Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tile collector

Stourbridge, Fieldings Auction House 12 January 2008

Born and bred in Birmingham, Shelia Huges (1937-2006) first began collecting tiles in the early 1970s. Driven by the desire to save her local architectural heritage at a time when so many old houses in the city were lost to redevelopment, she began by encouraging demolition men to save her cast iron fireplaces. Later, as her passion for the subject grew, she would catch the coach to London where she would visit specialist dealers for the day on the tiles.

When family members began to clear the contents of her Arts and Crafts home they found numerous banana boxes of largely Victorian and Edwardian tiles. They were alongside a collection of some 2000-3000 garden tools and a tail-lift van full of clothes, close to 3500 tiles arranged according to a somewhat byzantine filing system, choosing to sort her tiles into subjects.

Predictably many of the major sums were paid for the 16 tiles by de Morgan. most highly rated were two 6in (15cm) early Fulham period 'beast' tiles painted in deep blue to a turquoise ground. A stylised peacock in walking pose took £1550 and a tortoise £1600 (estimates £600-800). But perhaps a more interesting feature of this sale was the competition for the rare Victorian and Edwardian dust pressed transfer printed tiles. There were tiles here that many dealers and collectors had not seen outside reference works.


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