The return of Upton's stolen porcelain

Upton's Bow birds on a stump are returned to their rightful place © Upton House

Upton's Bow birds on a stump are returned to their rightful place

Latest update 29.01.2014 16:06

Valuable items of Sèvres porcelain stolen from Upton House over 40 years ago have returned home.

Several pieces from Upton’s porcelain collection were stolen in 1968 during a break-in. Such wonderful pieces were feared never to be seen again but some were spotted by an expert at an auction house in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in 2010. In 2012, further items were found in London.

Reclaiming our crockery

After receiving the tip-off from the auction houses our curators worked with porcelain specialists to cross reference our records with archives from the French Porcelain Society and the auction catalogue description. From these details they were able to establish that these were the stolen pieces from Upton House, thought lost forever.

The pieces recovered from Newcastle include a rare 18th-century Sèvres tête-à-tête. It consists of two cups and saucers, a teapot and cover, a creamer and a sugar basin. In addition there's a blue lapis cup, saucer and sucrier, or sugar bowl, with painted landscapes and gold borders. At the same time, we recovered items from the ‘Solitaire’ collection painted by André-Vincent Viellard, a well-known artist for Sèvres. Lord Bearsted bought them in the 1920s when his passion for collecting porcelain took hold.

Found in London

As at Newcastle, the London find arose thanks to the suspicions of an expert.  Now safely back at Upton, the pieces are a very rare 18th-century Sèvres tatting shuttle, two Sèvres bowls and a pair of birds on stumps circa 1770. The birds are the only examples of Bow pieces in Upton's collection.

A mystery remains

Although full police investigations were carried out on both occasions there's still a mystery to solve. We don't know who was involved in the original theft nor how many hands the porcelain had passed through before surfacing at the auctions. So although there is no lead as to where the remainder of the 1968 theft is to be found, we are delighted to have the recovered pieces back on display in their rightful place with the rest of Lord Bearsted’s fabulous French and English porcelain.