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02 December 2013
Idris Roberts - Model ships sells


Steelworks ship model sells for £4,200

International bidding for collectors’ items with worldwide appeal resulted in a highly successful sale at Rogers Jones Co Cardiff saleroom, South Wales’s newest fine art and antiques auctioneers.

Of particular local interest was a collection of maritime, scientific and photographic collectables from the Port Talbot home engineer Idris Roberts, which raised a total of £9,250, considerably more than anticpated.

Most notable – and imposing – object in the collection was a huge, 10-foot long glass-cased model of a cargo ship which sold for £4,200, a multiple of the presale guide price.

For decades the model had impressed visitors walking up the main staircase of the company’s general offices at Abbey Works. It had been presented to the directors of what was the Steel Company of Wales by Harland & Wolff shipyard, Belfast, in recognition of the steelworks’ efforts and quality of production during the war years, but when the Port Talbot works, subsequently British Steel, was privatised in 1988, the future of the model looked uncertain.

Mr Roberts offered to purchase it and until his recent death, it had dominated his study at his home in Margam. The model was purchased by a local dealer.

Sent for sale by his widow Rae, who until her retirement ran the charity Gateway Bookshop in Bethany Square, Port Talbot, the collection also included a fascinating group of objects which Mr Roberts had collected over the years.

A good early 20th century brass and teak ship’s compass binnacle with port and starboard indicators sold for £500, while a pair of heavy, leather deep-sea diver’s boots with lead soles and copper-covered toecaps sold for £335. The maritime element of the collection also included a gimballed compass; ship’s sextant; lanterns; nautical chronometer and mahogany-cased ship’s clocks; telescope and barograph.

After retiring from his engineering job at the steelworks, Mr Roberts became well known locally for his design and repair work and, as a keen photographer, his ability to repair the most complex cameras. Among several high-quality Leica cameras was one with Elmar lens and 10 associated Leica-made accessories, all in a fitted leather case. It sold on top estimate for £800.

The same price was paid for a rosewood and marquetry inlaid Swiss music box with four bells and drum-in-sight playing 10 airs, while a good French ebonised liqueur casket with serpentine front and brass and mother-of-peal inlay sold for £580.

Most valuable piece in the sale came from a Barry home: an exceptional Japanese lacquer hardwood, mother-of-pearl and bone-mounted two-fold screen, which justified being chosen to decorate the front of the sale catalogue by selling for £6,000. It had been estimated at £1,500-2,500.

The profusely decorated screen was carved with dragons, peacocks and foliage and had character marks from the Meiji period of 1868-1912. It was purchased by the London trade.

Underlining the international reach of the Cardiff saleroom was the winning £1,900 bid for a well-worked and charming 19th century child’s embroidered sampler, which sold to a U.S. buyer on the Internet against an estimate of £100-150.

The sampler was worked with Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge, a house and animals and the verse starting with the lines “Dear Mother, I am young and cannot show such work as unto your goodness owe”. It was inscribed in stitches: “Jane Martins work done at M Whites aged 9, 1823”.

In a similar sale in October, buyers paid handsomely for plates from the short-lived Nantgarw porcelain factory founded eight miles north of Cardiff by William Billingsley in 1814. It closed in 1820.

The November sale did not disappoint, a pair of fine dessert plates, each painted with three sprays of flowers and three colourful butterflies, probably decorated in London and impressed “NANT GARW CW”, sold for £1,500 against an estimate of £800-1,200.

Entries are now invited for sales in 2014. For further information, please contact Rogers Jones’ Cardiff saleroom at 17 Llandough Trading Estate, Penarth Road, telephone 02920 708125 or info@rogersjones.co.uk.

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