THEY stand five feet tall, come from southern China, and
commemorate the life-saving action of a fly-fishing vicar in the
19th century. Later this year, they are expected to return to their
homeland, after fetching up to £100,000 under the hammer.
Last week, Duke's Auctioneers revealed the story behind one of
the treasures in its Asian art collection. The two vases, believed
to have been fired during the reign of the Daoguang Emperor who
ruled China from 1820 until 1850, were sent from China as a gift to
the Revd Samuel Edward Valpy Filleul by a rich trader.
As a boy in the late 1880s, the trader had been saved from
drowning in a river in Lancashire by Mr Filleul, a keen fisherman.
The cleric then paid for the boy's education, and the vases were a
token of gratitude after the young man made his fortune in
The vases have remained in the Filleul family since his death in
1931, and, before their transfer to Duke's, stood in a house in
"They are of fabulous quality," the Asian art specialist at the
auctioneers', Andrew Marlborough, said on Tuesday. "Firing any kind
of porcelain is a technically difficult process, especially when
there are lots of different coloured enamels on the surface. Firing
ones five feet tall brings with it some technical challenges; so it
is quite amazing they were created at all and have survived until
The vases will go under the hammer on 7 November. Descendants of
Mr Filleul are selling them now because of a strong market for
Chinese works of art, Mr Marlborough said. "People . . . want to
buy back their cultural heritage. It's very likely they will end up
going back to China."
Mr Filleul was ordained priest in 1880, and served his curacy at
Charles Church, Plymouth, and in Wareham, Dorset. He was Vicar of
Highcliffe, Hampshire, from 1887 to 1889, and Rector of All
Saints', Dorchester, until he retired in 1918.