In around 2004, I began a quest to build a pearlware hunting garniture made by the potter John Walton. I had seen such a rarity in one of the exhibition catalogs published by the late dealer Jonathan Horne.
In 2004, my good friend Nick Burton bought me a very fine Walton pearlware sportsman with dog, just like the figure on the left of Jonathan's garniture.
With this acquisition, my hunt for other garniture figures began, and slowly I secured a dog (thanks to a good collector friend who sold me one from his collection) and a rabbit (no thanks to a member of the trade who expected to be rewarded if he sat out the auction!). Thirteen long years later, my garniture looked like this:
And that brings me to the next twist in this tale. Within weeks of buying my long-awaited sportsman, I became aware of another virtually identical sportsman looking for a new owner. Strangely, it was not marked, even though it is almost a clone of my marked Walton example.
The existence of this unmarked-but-certainly-Walton figure confirms my belief that Walton made many unmarked figures----but identifying them with certainty remains a problem.
Staffordshire figures are like buses: one never comes when you want it, and then they come in twos or threes. So it was with this sportsman. Had I seen the unmarked sportsman first, I certainly would have bought it to complete the garniture. Instead, this splendid figure awaits a discriminating home, and it can currently be seen on eBay, item 292104832139. The same seller also has a fabulous tree grafter, most unusual in that the large full bocage (almost always lost or badly damaged) is intact. All his figures can be seen in his eBay store, Hertford Avenue Antiques. Because the supply of fine figures seems to be drying up, I am over the moon at finding a new seller with figures of this caliber.