A HISTORIC famous collector of French porcelain is the focus of a major auction.

Judith Howard from Melksham was a leading scholar, dealer and collector in European Ceramics.

Her daughter Charlotte Howard said: “My mother caught the antiques bug early. When she was about six, an antiques dealer saw she was enthusiastic and said if she could guess what factory a cup was she could keep it; she cleverly spotted it as Caughley.”

Judith Howard died after a long illness in January aged 73.

As Woolley and Wallis prepare for the sale of her collection of Sèvres, it provides an opportunity to look back at her life.

“Her work was more of an obsession. She lived near the V and A museum in London. She said to her Mother at the age of six, I’m going to work there. So that was very unusual.

“She was determined to go there and kept writing to the museum for work. She got the job at age 18 without having a degree but you normally would have had to have gone to university before working there. But a big achievement of hers was getting a degree after that in her own time in humanities," explains Charlotte.

Despite bypassing university for the V and A, once there she returned to her studies, successfully completing a diploma in the humanities at London University in 1966.

In the end her collection numbered nearly 1000 pieces of Sèvres.

Despite all this, Charlotte says: “My mother always felt that she hadn’t achieved greatness, but I wish she were alive now to see and hear what people are saying.”

Charlotte’s favourite piece in the consignment for the two-day Woolley and Wallis sale on February 4 and 5 is Sèvres biscuit figure of a lady at a dressing table having her hair done.

It’s the piece that reminds me of her the best,” she says.

“She discovered Lord Byron’s Albanian costume in the cellars of Bowood so that was something to be proud of.

“She bought a lot of her items on eBay occasionally she found a real thing on there because she had a great eye. When she got ill, she could do a lot of her shopping online.

“Her collection was like her children. One of her favourite items was the yellow jug and basin because it managed to survive the French revolution.”

Better than all of this, though, for Judith was her garden.

“It was her pride and joy and open under the national garden scheme. In fact, it was deemed so good it was featured in many magazines and papers including Homes and Gardens and was in Timothy Mowl’s book Historic Gardens of Wiltshire.

“Somehow it is appropriate that, in the end, it was to her garden that my mother’s attention always returned. After all, she herself was a force of nature.”

Errol Manners will be giving a lecture on Sevres and the Judith Howard Collection at Woolley and Wallis on January 31 as part of a private charity view.

The Judith Howard Collection of Sèvres Porcelain will be on sale at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on Castle Street on February 4, 2020. www.woolleyandwallis.co.uk