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Capturing the Vale of Neath

In The Welsh Sale auction on March 12th 2022, we are delighted to offer a collection of over thirty 19th and 18th Century landscape paintings relating to the Neath Valley and estuary at Swansea. The single owner collection is from a deceased estate in Neath-Port Talbot and brings together some highly regarded names in topographical painting.

Richard Corbould 'Aberdulais Mill'
Richard Corbould 'Aberdulais Mill'

The collection presents a super opportunity for collectors, perhaps in Neath or further afield, to purchase historic landscapes of a location which has an important industrial history, whilst also being an area of outstanding beauty.

Neath has a port designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and is the site of the oldest iron works in Wales. In addition, since the 18th Century Neath has been appreciated by artists for its dramatic and wild landscape.

A scene which was often observed by artists and is repeated in this collection is the ruins of Neath Abbey. Along with Llanthony Priory and Tintern Abbey, the ruins of Neath Abbey are the most important and impressive monastic remains in south-east Wales. Founded in 1130 by Norman knight Sir Richard de Granville, by the late 13th century it had become one of Wales’ wealthiest abbeys. Around 50 monks lived here, alongside an even larger number of lay brothers who worked at the abbey’s estates on tasks which probably included mining coal for domestic use. Much later, the heavy hand of the Industrial Revolution was almost its downfall, the abbey becoming a copper smelting plant with furnaces, workshops and workers’ dwellings, and having an ironworks as its next-door neighbour.

A MacArthur 'Neath Abbey'
A MacArthur 'Neath Abbey'

Another location which is repeated is Aberdulais Mill which was occupied by William Weston Young - one of the artists in the collection and an important figure in the history of Welsh fine art. Aberdulais Mill was painted by JMW Turner in circa 1796; that painting is now in the national collection at The National Library of Wales.

The valley from Neath up to the edge of the Brecon Beacons is also renowned for its string of impressive waterfalls and caves. It has inspired many other exceptional artists other than Turner, especially those touring in the 18th and 19th Century such as John Warwick Smith, Penry Williams and Thomas Hornor.

Below are just some of the principal paintings of the collection with biographies of the artist.

Thomas Walmsley

THOMAS WALMSLEY watercolour – landscape with figures and buildings, titled to plaque on frame ‘Neath bridge, Glamorganshire 1790’, 41 x 57cms


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Thomas Walmsley (1763 - 1806)

Walmsley was the son of Thomas Walmsley, an officer in the 18th Dragoons, belonging to a family at Rochdale, Lancashire, and was born in Ireland in 1763 when his father was quartered there with his regiment.

He quarrelled with his family and, going to London, placed himself under Columba, the principal scene-painter to the Opera House. Returning to Dublin, he was employed as a scene-painter at the Crow Street Theatre. He then left Dublin and resided for the rest of his life in England, practising as a landscape painter. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1790 to 1796, mostly views in Wales. Walmsley issued sketches as sets in ‘Views on the River Dee’, ‘Picturesque Views in Wales’ and ‘Views in North Wales’, between 1792 and 1800. There are examples of Warmsley’s work in the V&A and at the British Museum.

James Burrell Smith

JAMES BURRELL SMITH oil on canvas – river landscape with figure and dog, titled to frame, “On the Neath, S.Wales”, signed and dated 1875, 49 x 67cms


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James Burrell Smith (1822 - 1897)

Burrell Smith was a London born, profilic watercolour and oil landscape artist who trained with Thomas Miles Richardson. He is noted for creating engravings for The Illustrated London News.

James Baker Pyne

JAMES BAKER PYNE oil on canvas - seated family and single figure on a track overlooking an extensive river landscape, entitled verso on Peppiatt Fine Art Label ‘A view of the Vale of Neath’, signed and dated 1846 and numbered 183, 54 x 82cms


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James Baker Pyne (1800 - 1870)

As with many of the artists in this unique collection, Baker Pyne was born in Bristol and was a member of the Bristol School of Artists. He was a follower of JMW Turner.

He took part in the sketching activities of the Bristol School in the 1820s, and exhibited for the first time in Bristol in 1824. His style and subject matter, namely the atmospheric depiction of local landscapes and imaginary scenes, were those of Danby and the Bristol School, among whom he was one of the most able painters.

In 1832, after producing some oil paintings of the Bristol Riots, Baker Pyne spent 6 weeks in France with his fellow Bristol School artist Edward Villiers Rippingille.

Baker Pyne did not long continue in the style of Danby's "poetical" landscapes and in the mid 1830s he moved to London where he developed his mature style following Turner in colour and style of composition.

Turner's influence can be seen for example in Clifton, Near Bristol, from the Avon (1837), which was exhibited at the Royal Academy. Pyne exhibited at the British Institution during 1833–1844 at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, and at the Royal Academy during 1836–41. He became Vice-President of the Society of British Artists . In 1846 he travelled to Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

The art dealership Thomas Agnew & Sons commissioned him to paint in the Lake District in 1848, and then in 1851 to make a three year tour of Italy. Pyne taught pupils including George Arthur Fripp who also has work in this Neath collection and Müller.

Samuel Jackson

SAMUEL JACKSON watercolour – mountainous landscape with figure, cattle, bridge and cottages, titled to mount ‘Pont Nedd-fechan, in the Vale of Neath, Glamorganshire’, signed, 29 x 44cms


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Samuel Jackson (1794 – 1869)

Samuel Jackson AOWS (1794–1869) was born in Bristol. His father was an accountant and later a drysalter. Jackson became a professional artist by 1822, primarily a watercolourist of landscapes. In 1823 he was elected an associate member of the Society of Painters in Watercolours.

The English antiquarian George Weare Braikenridge FSA (1775–1856) commissioned Jackson to produce watercolours of Bristol and collected many more of Jackson's Bristol scenes, contributing to his large collection of Bristolian historical material known as the Braikenridge Collection which can be seen at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. The Braikenridge Collection makes Bristol's early 19th-century appearance one of the best documented of any English city.

Jackson is considered the 'father' of the Bristol School of artists; his Bristol watercolours of the mid-1820s were his most highly regarded work and have been called the most important part of the work of the School. He was a lifelong friend of Francis Danby, whose influence is present in his watercolours, and may have been Danby's pupil.

In 1824 Jackson was one of the organisers of the first exhibition by local artists at the new Bristol Institution. He also seems to have participated in the revival of the Bristol School's sketching meetings in the early 1830s. In 1832 he was the most eminent artist in the first exhibition of the Bristol Society of Artists, and later he continued to play a large role in that society's successor, the Bristol Academy.

John Varley

JOHN VARLEY watercolour – figure on horseback with horse drinking from a pool, buildings and trees, title to mount ‘Aberdulais Mill C.1802’, 19 x 27cms


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John Varley (1778 – 1842)

Varley of Hackney, Middlesex, was an English watercolour painter and astrologer, and a close friend of William Blake. They collaborated in 1819–1820 on the book Visionary Heads, written by Varley and illustrated by Blake. He was the elder brother of a family of artists: Cornelius Varley, William Fleetwood Varley, and Elizabeth, who married the artist William Mulready.

John Varley was a central figure for the watercolourists of the early nineteenth century. He was a founder member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, and its most prolific exhibitor, he was also a highly significant teacher of both professionals and amateurs, and a writer of instruction manuals. He encouraged his students to paint en plein air, but also promoted the ‘picturesque’ theory of adapting nature to the requirements of composition.

George Orleans De La Motte

GEORGE ORLEANS DE LA MOTTE oil on panel – fine scene of four figures and dog surveying an estuary landscape in the Grand Tour style, title on plaque to mount, ‘Mouth of the Neath River from Britton Ferry, 1820’, 19 x 28cms


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George Orleans De La Motte (1788-1861)

There is very little known of this artist other than he was brother to William Alfred Delamotte, a better known landscape artist, Royal Academician and Professor of Landscape Drawing at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. George did exhibit once at the Royal Academy in 1809, with a view of Carswell House, near Farringdon, his address being recorded as Great Marlow. He was never elected as an Academician. De La Motte (or sometimes seen as Delamotte), was mentioned in the diary of Lewis Weston Dillwyn, the proprietor of Cambrian Pottery in Swansea. Evidently, George resided with Dillwyn as a guest in around 1819.

There are examples by George Orleans, at the National Museum of Wales. This painting is one of the finest in the Neath collection, it is in the Italianate style adopted by artists of the period who travelled the 'Grand Tour'. Three of George Orleans De La Motte's sons became artists.

Cornelius Pearson & Thomas Francis Wainwright

CORNELIUS PEARSON & THOMAS FRANCIS WAINWRIGHT collaborative watercolour – sheep grazing on a headland with estuary beyond, titled to mount ‘Crymlyn Bog and Neath River estuary Swansea Bay 1872’, signed by both artists and dated, 20.5 x 41cms


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Cornelius Pearson (1805 – 1891) & Thomas Francis Wainwright (1794-1883)

Pearson was a landscape & topographical painter & engraver, born in Boston, Linconshire. He exhibited 145 works at the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Academy. He was one of the oldest members of the Langham Sketching Club and two of his Welsh views are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Thomas Francis Wainwright was a landscape painter who lived in London. He was a prolific painter who exhibited over 200 works at Suffolk Street. He also exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1832 and 1862, the British Institution and elsewhere. Works at the Royal Academy include many landscape sketches and studies.

Together Pearson and Wainwright collaborated on many paintings with Pearson concentrating on the landscape and Wainwright on grazing sheep and cattle.

Edward Francis Drew Pritchard

EDWARD FRANCIS DREW PRITCHARD oil on canvas – figures with boat and distant buildings, titled on plaque to slip ‘Swansea from the east, at low tide’, signed, date to plaque 1856, 29 x 51cms


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Edward Francis Drew Pritchard (1808-1905)

Edward Pritchard was born in Bristol and worked there, in London and in Southampton. He specialised in seaside scenes of Britain and Belgium, exhibited at the Royal Academy. An example ‘Crossing the Sands to Swansea Market’ is at the National Museum of Wales.

John Brandon Smith

JOHN BRANDON SMITH large oil on canvas – panoramic and dramatic landscape, two figures observing, titled to frame ‘Waterfall in The Vale of Neath, Glamorganshire 1892’, signed and dated 1892, 93 x 126cms


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John Brandon Smith (1848 - 1884)

John Brandon Smith was a London landscape painter who exhibited from 1859 to 1884 at the Royal Academy. From 1860 to 1874 he exhibited at The British Institute and at the Royal Society of Artists, Suffolk Street. Titles at the Royal Academy included View in Surrey 1860, On the Lledr, 1867 and Caldron Linn, Perthshire, 1874.

James Francis Danby

JAMES FRANCIS DANBY oil on canvas – dramatic mountainous landscape with shaft of light, castle turret ruins and figure, inscribed verso on partially remaining label ‘Dinas Braun, Neath’, 54 x 67cms


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James Francis Danby RA (1793 - 1861)

Francis Danby was born near Wexford (Ireland) and learned to draw as a schoolboy in Dublin. A joint educational trip to London took Danby through the port city of Bristol on their return journey. Danby settled in Bristol at the age of 20 and began to paint, usually large-format, landscape pictures that caused a sensation in London salons.

It was the time when the Napoleonic Wars came to an end and there was a sense of euphoria in Britain; Danby's paintings - and those of his colleagues in and around Bristol - met the taste of the times, and so the informal group around Edward Bird formed, which met regularly for painting and drawing evenings and went down in art history as the Bristol School. Bristol had a locational advantage with its proximity to the wildly romantic valleys and gorges of the Avon River as well as the dramatic landscape of the Neath Valley and other locations in south Wales.

Danby had his greatest successes between 1820 and 1830, when he was appointed to the Royal Academy in 1825 and returned from Bristol to London. Besides pure landscape paintings, Danby also created genres with biblical motifs with ‘The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt’ and ‘The Flood’ standing out as his greatest and most well-known artistic legacies.

But when his wife left him for the painter Paul Falconer Poole, this threw Danby off track. He left London and became a boat builder on Lake Geneva. It was not until 1840 that Danby returned to devote himself to bringing up his sons James Danby and Thomas Danby (both also became painters), and made a magnificent comeback as a painter. His almost 5-meter-wide painting ‘The Flood’ opened a wave of new paintings mostly from the realm of sagas and religion.

Edward Theodor Compton

EDWARD THEODOR COMPTON watercolour – landscape with ruins, distant smoking chimneys and snow topped mountains, inscribed in pencil ‘Neath Abbey May 67’, further inscription beneath mount (with possible signature), 16 x 28.5cms


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Edward T Compton (1848 – 1921)

Born in 1849 to an insurance agent in the English town of Stoke Newington, Compton produced nature studies from the age of fourteen onwards, and attended London’s Royal Academy of Art. He is famed for his studies of Alpine mountains who left behind a comprehensive oeuvre of oil paintings, watercolours and ink drawings of highly skilled topographical accuracy.

His family moved to Darmstadt in 1867 which was a mecca for artists. There, Compton junior and senior taught drawing, with their pupils including members of the nobility such as Princess Alice.

Some sketchbooks detailing his numerous trips and hikes during this period have been preserved. The Bernese Highlands and Lake Thurner had a lasting influence on the artist, who decided to specialise in depictions of mountain landscapes. The fact that Compton himself was a skilled, passionate mountaineer influencing his decision. Compton moved to Munich in 1869 presenting his work in the Glaspalast, he married and eventually settled in Feldafing on Lake Sternberg. In addition to his work as a painter, Compton also enjoyed success as an illustrator for Alpine publications, and his mountain landscapes were distributed as postcards, as well as in other forms.

Arthur Wilde Parsons

ARTHUR WILDE PARSONS large oil on canvas - three figures salvaging a ship's mast on a rocky shoreline, with distant vessel, titled to frame 'At the Mumbles, 1880', signed


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Arthur Wilde Parsons (1854-1931)

Parsons was born at Stapleton, Gloucestershire, son of Dr John Dungate Featherstonehaugh Parsons, a medical practitioner. Arthur studied locally but exhibited in London and his earliest subjects were the shores of the Bristol Channel, to be followed by Cornish Scenes painted on summer visits to his brother, the vicar of Crantock. He visited Holland and, in about 1911 Italy which had an influence on his work when he produces Venetian scenes. In 1904 he became a founder member of the 'Bristol Savages' group and was a member and exhibiter at the Ipswich Art Club 1902-1905 with six watercolours 'Dismasted Barque, Falmouth', 'Off Cardiff', 'In Penarth Roads', 'Fair Wind of Lundy' and 'Summer Weather, Falmouth. Parsons also exhibited at the Royal Academy, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Institute, & in Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow & Manchester.

Richard Corbould

RICHARD CORBOULD oil on canvas - dynamic scene of young man on horse in a pool as his steed takes water with another white horse while a spaniel chases ducks in the water, title to frame 'Aberdulais Mill' signed


Richard Corbould 'Aberdulais Mill'

Richard Corbould (1757-1831)

Corbold was a painter, in oil and watercolour, of portraits, landscape on porcelain, and miniatures on ivory, and enamels; and was furthermore an important illustrator of books renowned for his Napoleonic sketches of Ships, and a follower of the old masters. From 1777 to 1811 he was a constant contributor to the Royal Academy.

Nicholas Pocock

NICHOLAS POCOCK watercolour – hunting figures amongst woodland with estuary valley and distant buildings, titled to mount ‘Neath and Swansea Bay, Glamorganshire from Gnoll Park’, 35 x 55cms


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Nicholas Pocock (1740-1821)

Nicholas Pocock was born in Bristol and became possibly the finest and most popular marine painter in Britain during the Napoleonic period, his work being well informed by his own practical experience as a seaman, as at a young age he captained Bristol trading vessels. It was on long voyages to America and the West Indies where he developed his interest in drawing, regularly illustrating logbooks with vignettes of the ship, the conditions and the journey (four of which are at the National Maritime Museum). But he was also a distinctive and competent landscape artist. In 1780 he gave up his sea career, married and sent his first oil painting to the Royal Academy. Unfortunately, the picture arrived too late for the exhibition, but Sir Joshua Reynolds wrote a letter to Pocock complimenting him on his work. Pocock exhibited annually at the RA between 1782 and 1812. Examples of Nicholas Pococks work can be seen in major institutions, such as Courthauld Institute and the National Museum of Wales.

William Weston Young

WILLIAM WESTON YOUNG watercolour – three figures observing the ruins of Neath Abbey, titled to plaque ‘Neath Abbey, Glamorgan Circa 1820’, 25 x 36cms


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William Weston Young (1776-1847)

William Weston Young will be a familiar name to those who follow our Welsh Sale auctions. Young, as with many of the other artists in this collection, was born in Bristol. He was raised as a devout Quaker and was educated at a Quaker boarding school. William Weston Young is famed equally in the world of botany, ceramics, ship-wreck raising, surveying, and as an inventor. He lived quite a life!

In 1794, Young attempted to emigrate to America, but his ship was captured by a French man-of-war, and so he ended up back at port in Bristol. He then decided to lease a watermill at Aberdulais in Neath, the same mill is included in many of the paintings in this collection.

After a succession of business failures and bad deals, Young was declared bankrupt in 1802 and so he and his wife moved to Swansea where he took employment as a draftsman for Lewis Weston Dillwyn, at Swansea’s Cambrian Pottery. He remained at Cambrian until 1806.

Dillwyn and Young share a passion for natural history and in particular botany. Collections of Swansea pottery decorated by Young can be seen regularly at our Welsh Sale but can also be seen at the V&A, The National Museum of Wales and the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea.

After Young’s foray into ceramics, he invented a crane mechanism for raising ship-wrecks and began a business raising vessels from the Bristol Channel.

In 1814, William Weston Young became the major investor in Nantgarw Porcelain with William Billingsley and Samuel Walker.

The pottery was set up, but something of Billingsley & Walker's understanding of the recipe or manufacturing process was amiss, as 90% of the porcelain was ruined in the firing. The resources of the three associates soon ran out, and the group approached the British Government's Committee of Trade and Plantations asking for a grant of £500, referring to the subsidy the French Government had given the famous Sevres Porcelain Factory.

They were not successful, but one member of the committee, a porcelain enthusiast; Sir Joseph Banks, suggested to his friend and ceramicist Lewis Weston Dillwyn, of Swansea Cambrian Pottery should inspect.

Dillwyn saw the extent of the firm's losses, but was so impressed with the quality of the surviving pieces that he offered Billingsley and Walker use of his Cambrian factory to improve their recipe and processes. An annexe was built for porcelain at Cambrian where Walker and Billingsley were based, in late 1814.

Billingsley's porcelain recipe was modified and improved in Swansea, but production was still wasteful enough for Dillwyn to abandon the project in 1817, the pair returned to Nantgarw.

William Weston Young reinvested in the pottery at the Nantgarw factory, additionally becoming an art teacher at Cowbridge Free School to help raise the funds. Billingsley and Walker continued to fire their porcelain at a loss however until one day in April 1820, while Young was away in his home town of Bristol, Billingsley and Walker fled to the Coalport factory in England, leaving behind them the lease to the pottery and several thousand pieces of undecorated Nantgarw porcelain in various stages of production.

Young put the Nantgarw Pottery and its contents up for sale via public auction in October 1820, enabling himself to buy-out his minor partners and become sole proprietor. He invited his friend and former co-working artist from the Cambrian Pottery, Thomas Pardoe to aid him with the completion and decoration of the salvaged porcelain. Young and Pardoe experimented to perfect a glaze for the biscuit-ware, but were unable to ever add to Billingsley's stockpile of porcelain, having no access to his recipe. The final sales of the finished porcelain (sold between 1821 and 1822), paid Pardoe and his staff's salaries in arrears, but failed to recoup Young's total losses, leaving Young narrowly avoiding a further bankruptcy.

Watercolour studies and drawings by William Weston Young are exceptionally rare and sought after by collectors of Welsh art and Welsh porcelain.

John Inigo Richards RA

JOHN INIGO RICHARDS RA watercolour – family group in a landscape with horses and ruins, title to mount ‘Neath Abbey, Glamorganshire’, 22 x 31.5cms


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John Inigo Richards RA (1730 – 1810)

John Inigo Richards was born in London and became one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768. He was secretary to the RA from 1788 until his death.

He was said to have assisted William Hogarth, in 1737 with the mural decorations for St Bartholomew’s Hospital. He was also the principal set painter at Theatre Royal, Covent Garden from 1777 to 1803, (his name sometimes featured prominently on playbills).

Richards studied under George Lambert, ‘the father of English landscape oil painting’ and thence became a pioneering landscape painter in oil and watercolour, a forerunner of such topographical artists as Paul Sandby.

Between 1768 and 1783 Richards contributed eighteen paintings to the Free Society of Artists, and from 1762 to 1768 he exhibited twenty-nine works, mainly landscapes, at the Society of Artists. He exhibited thirty-nine paintings at the Royal Academy. In 1791 he was commissioned to restore Leonardo’s Holy Family, then belonging to the Royal Academy.

Richards died at Somerset House and was buried at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. Despite his high level of productivity Richards was impoverished by the time of his death.

Thomas Hornor

THOMAS HORNOR watercolour – figures including a violin player camping on a ridge above a valley, titled to mount ‘Bwa Maen, Vale of Neath, 1816’, 17.5 x 29cms


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Thomas Hornor (1785-1844)

Thomas Hornor was was born in Kingston upon Hull. He set up as a topographical artist and surveyor and gained a reputation as an accomplished delineator of landed properties, common lands, roads, canals and drainage.

His interest in landscape gardening and the picturesque influenced his style of estate mapping with panoramas which he called ‘panoramic chorometry’.

He was commissioned by a lawyer, John Edwards, to record his John Nash house, grounds and the surrounding landscape of the Rheola estate in the Vale of Neath. He also produced a series of sumptuous leather-bound albums around south Wales.

In 1820, Hornor began work on a 360-degree panorama of London, as viewed from the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. A substantial domed building was erected in Regent’s Park in which to display his panorama, and in 1825 artist E T Parris began copying Hornor’s views to an acre of curved canvas.

However, the venture was costly and protracted. But in 1829 Hornor opened his so-called colosseum unfinished. The public who could view the panorama from various levels using an ‘Ascending Room’, - - designed by Hornor and effectively Britain’s first passenger lift!

The costs of this project had outstripped Hornor’s income and later that year, in reduced circumstances, he fled to the United States. There he continued in his profession but died destitute in New York city.

Several of his finest creations lay unsung in private collections in Wales, but during the twentieth century, he attained recognition as a significant artist when his Welsh watercolours and prints came to wider attention.

The collection of Neath paintings has been entered from a deceased estate in the Neath-Port Talbot area, and will be offered at The Welsh Sale auction, in March 12th 2022.

This article shows some of this fascinating collection. The full cataloguing will be online in late February 2022. Viewing the collection in person can be arranged by appointment only, up until the auction on March 12th.

For further information:


Ben Rogers Jones BA (Hons)
Welsh Antiques, Welsh Art & Sporting Antiques Specialist

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