Collection: Tiles

As a follow up to my previous blog on the recent Rhead-Cronin sales in Exeter, this post will focus on the remarkable tube-lined tiles that came up for auction as part of the collection. I think I’m right in saying that it set a new record for the sheer number of individual Rhead decorated tiles sold in a single sale. It must certainly have set a record for the highest hammer prices in a single sale! In all, there were 44 individual tiles (some sold as combined lots), with the ‘cheapest’ selling for £190 and the most expensive for £15,000.

Possibly the most interesting thing about the tile collection was that it backed up Bernard578_£190 Bumpus’ theory that the majority of these items were produced as gifts for friends and family of the Rheads, rather than for commercial sale. Whilst there were examples that have been seen before, such as some of the Dutch figures and the galleons in sail, there were many that were completely unknown previously, including one of a baby boy that can only have been a personal gift to mark a Christening. We know that several tiles were found following the death of Charlotte’s sister Dollie in 1981, (at her home in Stoke-On-Trent), but this particular set of tiles had remained in the family, in Devon, so were all new to the market. They were perhaps even more unique, as some were actually signed by Charlotte to the back – something Bumpus had not come across during his extensive research.

Charlotte & Dollie Rhead
Charlotte & Dollie Rhead

For those who were not aware that Charlotte Rhead ever decorated tiles – she is, after all, better known for her pattern designs on vases and chargers etc – some background. It was her father, Frederick Alfred Rhead, who encouraged her (and Dollie) to decorate tiles at home, whilst they were still relatively young. He provided the ‘blanks’ for them to practice on, and they essentially learned the basics of tube-lining on these items. Charlotte of course went on to specialise in the process, however Dollie was just as skilled at it and later covered for her sister during for a spell at Burgess & Leigh. We know from the tiles in this sale that they were all (probably) produced around 1910, since some are dated as well as signed. It was during this period that Frederick was involved in the ill-fated Barker, Rhead venture, with his partner F.H. Barker at the Atlas Tile Works. Whilst they concentrated mainly on printed tiles, they also produced some tube-lined art nouveau themed tiles for local shops and businesses. Barker,Rhead was to fold in around 1910, but it seems that the sisters continued to decorate tiles beyond that, certainly until circa 1912, when Charlotte joined Frederick at Wood & Sons. During this period, she also worked at other tile manufacturers, but this most likely involved producing more ‘simple’ designs for commercial sale.

Charlotte Rhead
Charlotte Rhead (c.1910)

The Rhead-Cronin tiles all appear to have been home-produced, as most are in their original oak frames, suggesting that were intended as gifts. Some of the examples in the sale came with original artwork, such as watercolours or sketches – often produced by Frederick, but also some by Charlotte’s brothers and uncles. It’s clear that Charlotte used these pieces of art as the basis of the tile decoration, so it again points to them being a ‘leisure’ pursuit at home rather than commercial work. A natural conclusion to seeing these tiles all together, is that they essentially form Charlotte’s apprenticeship – her talent is obvious and one can see from these examples how she went on to have a successful career. She was 25 years of age in 1910, and just about to begin designing patterns full-time at Wood & Sons.  Although some may seem quite basic and child-like at first glance, the tube-lining technique on tiles was not an easy thing to master. The more elaborate tiles are proof that she became an expert.

L Rhead signature on a tube-lined tile
L Rhead signature on a tube-lined tile

The sale also included some tiles decorated by other Rheads – notably Frederick and Louis, but it is Charlotte’s that grab the attention for me. Of course, it may be that some of them were actually decorated by Dollie, but I believe the majority were Charlotte’s.  As I’ve mentioned already, some of the tiles are signed – either with L Rhead (the ‘L’ being for Lottie, as that it is what she was known as at the time), or just the initials ‘L.R.’ I find the L Rhead signature most interesting, as it is the original of  the familar facsimile signature seen on her professional work later on. These tile signatures are in her actual hand, unlike those on the later pieces. The fact that several tiles in this collection had some form of signature on them highlights their importance in relation to other examples found previously – there can be no doubt as to who produced them, and when.

I’ve included a gallery of my own pictures below featuring most of the tiles sold, along with their hammer prices. I am indebted to all at Bearnes, Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter, and especially Nic Saintey, for giving me the opportunity to view & photograph the Rhead-Cronin collection prior to the sales. It was a great experience and I thank Nic for all his help.

 

 

 

The Rhead-Cronin Collection

Pair of facing ladies in caps Lot 547Now that the dust has settled on the remarkable sale of the Rhead-Cronin collection, I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick out a few of the highlights. The second of the two auctions ended this time last week, at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter, and it’s probably fair to say that the collection exceeded expectations all round.

Christening Mug for Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin
Christening Mug for Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin

To give some background for those unaware of it, the collection was made up of a large number of items produced by several different members of the Rhead family, including paintings, engravings, ceramics and assorted ephemera. It had belonged to a  late nephew of Charlotte Rhead, Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin, who had lived in Honiton, Devon. His mother was Marie Rhead, Charlotte’s sister, who because she was not involved in the artistic pursuits of her family, was relatively unknown – (Bernard Bumpus mentions in his book that Frederick Alfred Rhead and his wife Adolphine had six children, but does not mention Marie by name). The items put into the sale had been held by this branch of the family for many years, so essentially, they were all new to the market. From a collector’s point of view, any ‘undiscovered’ pieces such as these are the holy grail. I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Exeter for a sneak preview of the collection prior to the sales and it was a unique experience. To see the breadth of items included, not to mention the quality of the majority of it, was (and excuse the hyperbole) staggering!

The first sale took place in December 2013, and consisted of items that are perhaps more familiar to casual collectors of Rhead pottery. There were several Crown Ducal pieces, as well some nice early Wood & Sons Bursley examples. Perhaps the most appealing lot was a Burleighware Fruit Set, which appeared to have been designed by Adolphine ‘Dollie’ Rhead (another of Charlotte’s sisters), as it featured her facsimile signature to the reverse side. I’ve previously blogged about this set – click here to read it, but it is of particular interest as the pattern has never been seen before. The set (minus the ginger jar shown below) had a hammer price of £210 – which was a bargain for whoever got it!

Burleighware 'A Rhead' Fruit Set
Burleighware ‘A Rhead’ Fruit Set

Charlotte Rhead Watercolours - Native American SquawsOther highlights included a lovely Bursley Ware ewer in the 456 Pomona pattern, selling for £240 + fees and a pair of water-colour sketches of Native-American squaws, attributed to Charlotte Rhead, which formed the basis of a design for tube-lined tiles that she completed later, (£480 + fees). As you can see from the image on the left, the ‘Aztec’ pattern that later appeared on Charlotte’s design for Crown Ducal is evident. Finally, there was an interesting teapot, designed by Frederick Hurten Rhead for Wardle in around 1900 (£65 + fees). Again, these items do not come up for sale often and would no doubt have attracted interest from American collectors, given that he spent the majority of his working career over there.

Hidden away towards the end of this sale was a small collection of family photographs and small watercolours, one of which was by another of Charlotte’s sisters, Katherine. The gems in here were the photos though, as they included early ones of Harry and Dollie, but most intriguingly one of Charlotte herself. I think it was taken in around 1910 when she would have been 25, and she has a small dog on her lap. Photos of Charlotte are very scarce – she was notoriously a shy and private person. All the photos that we do know of show her not looking directly at the camera, and in this one, she (sort of) is!

The second sale, which took place in January 2014 contained the more unusual (and valuable) items, including a great number of pictures and sketches as well as some framed tube-lined tiles and museum quality ceramics. Although the focus of this site is clearly ‘pottery’, it’s worth recording some highlights from the pictures sale, as there were some great examples. Having never really paid much attention to the art produced by the family, I must say I was blown away by some of the paintings in this collection. Having always associated Frederick Alfred Rhead with pottery, it was a surprise for me to see the quality of some of his paintings – perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a shock given his undoubted talent, but I think it was because I just hadn’t seen it before. The sale also featured some work from Frederick’s brothers & children. For some examples, see the small gallery below, (all prices shown are excluding commission):

FA Rhead Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Vase The ceramics section of the sale was perhaps the most exciting (for me anyway), and it got away to a stunning start, with one of the first lots reaching a hammer price of £17,000 – against an estimate of £1500 – £2000. It was an amazing pâte-sur-pâte vase by Frederick Rhead, probably for Minton, depicting an angel holding a large bowl and some text around the bottom taken from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. It is in fact linked to one of the pieces of art shown above, from which it draws clear inspiration – the question is, did both pieces go to the same buyer?! Following that lot, I think everybody in the room realised that any bargains were going to be few and far between, with many hastily re-assessing their budgets for bidding on the rest of the sale. Or perhaps that was just me……

Bretby Vase - Charlotte RheadOne of the biggest surprises of the collection was a vase by Bretby – not a name one would associate with the Rhead family. It featured a galleon in full sail, which (funnily enough) is something that you would link to Charlotte Rhead. So, why did Charlotte decorate a Bretby vase? I still don’t know and it has baffled other collectors that I’ve spoken to. Nic Saintey of Bearnes has asked the same question in his excellent series of blogs – answers on a postcard please! This vase sold for just £200 plus fees, perhaps reflecting some damage on it, but in hindsight, this looks like a very good price. The chances are that there isn’t another one anywhere else in the world.

Wardle FH Rhead Vase The main part of the sale contained a large number of tube-lined tiles, mainly by Charlotte, which I shall write about in a later blog as they deserve further discussion. For now though, I’ll finish with this lovely vase produced by Frederick Hurten Rhead for Wardle. It is a tube-lined decoration featuring two turtles and the words “Two tired turtles trying to trot to Tutbury”, signed and dated to 1902. This was just before he left to begin life in America, so was possibly one of the last examples of his ‘English’ work. It sold for £1,150 plus fees. Again, it would be intriguing to know where this ended up – did it stay here or follow Frederick across the pond?

 

As I’ve mentioned above, I’ll write more soon about the Rhead-Cronin tiles, but in the meantime I’d like to thank everybody at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood (especially Nic Saintey) for giving me the opportunity to get up close with the collection. I will be eternally grateful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unique Rhead Burleighware?

Adolphine Rhead Unidentified Burgess & Leigh PatternWell – my previous blog asked the (slightly rhetorical) question, ‘Where is the Burleighware?’. Remarkably, something intriguing has recently come to light on this subject. I have just received some photos of a possibly unique pattern, produced at Burgess & Leigh in the late 1920s. There doesn’t appear to be any reference to it in the Bumpus books, and certainly no pattern number, but the design is unmistakably Rhead in style. It’s almost possible, in fact, to create a tick-list of Rhead motifs: clouds, birds, pomegranates, geometric borders, leaves and branches etc etc………

Perhaps even more interestingly, it appears that the pattern is not one of Charlotte’s, or even her father’s, but was actually produced by her youngest sister, Adolphine (or Dollie) Rhead. Whilst this can’t be confirmed with absolute accuracy, I think it is very likely, given that it has emerged from a collection known to have belonged to Dollie’s nephew. Additionally, the jar in the photo above has a signature on the base which is almost identical to the ‘L Rhead’ facsimile signature used by Charlotte on Burleighware, but it shows an ‘A’ instead of an ‘L’. Another piece with the same pattern also has a date of 1928 on it, which coincides nicely with the period Dollie is known to have ‘sat in’ for Charlotte at B & L, whilst Charlotte took an extended holiday to America to visit her brothers.

Adolphine 'Dollie' Rhead
Dollie Rhead

Bernard Bumpus gives the impression that whilst Dollie was a very competent tube-liner and decorator in her own right, he doesn’t mention that she may have actually designed as well. She had the same apprenticeship as Charlotte and was certainly proficient enough to cover for her older sister for a short period, but she spent most of her working life in nursing. It’s remarkable therefore that if she did come up with this design, she was more than a match for many of the other full-time pottery designers of the period.

It is entirely feasible that Charlotte did actually come up with this pattern and it just A Rhead Fruit Setnever saw the light of day commercially. It may even have been a joint design with Dollie, who was given the honour of having her name on it. Given its background, was it possibly a present from Charlotte to Dollie, to thank her for looking after her job whilst she was away? I’d love to think this was the case!

All speculation of course, and we may never know, but it’s another new talking point. When I set this website up, it was with the intention of uncovering previously unseen patterns and sharing them, since I believe there are still many more discoveries to be made. I don’t believe this particular pattern has ever been seen before – please tell me if I’m wrong and you have a suite of it in your sideboard!

 

(With special thanks to NS at Bearnes, Hampton & Littlewood for the pictures and background information).