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The Profile of a Collector: Mike Maunder

Debbie Porter

Beginning with our March Fine Art sale, Potteries Auctions will be featuring a wonderful and large collection of Carlton Ware pieces over several upcoming auctions. Understood to be the largest such amount to be featured at auction, the items have come from a single vendor. The collector parting with the pieces, Mike Maunder, is a fascinating person – here’s the story of a charismatic and prolific collector.

A Carlton Ware tea for one service

This gorgeous tea for one service will be featuring in our July Fine Art auction, with an estimate of £50-£100.

Born in Greenwich, Mike came from a working class background. Despite his humble beginnings and having not enjoyed much success in school, he nevertheless had lofty ambitions.

Aged 18, Maunder discovered he had a talent for football while working as an apprentice instrument maker at RAF Kidbrooke, working on communications equipment. Competing in an annual 5-a-side competition run for civilian RAF employees at Medmenham, Mike’s factory team won, with him showing talent as a goalkeeper. They soon formed a team, playing in the Civil Service League. Having moved house and married at 21, Maunder then went on to join local teams in the area and then played in the senior division of the Kent League. However, he began to realise it was too late to progress much further in football and he left it behind to focus on his job working as a salesman at Otis Lifts.

A Carlton Ware water jug

With an estimate of £25-£50, this lovely water jug will feature in our July Fine Art auction.

After 6 years with Otis, Maunder convinced the sales director of a small British computer manufacturer to give him a sales job. This began a 25-year career working for software companies that would see him rise to VP level at several global software companies, travelling all over the world. By the age of 50, however, he realised it was time to move on, and he set up his own software services company, which he ran until retirement.

A Carlton Ware Wiltshaw & Robinson metal mounted centrepiece lidded jar, decorated in blue & white Catalpa floral

Featuring in our March Fine Art auction is this Wiltshaw & Robinson metal mounted centrepiece lidded jar, decorated in blue & white Catalpa floral. Lot 786 is estimated at £40-£80.

It wasn’t until around this time that his focus as a collector would really come to the fore. Now, with more time on his hands, along with the proliferation of information on the internet, Mike first gained an appreciation for Clarice Cliff, having bought a large Celtic Harvest jug for £70 at auction whilst on holiday in Cornwall. He’d seen one two weeks prior at an antiques shop in Westerham and loved the quality and design, but had been put off by the price of around £275!

Then, at an antiques centre in Kent, Mike spotted a reticulated plate. Its stamp showed it as Carlton Ware. The name he recognised, although he didn’t know a great deal about it. Impressed by the quality of the piece, he purchased it and was inspired to learn about the Carlton Ware brand and the producers, Wiltshaw & Robinson. Discovering more about their history and the quality of what they produced, his ambitious spirit soon took over and he made it his mission to become the owner of the world’s largest Carlton Ware Blush Ware collection.

A Carlton blush ware Chrysanthemum pattern oil lamp

This blush ware Chrysanthemum pattern oil lamp is a lovely example. It will be featured in our March Fine Art auction with an estimate of £40-£80. Lot 791.

The internet proved instrumental in his efforts to acquire further pieces, as this enabled him to purchase items from anywhere in the world. In addition to this, he attended fairs all over southern England. Despite being most drawn to pieces from Wiltshaw & Robinson’s first 20 years, from 1890 to 1910, Mike nonetheless amassed an enormous collection, eventually achieving his goal.

A pair of Rose & Curlique pattern vases

This pair of Rose & Curlique pattern vases will be featured in our March Fine Art Auction. Lot 820 has an estimate of £40-£80.

Like any serious collector, Maunder has his own stories of favourite pieces and items that eluded him before he could finally get his hands on them. One item in particular has its roots early on in his collecting. Getting hold of an auction catalogue from a saleroom in southern England, Mike’s eye was caught by a dark blue Carnation pattern claret jug, which had been purchased for £600. Naturally, he wanted the item, but it remained out of reach for many years, residing in an antique dealer’s own collection. Fortunately, Mike knew the person who owned it and, eventually, his luck would change, when two years ago they finally asked him if he wanted to purchase it, and he jumped at the chance.

A Wiltshaw & Robinson twin handled vase

Featuring in our March Fine Art auction, this Wiltshaw & Robinson twin handled vase has an estimate of £100-£200.

Another favourite piece of Mike’s is a Britannia metal table centre. Measuring 2ft long and 2ft high, the item comprises two bowls, as well as a flute for flowers. Britannia metal is known for being produced for silver plating, and for its ability to be cast into intricate shapes. The table centre occupies pride-of-place on his dining table.

A Carlton 3-tier scallop shaped entrée dish

This 3-tier scallop shaped entrée dish will be featuring in our July Fine Art sale with an estimate of £40-£80.

Mike’s attraction to Carlton Ware is owed in no small part to the craftsmanship that went into every piece. Their quality, range of styles and the way they were retailed were all major factors.Their products couldn’t be purchased from a ‘Carlton Ware’ shop, rather their items were made to order, via salesmen from the catalogues they would show to retailers. This alone ascribed a certain exclusivity to the items that Wiltshaw & Robinson produced. The techniques used in producing their pieces were complicated and demanded a high degree of skill, with pieces often incorporating 5 or 6 individual firings to achieve the end result. It’s easy to understand why Mike gained such an appreciation for Carlton Ware.

A metal mounted Carlton Ware centrepiece bowl in a Poppy pattern decoration

In lovely Poppy pattern decoration, this metal mounted centrepiece bowl, with silver plated bud vases, will be featured in our March Fine Art auction. Lot 784 has an estimate of £40-£80.

Away from his interest in Carlton Ware and the aforementioned affinity for Clarice Cliff, Mike also has an appreciation for Belleek pottery. Again, it was the quality of their pieces that impressed him, and he assembled a modest collection of around 20 pieces. Nowadays, he has parted with most of his Belleek collection – all except his favourite piece: a Victorian three-strand covered oval basket, decorated with leaves and flowers. He adds that Belleek is often favoured by American collectors, owing to the company’s connection with Ireland.

A Wiltshaw & Robinson Carlton Cloisonné Ware ribbon plate with stork decoration

This Wiltshaw & Robinson Carlton Cloisonné Ware ribbon plate with stork decoration will be featured in our March Fine Art auction, with an estimate of £30-£60. Lot 814.

Considering Maunder’s obvious passion and enthusiasm for Carlton Ware, it would be easy to question why he would want to part with such a large portion of his beloved collection. His reasoning is remarkably philosophical, pragmatic and straightforward: simply, he has achieved the goal he set out to accomplish. Nowadays, with no family member showing interest, let alone expressing any desire to inherit the astonishing collection, he decided it was time to let other collectors enjoy and appreciate the pieces from which he has derived so much enjoyment.

A Carlton Ware large footed fruit bowl

Boasting copious amounts of gilding, this large footed fruit bowl will feature in our March Fine Art auction. Lot 825 has an estimate of £30-£60.

Despite parting with much of what he has collected over the years, Mike nonetheless continues to maintain a respectable collection of his favourite pieces. As for the items released from his collection, he is keen to see them be appreciated and admired by new owners. Therefore, Potteries Auctions is excited to be featuring the fabulous variety of Carlton Ware pieces from Maunder’s collection, in our March Fine Art auction and in future auctions this year, including our July and November Fine Art auctions and our monthly Silverdale sales from April onwards.

Selling Carlton Ware at Auction

Do you have Carlton Ware items to sell? Our team of experts can value your items. Valuation days are held every Tuesday at our Silverdale showroom. To book an appointment, please call 01782 638100 or email

If, however, you are unable to attend a valuation in-person, we also provide valuations via WhatsApp – simply send photographs of your items to 07864 667940, or you can also message us on Facebook. We can even arrange for home visits to value your items.