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Arthur Orton (white figure): C.999-1928

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Arthur Orton (white figure)
Sir Roger Tichborne
The Tichborne Claimant


Production: Sampson Smith (Perhaps)




White earthenware figure moulded in three parts, perhaps with separately moulded head. The pearlware glaze is quite thick, with fine blue flecks. Not painted.

The Claimant stands against a rough hewn wall; his left hand holds a bird and his right a shot-gun, the butt of which rests on the ground. The figure plain white. He wears a long jacket, a waistcoat, a watch chain, a shirt with bow tie, and a top hat. He has a trimmed beard. The oval base is concave and glazed and inscribed ‘SIR R TICHBORNE’ in raised capitals. The back is moulded with a vent hole 13.5 cm from the bottom.


History note: Sharpe’s, Newmarket Road, Cambridge. Bought on 7 August 1913, for 4/6 (four shillings and sixpence), by Dr Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L.Glaisher Bequest

Measurements and weight

Depth: 11 cm
Depth: 4.325 in
Height: 36.5 cm
Height: 14.375 in
Width: 13.3 cm
Width: 5.25 in

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1928) by Glaisher, J. W. L., Dr


19th Century, Mid#
Production date: circa AD 1874


According to Rackham (1935) the two figures come from the same mould. In fact, this figure is a full centimetre shorter and its body and base slightly thinner; moreover, the head of the other is slightly differently moulded, with a fatter face. The two figures are, however, identical in design. So, whilst they probably come from the same factory, they must come from different moulds.

Arthur Orton (20 March 1834 – 1 April 1898), was the celebrated Tichborne Claimant, who claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne, the heir to a wealthy landed family and a baronetcy.

Rackham lists this figure as made by Sampson Smith at Longton, a factory noted in contemporary directories as a ‘manufacturer of figures in great variety’, which began around 1851, and there is evidence to support this attribution. Firstly, it shares certain features with other figures that have been attributed to the factory: it is a large figure, supported by a stone wall; it is a simple three part moulding; and it has a plain oval base with title in raised gilt capitals. Secondly, this is one of two figures of Orton bequeathed to the Fitzwilliam collection by Dr Glaisher (see: C.999-1928). The other figure is one of eleven sparsely coloured figures identified by Pugh as having been made with a brownish stain in the clay, which he attributes to Sampson Smith; he further notes that these figures may also be found without the stain and with a good bluish glaze (Pugh (1970), pp.14-15).

The figure shows the Claimant dressed as a fashionable man of substance, his claim to land and title indicated by the shotgun and bird. The image is recognisable from contemporaneous photographs and caricatures (which show that in life he was even more portly). The case was a national sensation and newspapers published special editions with news of the latest events in the court, and he was therefore a likely choice of figure for which the Staffordshire potters would find a ready market. Noting the title, ‘SIR R TICHBORNE’, it is also possible the Claimant himself commissioned the figure, since he is known to have pressed his case in all manner of ways, including music hall appearances and public meetings.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Materials used in production

White earthenware

Techniques used in production

Press-moulding : White earthenware moulded in three parts, perhaps with separately moulded head. The pearlware glaze is quite thick, with fine blue flecks. Not painted. The oval base is concave and glazed. The back is moulded with a vent hole 13.5 cm from the bottom.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: ‘SIR R TICHBORNE’ in raised capitals

  • Location: Front of base
  • Method of creation: Moulding
  • Type: Title

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.999-1928
Primary reference Number: 76512
Old object number: 3711
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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