The school pottery teacher who turned a fortune with garden-shed forgeries

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The Independent Online

An amateur sculptor duped some of Britain's most respected auction houses into selling fake vases that he had made in his garden shed – thinking they were genuine antiques worth thousands of pounds.

In a case described by police as "staggering", Jeremy Broadway tricked respected art historians into believing his story that "a little old lady" in his local village had inherited the "precious" vases.

The 52 year-old spent years teaching ceramics at one of Britain's most prestigious boarding schools.

He convinced experts that his vases were the work of renowned artists Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie. He spent hours in his shed churning out the replicas at his potter's wheel.

Broadway, who has a Masters degree in ceramics, would stamp the objects with fake seal marks purporting to represent the late artists. Both Leach and Rie's work are usually identified through distinctive stamps.

Among the auction houses that Broadway duped were such names as Christie's, Bonhams and Galerie Besson, all among the most celebrated dealers in fine art in London.

Two fake Leach vases and a Rie pot that Broadway made were sold by Bonhams for £8,900.

Broadway who, before his retirement, taught ceramics at the prestigious Bryanston School in Dorset, started his deception by selling some of his vases on eBay.

He later contacted Ben Williams, the Head of Contemporary Ceramics at Bonhams in London, in the middle of 2004, saying that a "little old lady" needed the vases valued. He emailed pictures to Bonhams of a fake Bernard Leach vase, which later sold for £7,000.

John Leach, Bernard's grandson and a world authority on pottery, realised the vase was a fake when he learned of the sale.

In April 2005, Broadway used the same process to convince the Head of British Decorative Arts at Christie's that he possessed three Lucie Rie bowls. Each was valued as genuine, one for between £6,000 and £8,000.

On handling the three vases put on sale by Christie's, Mr Williams realised immediately they were fake. When a gallery director from Southampton contacted him separately with his doubts about the authenticity of a Rie bowl and Leach vase, Mr Williams phoned the police.

"The weight of his Leach vases were lighter in places. It was very subtle," said Mr Williams, who now works for London-based auctioneers Phillips de Pury.

"I realised I had made a mistake. I was fooled and I thought the ones I sold were real. Leach and Rie work is very high value.

"I am sure Broadway felt he could copy them quite competently and it is clear he could because he got one over a few people."

Broadway, who is married and lives in a £500,000 home in the village of Child Okeford, near Blandford, Dorset, had constructed a studio in an outbuilding fitted with a wheel and kiln.

When police raided the house, they found both the seal mark stamps and several recently finished objects. "The amount of time this deception went on for – and the number of people [he] duped – is staggering," said Detective Constable Jon Bayliff of Weymouth Criminal Investigation Department, who led the investigation.

"Jeremy Broadway is a capable and technically proficient potter. It is only thanks to the close community of art dealers in London that this deception didn't spread much further."

Broadway denied charges of obtaining money by deception but the case was proved in his absence as he was mentally unfit to plead. The case was heard last year and Mr Broadway was sentenced in November. However, details have only just been released after the case against his wife, who was also charged over the deception, was only thrown out this week.

Altogether, Broadway is thought to have made about £20,000 from his forgeries. He was given a 12-month supervision order under the Mental Health Act.