Reginald Fairfax Wells

Words by:
William Gregory MRICS, Golding Young and Mawer Auctioneers
Featured in:
February 2015

A collection of over 40 pieces of pottery by Reginald Fairfax Wells sold for £4,000 at auction in Lincoln recently.
The sale at Golding Young & Mawer highlighted the life and work of the talented sculptor, who is considered to be one of the first truly independent studio potters.

Reginald Fairfax Wells was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1877. In the 1890s he studied at the South Kensington School of Art, part of the Royal Collage of Art, and specialised in studio pottery at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. By 1910 Wells was producing studio style pottery and stonewares from Wrotham in Kent, where there had been potteries since the seventeenth century.

Wells’s interest lay in English slipwares and Chinese stonewares. At twenty-three, he set up his own art pottery nearby at Coldrum and around 1909 he moved Coldrum Pottery to Chelsea, where he continued until the outbreak of the First World War.

During the war, Wells set up the Wells Aviation Company, producing aircraft for the First World War. Afterwards he moved his pottery to the Kings Road, renaming it the London Pottery Company. At this time he changed the mark from Coldrum to Soon.

He moved to Storrington in Sussex in 1925 to expand production. It was from this era that the collection which was auctioned was dated from. The works showed great technique and development, which appeals to collectors and attracted a lot of bidders to the auction.

During the 1920s and ’30s, he turned his hand to architecture and went on to purchase fifty acres of Sussex heathland to build 200 ‘Wells Cottages’, an idealistic design of thatched buildings within the tradition of romantic country life, distinctive for their use of local materials.

At the auction held in December last year, over forty pieces of Wells pottery went under the hammer. The highest price achieved was for a stoneware glazed terracotta figure group, which sold for £550 against an estimate of £200 to £300.

A mottled blue, high fired glazed two-handled slab vase made £360, well over its £120 to £150 estimate, whilst a blue and brown mottled glazed stoneware vase with an estimate of £100 to £200 sold for £260.

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