John Savident collection at Sworders

A fine collection of theatrically-themed works that belonged to the late Coronation Street actor John Savident (1937-2024) will go under the hammer in an Essex saleroom this month.

They come for sale from the family of the much-loved British actor who played the character of Fred Elliot in the long-running soap opera for 12 years. The collection will be offered in Sworders’ Homes and Interiors sale on June 26.

Sworders will sell the John Savident collection in 70 lots in total with estimates ranging from £100-£500.

Selection of theatrically themed items

The actor began buying Georgian and Victorian theatre playbills, prints and ephemera promoting the sights and sounds of the theatres of Drury Lane and Covent Garden in London and others in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham in the 1960s.

Most were bought from the antiquarian book and print shops in Cecil Court, the small street between Charing Cross Road and St Martins Lane where Sworders now have a London office.

Of particular note is the array of ‘tinsel’ or ‘dressed’ prints, the once hugely popular early to mid 19th-century prints of actors to which coloured foil highlights were added at home. At the time they were priced at a penny for a line printed subject and two pence for a coloured image. There are more than a dozen framed examples in the sale including the two prints titled ‘Mr Osbaldiston as William Tell’ and ‘Mr Payne as Robin Hood‘ guided at £100-200.

Several lots in the sale reference the Victorian stage actor Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905). A watercolour caricature of Irving in his famous role as Dubosc in Charles Reade’s play The Lyons Mail is estimated at £200-300 while a lot comprising photographs and memorabilia is expected to bring £150-200. The latter includes a lock of Irving’s hair mounted on a printed memorandum by the London theatrical costumers and wig makers Chas H Fox Ltd plus a framed silk handkerchief embroidered with fleur de lys thought to have belonged to David Garrick.

Savident’s collection of pottery and porcelain figures depicting Shakespearean actors and theatre subjects was began shortly after the family moved to London in 1986. Most are Staffordshire pottery ‘flatbacks’. Offered with guide of £150-200 are three titled mid 19th-century groups of Victorian Shakespearean actors: Charlotte Saunders Cushman (1816-1876) and her sister Susan Cushman (1822-1859) in the title roles of Romeo and Juliet; Philip Kemble as Hamlet and Othello & Lago.

A 30cm high figure of William Shakespeare by the Derby porcelain factory dating from c.1770-75 is pitched at £100-200. The Bard is shown in a familiar pose leaning on books on a pillar, after the sculpture by Peter Scheemakers with a scroll in his hand inscribed in gilt with verses from The Tempest.

Despite acting like he was born and bred in Weatherfield, John Savident was born in the Guernsey and spent much of his life in southeast England. He and his family lived close to Sworders in Henham, Essex.

He had become interested in the theatre at school and – following a brief career in the police force – found work with a touring theatre company in 1960. His first TV appearance came in 1966 with his first film (where he was uncredited) following in 1967.

He enjoyed many film and television roles in the 1970s and 80s, including civil servant Sir Frederick Stewart in Yes Minister and parts in A Clockwork Orange, Gandhi and The Remains of the Day. However, it was only when Savident joined the cast of Corrie as the bellicose but romantic butcher that he became a household name. He made his first appearance on the show as Fred Elliot in 1994 and – as his character quickly became popular with viewers – he was a regular until retirement in 2006.