Fieldings Auctioneers are delighted to be handling the Joyce & Jack Cockerill Collection. This collection shows the true passions of two collectors who dedicated their life to collecting, researching and sharing their knowledge on various northern pottery manufacturers.
This collection shows a breadth of interest from 18th Century through to contemporary studio and every pot here, regardless of condition was loved! Jack and Joyce were true collectors, rescuing damaged gems purely for the love of learning! This collections offers a rare opportunity to see so many seldom seen factories wares covering nearly 300 years of years of ceramic manufacture.
Here Vivien Cockerill, Jack & Joyces daughter shares her memories of a life dedicated to collecting.
Joyce and Jack Cockerill were born in County Durham the 1920s when the world looked very different. Joyce lived in Birtley, and her Dad Frank was a miner who claimed to have been on the Jarrow March, but no one thought he got past Durham. 15 miles away near Easington, Jack's Dad Walter was a gardener at the local hospital in Thorpe, who also sometimes drove the ambulance.
Times were hard and the families didn't have much but Joyce and Jack both passed the exams for the grammar schools. They took the equivalent of gcses then Joyce went to work in the local library and Jack joined the police force. He was posted to Birtley and the library is where they met in 1947. The tall dark shy bookish policeman with the extrovert redhead must have made quite a pair.
They married in 1952 and they were lucky a police house came with Jack's job. It was a bit unfortunate that the first thing he had to do was to cut down the noose the previous occupant had hanged himself with.
Jack's career in the police force went well despite an initial 15 years on the beat because he refused to join the masons. The police encouraged him to do a law degree and for some of the time he worked at the police training college. He was a superintendent in Sunderland when he took early retirement in 1975.
Joyce had trained as a teacher in the 1970s, with her subject being arts and crafts. She loved it. The students went on trips to galleries and museums in London. They did residential courses in the original Beamish Hall which developed into Beamish museum.
That is when her interest in ceramics and design really started. We still have some of her (very chunky) pottery.
They moved to York in 1975 when Jack started to work for the local government ombudsman investigating complaints. They joined the local Labour Party and the Friends of York Art Gallery and were actively involved with both.
Joyce started collecting then, like a magpie, antique fairs, charity shops and car boot sales, anything interesting. She liked good design and things which were "different" but there wasn't much money and they had to be bargains.
They retired in the mid 1980s and that is when Jack started to get involved. His approach was different. He was more interested in the history of the potteries and researching where the designs came from. We heard a lot about print making techniques and how prints were transferred to pots.
They joined the Northern Ceramic Circle and enjoyed their summer schools at places like Keele University. Jack was persuaded to do several lectures. Joyce liked the bring and tell sessions where people brought interesting pieces for the group to discuss. They made deep lasting friendships with very knowledgeable people like Harold Blakey, Rodney Hampson and Griselda Lewis, all sadly now deceased.
Jack in particular was very focused on the north east potteries, Linthorpe, the Commondale where Jack was very amused to be regarded as the expert, knowing no one else had done the research, and of course Stockton. They put tons of time and effort into researching William Smith and his Wedgewood, even going to Belgium to meet enthusiasts there. The Dorman museum acquired a huge dinner service from them and created a special display. They also had many pieces on loan, and Joyce celebrated her 90th birthday at the museum where all the family got to see the collection.
Joyce carried on collecting, including trips to Paris fleamarkets, London, and Edinburgh, and most recently the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to see the refurbished 19th Century Art Galleries with the Christopher Dresser Society. However in the last 20 years or so she has been more interested in more modern studio pots. She met Walter Keeler at his Fownhope workshop, and had a friendship with Ruth King of York. She liked the York open studios weekends.
So a long lasting passion, for the research and the local history as well as the physical pieces. When Jack died the family gave 25 boxes of pottery books away. Joyce would always say noone now could understand what it was like growing up with nothing and that mindset perhaps explains her obsession with holding and owning so many pieces. She used to talk about selling pieces but she just couldn't bear to let them go.
The Cockerill Collection will be sold on Friday 16th February lots 534 - 780.
Posted on 9 February 2024