Published 19th January 2014
Ever since I first became involved with the Rhead Cronin Collection I have learnt what an earnest, erudite bunch you pottery collectors seem to be. I can only guess that the reason must be that the ‘good stuff’ doesn’t come up for sale that often.
A contributory factor seems to be that information on the Rhead family is somewhat thin on the ground; Bernard Bumpus’s ground breaking work is long overdue for a rewrite, even a newcomer can see that plenty of new information has surfaced since 1987. His work and much of the personal detail was gleaned from Katherine (Sister St Pierre) the only living sibling of Charlotte’s, who resided in France.
Ironically the current collection was owned by a virtually unmentioned and unnamed (by Bumpus) sister, Marie, living just down the road from here in Honiton, Devon.
A 1906 letter to Harry Rhead whilst at Wardle's from the Louisana Exhibition (FS21/584a)
Those of you that have followed my blogs will realise that the collection has thrown up fresh information and previously unrecorded patterns, which has made it a particularly exciting project to work on. Well, the surprises just keep on coming; I have just been given clearance to sell some archive material from the estate, which includes several of the black and white photographs used in my previous missives and more excitingly a 1906 letter to Harry Rhead whilst at Wardle awarding him a bronze medal from the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition! Wouldn’t you love to know what that was for?
The Bretby marks on a signed Charlotte Rhead vase (FS21/543)
However, being immersed in this collection on a daily basis I have become over familiar with it so it was only yesterday, when I revisited a lot 543 that the penny dropped. It is a slip decorated, rather than tube lined, vase clearly marked Bretby and clearly signed L Rhead. Now a quick scan of the literature, a Google search and a peek at a couple of specialist websites and, as I suspected, there is no mention of Charlotte (Lottie) Rhead ever having worked for Bretby – how did I miss that? Decorated with a favoured motif of hers the galleon in full sail, see (FS21/569) for an example, and being retained by a family member, it must be her work.
Charlotte-Lottie-Rhead's signature on a Bretby vase (543/FS21)
Now the sale has been on the Internet for nearly a month and the catalogues have been out for a few weeks and not one of you mentioned it, in fact I have only undertaken one condition report on it. Of course, you spotted it and you have probably been increasingly anxious for days, hoping that you were the only one and now you’re thinking damn the Internet. Still whoever, is going to write the new book on the Rhead family and several of you have told me that you have one in the pipeline, it looks like you have a bit of research to do.