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The Beardmore Collection

The Beardmore Collection of Ceramics

The collecton is to be included within our Spring Auction on the 24th April at 10.30am

The late Bryan Beardmore's (1933-2023) enthusiasm for ceramics began in the 1970s and continued until his death. His reference collection of pieces by H&R Daniel is of national importance and was featured in an episode of Collectaholics which was first televised in 2015.

Bryan was born on 16th February 1933 in Rusholme, Manchester and did his national service in the early 1950's. Photographs from that time seem to show that he enjoyed his spell in the RAF. He served in the postal department, which no doubt planted the seed for his subsequent career as a Sub-Postmaster. He ran Sub-Post Offices for over 32 years, until his retirement in 2004.

Although Bryan lived alone for much of his life, he was far from reclusive, and enjoyed the contact with the members of the public for whom his Sub-Post Offices provided essential services.

Bryan began his porcelain collecting with Meissen figurines and then gravitated towards English manufacturers of the first half of the 19th century. This developed into a passion. After his retirement from Post Office service in 2004 he was able to devote even more time to this passion.

He admired and bought porcelain produced by around forty 19th century manufacturers, before concentrating on the Yates factory. The many Yates pieces in the current sale constitute a reference collection for that manufacturer; perhaps they will encourage someone to take up the torch and write the first comprehensive book on Yates.

Bryan’s love of Yates, which never left him, led him to discover the work of Henry and Richard Daniel. Anyone who sees a large display of Daniel wares will understand what we call the ‘Daniel effect’. The dazzling virtuosity of enamelling and gilding techniques, many of which were pioneered by Henry Daniel himself, cannot fail to take one’s breath away. However, for many people there is the added attraction of detective work.

Daniel pieces are normally unmarked. Occasionally pieces can be found with a 4-digit pattern number, but items marked with the Daniel name are rare indeed, meaning that Daniel products usually have to be recognised by shape alone. Bryan set himself the impossible task of trying to collect examples of all the patterns produced by the Daniels. Unlike many collectors he was prepared to buy damaged pieces if they helped him learn more about the variety of porcelain produced at the factories he studied.

The Daniel Ceramic Circle was born out of the seminars run by Michael Berthoud. He and Geoffrey Godden were the first writers to highlight the work of H & R Daniel. A chance meeting with a member at an auction in 2003 introduced Bryan to the Circle; he joined and attended his first seminar that year. He became Treasurer and Membership Secretary for the DCC in 2005 and served in those roles until his death.

Bryan was in constant contact with his friends in the DCC regarding discoveries of new Daniel patterns and developments in research, collaborating on articles for the twice yearly DCC Journal and a comprehensive series of presentations on Daniel shapes for the annual seminar.

The magnificence of the Daniel wares shown at the DCC annual seminars in recent years was largely due to Bryan who brought along the majority of the pieces for the members’ display. His generosity in sharing his collection in this way allowed other members to gain practical experience and knowledge from the opportunity to see and handle such a wide range of items.

In addition, Bryan co-authored several ground-breaking books:

Identifying Daniel Porcelain Tablewares, with B Smith, DCC 2009

H&R Daniel Earthenwares, with J & J Simpson and B Smith, DCC 2015

H&R Daniel - A Pocket Guide to aid Identification, with J & J Simpson, B Smith, and G & S Pickett, DCC 2018

Bryan was unstinting in sharing his knowledge of ceramics with others and allowing items in his collection to be photographed for other publications.

Bryan had always hoped that his collection might go in its entirety to a museum, but it was not to be. The world has changed since he expressed that wish in his will, and museums are now too short of staff and storage resources to accept such a large donation. Despite strenuous efforts since Bryan passed away at the end of June 2023, his executors were only able to place a relatively small part of his collection of 3,000 items.

Fortunately, those items have gone to prestigious institutions where Bryan’s name and contribution to ceramics research will be remembered: the V & A, the National Museum of Wales and Arundel Castle Museum.

In some ways it might be thought sad that it has not proved possible to keep the Beardmore collection together in one place, but there is encouragement in the example of Sir Leslie Joseph (1908-1992), the first major collector of South Wales porcelain. Sir Leslie’s will specifically directed that his collection should go to auction so that as many people as possible might have the opportunity to enjoy those wares.

We hope that the items from Bryan’s collection will similarly find homes with enthusiasts who will appreciate them for their craftsmanship. We also hope that those individual pieces will keep Bryan’s name at the forefront of future ceramics research and that this catalogue will in time become a collector’s item, a precious record of his collection and a fitting memorial to his enthusiasm.

- John & Jeannette Simpson, frineds and fellow members of The Daniel Ceramic Circle