Tributes to an expert on porcelain

Auctioneer Russell Sprake from Bungay is set to retire after more than 50 years.

Auctioneer Russell Sprake from Bungay is set to retire after more than 50 years. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Tributes have been paid to one of the Waveney Valley’s most respected auctioneers.

Russell Sprake was an acknowledged expert on Lowestoft Porcelain and was happy to pass on his knowledge of the subject.

He was born in Earsham in 1936, the youngest son of Guy and Doris. After leaving school in 1961, he began to learn the ropes of auctioneering at Robert Bond & Sons, general auctioneers of Ipswich.

He worked there until 1968 when he became a partner in Lowestoft firm Notleys, general auctioneers. He enjoyed meeting people with shared interests in antiques, and made many friends through his work.

During the 1970’s he began to refine his interests towards British painters and porcelain, and with a young family at home, he left Notleys to set up his own business in 1979.

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Living and working in Lowestoft, Russell became fascinated by Lowestoft porcelain. He loved the simplicity and individuality of many of the pieces.

In 1986 Russell and his wife Zoe, with their children Eloise, Alex and Ronan, moved to Earsham.

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Russell relied on Zoe to help him run the sales, and hold up the home front when he went on excursions for sale items.

As a family they would itemise lots, debate the order of sale, look for well-hidden restoration, giggle at terminology in condition reports, produce the catalogues, and post them out to Russell’s growing database.

“For years, Russell’s sales were woven into the tapestry of many lives, becoming a social occasion for fellow collectors and friends to gather under the still discoball at the Beaconsfield Club, enjoying the drama of the auction. Russell was proud to have set several record auction prices for Lowestoft porcelain,” said Mrs Sprake.

Russell was a familiar face to many in Bungay, popping up at the Buttercross Tea Rooms to visit his old nanny and friend, Hilda Rattle, and a frequent visitor to his son Alex’s shop at the Buttercross for several years. More recently he kept a cabinet at No 4 Antiques, and held his last professional auction in June 2013.

In August Mr Sprake died after a short illness. He died peacefully in the house he’d been born in 78 years earlier.

“He would have been the first to admit he hadn’t wished to change a thing in his life, but to have carried on,” said Mrs Sprake.

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