The Spode design R4332 may have been made exclusively for first class service on Titanic.

Tiny ‘liner china’ Spode coffee cup and saucer sell for Titanic price in Lichfield auction

THE eyes of the world were on Lichfield as a rare cup and saucer discovered during a Sutton Coldfield house clearance sold at auction for a Titanic price.

Both pieces of the tiny Spode set in opulent cobalt blue and gilt bear the pattern number R4332 – an exclusive design for use by first class passengers on RMS Titanic.

With extensive media coverage and huge international interest, Richard Winterton brought down the hammer at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Fradley Park, on Wednesday, February 15, for a winning bid of £6,000 over the internet from America.

He said: “We had a tremendous amount of national and international interest in this lovely little cup and saucer, with people joining the auction online from all over the world.

“It was an exciting moment in the saleroom as bids flew in, finalising at a superb £6,000 from the winning bidder in the USA.”

Senior valuer Sarah Williams: “It’s incredible to hold this cup and saucer and think of first class passengers sipping coffee on the Titanic.”
Senior valuer Sarah Williams: “It’s incredible to hold this demitasse and think of first class passengers sipping coffee on the Titanic from an identical cup and saucer.”

Discovered by the Richard Winterton Auctioneers team during a house clearance in the Four Oaks area, the cup and saucer is a quintessential example of ‘liner china’.

Passenger liner RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15 1912 after notoriously striking an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died and only 333 bodies were recovered.

It remains one of the worst ever peacetime shipping disasters.

The Spode design R4332 may have been made exclusively for first class service on Titanic.
The Spode design R4332 may have been made exclusively for first class service on Titanic.

Sarah Williams, senior valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, said: “The Spode demitasse coffee cup and saucer in luxurious cobalt blue and gilt were produced around 1911 and both pieces are marked ‘White Star Line’.

“The well of the saucer bears a gilt monogram for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company and the cup is stamped ‘Stonier & Co Liverpool’ – the agents which facilitated the deal between Spode and the shipping company.

“Crucially they also bear the pattern number R4332.

“This opulent pattern is believed to have been used in Titanic’s first class restaurant but some experts suggest it was produced in such limited numbers that it may only have been used for room service on private promenade suites.”

Both pieces are marked ‘White Star Line’.
Both pieces are marked ‘White Star Line’.

She added: “There are conflicting theories as to whether the same pattern or one extremely similar, named R4331, was also used on Titanic’s sister ship Olympic, which was broken up in 1935.

“Whilst R4331 was used on both vessels, the R4332 may have been produced in such small numbers that it was reserved for exclusive use on Titanic, presented as a company gift or possibly sold as White Star Line souvenirs to wealthy passengers.

“Pieces of the distinctive R4332 ceramic are known to have been recovered from the wreck of Titanic.”

Other popular lots in the February 15 sale included an Alabaster and Wilson sapphire and diamond brooch selling at £1,200, two 18ct gold pocket watches totalling £2,020 and an archive including two letters, a postcard and a Christmas card sent by poet Philip Larkin to his cousin in Lichfield, which sold at £1,100.

A canteen of silver cutlery sold for £3,000, a pair of Art Deco ‘Cloud’ chairs attributed to Harry and Lou Epstein made £2,300 and two 19th century Chinese paintings fetched £1,700.

To book a valuation of all types of jewellery, watches and antiques, call 01543 251081 or email office@richardwinterton.co.uk.

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