Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:22 UK

Priceless ceramic kept under bed

The dish dates back to 1680 and is one of only 40 signed by Toft.

A "priceless" 17th Century artwork is going on display after spending the last 30 years under a farmer's bed.

The slipware charger, a large dish designed by the potter Thomas Toft in Burslem, Staffordshire, has not been seen by the public since the 1890s.

It had previously been displayed above the fireplace in a Shropshire farmhouse but had been kept under the bed for safe keeping in recent years.

It has been donated to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.

It dates back to 1680 and is one of only 40 worldwide signed by Toft.

Unlike all other Toft pieces, it has remained in private hands for generations.

Miranda Goodby, ceramics collections officer for the museum, said it had been donated anonymously by two brothers.

'Very rare'

She said: "They have been under pressure to sell, and it is worth a lot of money.

"But they wanted to abide by their grandmother's wishes and never cash in.

"They have no immediate family to pass it on to, so they have generously decided to give it to us. It is very hard to put a value on this. To the museum it is priceless."

The dish is understood to have been acquired by a man called John Morton who left it to his daughters when he died in 1888.

Ms Goodby said: "Two of the daughters wanted to sell it, such was the value, but one of the sisters, Jane, would not sell as it was a family heirloom.

"She decided to keep it as her share of the estate. In the 1890s it went on display at an exhibition in Shrewsbury and that is the only time the public have ever had chance to see it."

The Fleur de Lys decorated dish will go on display at the museum from 24 May.

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