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Couple’s love affair with antiques demonstrated by extraordinary collection

Posted on 05/11/2019 in Press Coverage

Antiques are my first love and when I hit upon a particularly extraordinary collection, gathered over decades by Derbyshire connoisseurs with a real eye for beautiful pieces, it felt truly magical, writes Charles Hanson.

Recently, I stepped across the threshold at a Victorian red brick house in Ashbourne and was swept into an antiques paradise – an Aladdin’s cave.

Every which way I turned I was greeted by artworks and treasures from centuries ago that filled me with excitement. Call me an antiques anorak, but I can’t help myself, such is my passion.

The property was once home to two former antique shop owners, Robert (Bob) Cotterell and Pam Elson, a well-known couple in the town. Their beautiful objects, sourced over decades, showcased what can only be described as a love affair with antiques.


The couple became close friends through their mutual interest. They both owned antique shops, Pam in Ashbourne and Bob in Walsall, where he originated from.

They ran Pam’s antique shop in Church Street, Ashbourne, until they retired. Pam was the outgoing and exuberant one while Bob was a much quieter, shyer person.

Antiques were their life and passion. They’d travel to antique fairs together, particularly in Newark, and, thanks to their shop, enhanced Ashbourne’s reputation as a mecca for antique lovers.

But more than that, they were collectors themselves – and what an eye they had. The first thing that caught my attention as I entered their former home was a magnificent display of blue and white pottery including Spode, famous for its Willow pattern.


Thanks to our proximity to Stoke, I regularly see Spode. The company, founded by Josiah Spode in 1770, was responsible for perfecting two techniques crucial to the worldwide success of the English pottery industry.

He perfected the technique for transfer printing in underglaze blue on fine earthenware in 1783-1784 – a development that led to the launch in 1816 of Spode’s Blue Italian range, which has remained in production ever since.

From there I entered the sitting room and, in landlocked Derbyshire, was greeted by a sea-inspired portrait of a man pointing to a vessel – and directing me further into a home filled with objects dating back to the time of Lord Nelson, who lived from 1758 to 1805.

The sitting room was blessed with many objects from the 18th century including a portrait of a sailor and European carved wooden figures. Sculptural figures are popular among collectors today, as they fit well in a minimalist interior.

High quality glassware, copperware and a magnificent pair of 18th century brass candlesticks also caught my eye.


In the hallway I came across beautiful late Baroque Italian Florentine carvings which brought a touch of the Italian Renaissance to Ashbourne.

As I walked upstairs, I was greeted by a portrait of lady with a bunch of flowers. She was 270 years old but, unlike me, hadn’t aged with the passage of time.

In the bedrooms I found more pottery including Staffordshire Toby Pepper Pots, which are derived from the Toby Jug. Often found locally, Toby Jugs typically display a seated, heavy-set, jovial man in 18th-century attire holding a beer and pipe.

Toby Pepper Pots bear similarities but the figures are standing, all the better to proudly display their ample pot bellies. The original Toby Jug, with a brown salt glaze, was developed and popularised by Staffordshire potters in the 1760s.

A colourful display of Victorian dump glassware also caught my eye. In their day, these were often used as paperweights or door stops. Glass dumps were first made in the early 19th century by bottle and window glass factories in Yorkshire, the Midlands and the North East of England.

The name probably arose because they were made from glass which otherwise might have been dumped at the end of a shift.


That’s the beauty of antiques, every object has a story, often woven into the fabric of Britain’s industrial and artistic heritage.

The joy of this house clearance knew no bounds for me. Sadly, Bob and Pam are no longer with us. Pam died after a short illness in 2010 while, with great sadness, I have to tell you that Bob died at the age of 95 this year following a road accident in Ashbourne.

Nevertheless, their passion for collectables and history lives on. This very special auction is a testament to their mutual love of antiques, which they not only made a living out of but surrounded themselves with in their home.

I very much hope to honour their memory when the Robert Cotterell and Pam Elson Collection goes to auction at Hansons’ Etwall saleroom on November 26.

Downsizing and house clearance services | Free valuations

If you would like to find out more about Hansons’ house clearance and downsizing services, please call 01283 733988. Entries are invited for our December Fine Art, Library, Jewellery, Watches and Silver auctions until November 15. Free valuations available on Wednesdays, 5-7pm, Fridays, 10am-4pm, and Saturdays, 9am-noon, at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS.