Antiques: Snaffles proves a popular buy

PUBLISHED: 11:53 21 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:36 20 February 2013

Snaffles Cottesmore watercolour.

Snaffles Cottesmore watercolour.

The popularity of paintings by Charlie Johnson Payne (aka Snaffles) shows no sign of abating reports Gerry Berwyn-Jones

Charlie Johnson Payne (aka Snaffles) is a name synonymous with Warwickshire. Born in Leamington Spa in 1884 and brought up in Warwickshire, little is known of his early life other than his passion for equestrianism and the military. It was thought the latter was inspired by his great-uncle who would entertain him with Crimean war stories, a conflict in which he had first hand experience. In 1914 Snaffles started work as a war artist for The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, a publication for which he continued to work after the Great War.
Snaffles was most prolific between 1918 and 1939. The desirability of the watercolour illustrated was reflected by the high estimate (8,000-12,000). A seemingly high sum for a 37x56cm work until one considers that these larger hunting watercolours are rare, for much of Snaffles original work was destroyed in a fire at the very end of the Second World War. This example is also signed, titled and dated 1911-12; an early example. Furthermore, it had the added allure of forming part of The Furness Collection. It sold for a hammer sum of 10,500.

The drawing illustrated is not just rare, but typifies Snaffles work. From the caricature-like depictions of the various riders to the wintry scenery and colourful garb to the catchphrase Go at it or go home, an allusion to the strong and difficult hedge (sometimes with a ditch beyond!) found on most hunts, called an ox-fence or oxer. Much of his hand-work was commissioned and this one would probably have been commissioned by a member of The Cottesmore Hunt, given the title A Cottesmore Oxer. The Cottesmore Hunt covers the woodland area around Rockingham and the Welland Valley, an area crossing the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire border. Reputedly, it was established by Viscount Lowther in 1666.
A generic print of The Oxer was created in 1913 and is worth a comparatively small sum of between 500 and 1,000 depending on the degree of hand-colouring. It is pure conjecture, but given this was produced a year after the watercolour pictured perhaps the drawing inspired the production of the print. These photo-mechanically produced prints make surprisingly large sums, but values are greater for those that are earlier, signed and titled, with vignettes and the more hand-colouring the better.
Interestingly, a popular print The Finest View in Europe which can make 600-1,000 and an example of which sold last year for 660, could be purchased in the early 1970s for as little as 5!! The consummate huntsman and artist would surely be gratified and perhaps a little bemused by the rise in his stock.

Gerry Berwyn-Jones BA(HONS) MRICS is a senior valuer and auctioneer for Bonhams International Fine Art Auctioneers and can be contact on: 01564-732966 or e-mail

For enquiries concerning Snaffles contact Mark Jones on 01564 776151 or e-mail

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