A £30,000 sculpture stolen in a heist has been rediscovered 16 years later at auction.
The prized Wally Bird piece was taken from Pitzhanger Manor House in Ealing in 2007, but was recently spotted in a catalog by a researcher looking into stolen artwork.
A £30,000 sculpture stolen from a manor house in a burglary in London in 2007 has finally returned at auction. Thieves seized the 130-year-old Wally Bird piece from Pitzhanger Manor House in Ealing as part of targeted raids two years apart.
The valuable figurine was among a number of items in a £288,000 Martinware pottery collection that was thought to be gone forever until it was spotted in the auction catalog by a researcher working with Christopher Marinello, a lawyer and expert in tracking down stolen art.
Its return was then secured by Mr Marinello, who handed it over to Ealing Council without charging any fees for his services. The insurance company Zurich Municipal had previously paid for the stolen goods and, as a gesture of good faith, had not requested a refund. The Wally Bird item is the third item taken in the theft and returned to the council in the past two years.
Dr Jonathan Oates, the council’s archivist, said: “It is fantastic that another piece of Martinware has been restored to its rightful place.” It was reported at the time that thieves entered the property through a window in the early hours of 22 March 2007.
In a six-minute raid, 22 items worth around £240,000 were stolen. This followed a similar incident two years ago in which goods from the same collection were taken from Southall Library.
Paul Reddington, Zurich’s UK regional major casualty manager, said he was delighted to see the piece returned to its rightful home. “We are delighted to have this bird back in the council’s possession, and the community can once again appreciate this rare piece of art,” he said.
“Wally Birds are an important part of the town’s history, with many of the sculptures being made by the Martin Brothers at their pottery in Southall. With Wally Birds now highly sought after by collectors all over the world, it is great to see this piece of art making a return.” Where she belonged.”
Martinware pottery was made in Southall by four brothers between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Wally Bird sculptures are among the siblings’ most popular works and are known for their large beaks, feet, and human-like features.
The value of items increased over time and thus became more attractive to thieves. Mr Reddington added: “Many bespoke pieces have been stolen and never recovered, which makes this discovery even more remarkable.”