BEATEN only by a diamond-encrusted gold Rolex wristwatch, it was paintings by Manchester artist Geoffrey Key which took the honours in Nantwich auctioneers Peter Wilson’s Summer fine art sale on July 10.

Eight pictures sold for a total of £22,700, the most valuable proving to be a powerful oil on board of a seated nude in the artist’s signature surreal abstract style. It sold for £7,200, while the equally surreal “Dead Elm, an oil on canvas, signed and dated ’01, a landscape with the tree set against a mountainous backdrop, sold for £5,600.

It was the second successive Peter Wilson fine sale in which works by Modern British, Contemporary and Northern artists have stolen the show.

William Gear (1915-1997) a Scottish artist who made a significant contribution to European painting through his association with the COBRA group in the immediate post-war years was represented by an abstract landscape done in coloured inks, signed and dated `63. It sold for £5,500, while close behind at £5,000 was “Ruined Cottage” by John Piper (1903-1992) a work in mixed media showing a dilapidated building in a country setting.

The other Northern art contender in the 10 top prices was William Turner (1920-2013) another Manchester artist and friend of L.S. Lowry, whose painting of a solitary figure walking past a row of cottages on a grey and overcast rural lane sold for an above estimate £2,100.

A surprising highlight of the sale was a small group of Della Robbia pottery, the pick of which are illustrated in a new book on the short-lived Birkenhead business founded in 1894 by Harold Rathbone and Conrad Dressler. Peter Wilson ceramics specialist Chris Large felt this had reawakened interest in the Arts and Crafts ware and described demand as being “on fire”.

Most wanted was a large ewer incised probably by Jessie Sinclair and painted by Liz Wilkins with grapes and vine leaves divided by a zigzag band. It sold for £2,700, more than five times its presale high estimate to a private collector living in the area local to the pottery. Illustrated as figure 230 in the book by Peter Hyland, the piece had incised and painted marks for 1897 and the J.S. monogram to its base. It stood 28cm in height.

A twin handled 'Moorish' vase incised and painted by Annie Smith with a parakeet and a cockatoo perched on a branches with swallows flying in the background was estimated at £200-300 but sold for £900. The 23cm vase had painted and incised marks, the A.S. monograms and the date 1896 to its base. The pottery closed in 1906.

There was also an unexpected cash windfall for the owner of an unusual, patented game shooter’s silver combined butt selector and vesta case by the London maker, J C Vickery. The rectangular case had a hinged cover revealing eight numbered pegs and a scrolling window capable of allocating six to 10 guns at one to 10 positions in a driven grouse or pheasant shoot. Additionally, a hinged vesta compartment with striker was intended to ensure that a smoker’s matches remained dry whilst out in the field. Assayed (tested for purity) in 1907, the pocket-sized case was estimated at £250-350, but sold for £3,300.

However, the modern man with everything, including a suitably deep pocket, was probably among the bidders for the Rolex wristwatch already mentioned. A President automatic day-date model built in 1991, it was encrusted with diamonds and rubies and had a pavé-set after-market dial with day and date apertures at 12 and 3 respectively; a centre seconds sweep hand; rubies marking the hours and a President bracelet, the links and clasp of which were each set with diamonds. It sold above its presale high estimate for £7,500.

Among a selection of antique and pre-owned jewellery for the discerning lady, meanwhile, was a diamond ring, the round brilliant-cut central stone weighing approximately 1.19 carats, F colour and SI clarity, flanked by stepped shoulders containing 12 single-cut point diamonds, which sold for £2,500.

Entries are now invited for the important Autumn sale of fine art, antiques and collectors’ items on September 17-18, entries for which close on August 8. For further information, please contact the auctioneers on 01270 623878 or

*Prices quoted do not include buyer’s premium.