Sussex and the Arts and Crafts Movement

A Shapland & Petter oak and copper mounted wardrobe
A Shapland & Petter oak and copper mounted wardrobe

The Arts and Crafts Movement was named after the Arts and Crafts Exhibition, founded in England in 1882. However, the origins of the movement date to the mid-1850s and are commonly attributed to William Morris and his friends, the architect, Philip Webb, and the writer, John Ruskin.

The movement was deeply informed by the romantic socialism of John Ruskin and William Morris. John Ruskin’s writings inspired the principles of the movement. He observed and gave voice to the dehumanising qualities of industrialised work, and the effects it had on workers and society. As an alternative he advocated a return to an age of ‘free’ craftsmen. The movement stood for traditional craftsmanship and simple forms, often embellished with interpretations of romantic, naturalistic and medieval decoration, including the Gothic.

A Liberty & Co Tudric timepiece, designed by Archibald Knox
A Liberty & Co Tudric timepiece, designed by Archibald Knox

The influential Arts and Crafts designer and writer, C.R. Ashbee, wrote that ‘the proper place for the Arts and Crafts is in the country’. There were significant Arts & Crafts communities across the country. In Sussex the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, based at Ditchling gave expression to this. In the early 20th century it represented an experiment of artists living and working together in community under the leadership of its founders: Eric Gill, Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute.

William Morris named one of his most famous designs the Sussex chair, whilst Phillip Webb designed Standen, near East Grinstead, one of this country’s outstanding Art and Crafts homes. The architect Edwin Lutyens was also active in Sussex at Little Thakeham, Great Dixter in the gardens and elsewhere.

Music and drama played a significant part in the movement. For example the composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, gathered many of his most famous tunes from the fields around Horsham whilst John Ireland lived and worked at Shipley. They both shared the Arts and Crafts’ love of the countryside and folk traditions.

The Little Thakeham House Sale in 2000 established Toovey’s reputation amongst specialist collectors’ in the field of Arts and Crafts. The exceptional contents of Little Thakeham were in keeping with the stylistic quality of this important Edwin Lutyens house.

Building on this reputation Toovey’s will be holding a specialist auction of Arts and Crafts Furniture and Works of Art on Tuesday 8th September 2015. Entries for the sale are still being invited.

Among the leading exponents of the Arts and Crafts taste was Liberty & Co. The designer, Archibald Knox, joined Liberty & Co in 1899. Knox was the creative force behind Liberty’s Celtic Cymric and Tudric designs which were made in silver and pewter. The Arts and Crafts’ qualities of traditional craftsmanship and simple form are given expression in the Liberty & Co Tudric pewter clock, illustrated here, with its band of stylized leaves and enamelled cabochon numerals. Its domestic scale is also particularly pleasing being just twenty centimetres high. It carries a presale estimate of £1000-£1500.

A Ramsden & Carr silver caddy spoon
A Ramsden & Carr silver caddy spoon

Also entered for the auction is this jewel like caddy spoon dating from 1907. Estimated at £700-£1000, it is born out of the partnership of two exceptional designers and silversmiths, Omar Ramsden and Alwyn Charles Ellison Carr. Together they built a team of gifted craftsmen. The Celtic terminal and turquoise cabochon show the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Phillip Webb advocated a ‘truth to the materials’ and the oak wardrobe by Shapland & Petter with its restrained, stylized foliate copper panels has a clarity of line and proportion which speaks to this aspiration. It is expected to sell for between £1500 and £2000.

The deadline for entries for Toovey’s specialist auction of Arts and Crafts Furniture and Works of Art, to be held on Tuesday 8th September 2015, is fast approaching. If you are considering the sale of Arts and Crafts furniture and objects Toovey’s specialist, William Rowsell, will be delighted to offer free presale valuations and advice. Telephone Toovey’s on 01903 891955 to arrange an appointment.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 22nd July 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

How to be English!

Author, David Boyle, with Gudrun and Sara of the Steyning Bookshop
Author, David Boyle, with Gudrun and Sara of the Steyning Bookshop

‘How to be English’ by David Boyle is published this week. The book provides a fond, irreverent celebration of the ambiguities, eccentricities, and shared stories that define the English.

‘How to be English’ by David Boyle
‘How to be English’ by David Boyle

The writer David Boyle has recently moved to Sussex with his family and I have arranged to meet him at one of my favourite shops in all England – the Steyning Bookshop. The shop is at the heart of the Steyning community and is passionately run by Sara Bowers and her daughter, Gudrun. The shelves, filled with books, always fill me with a sense of anticipation and excitement. As I walk towards the shop past the familiar iron railings I am greeted by David, Gudrun and Sara, framed by the arch of the door and the colourful hanging baskets. Preparations are underway for an evening and book launch with David Boyle at the Steyning Bookshop on Thursday 23rd July 2015.

I ask David where the inspiration for the book came from, he replies “I became concerned that many of the stories which define the English, that I had grown up with, were in danger of being lost.”

David’s account of the English leaves you with a real sense of place in the procession of human history. I mention to David the delight that his articulation of the English has given me and the empathy I have with so many of his subjects. As I have read ‘How to be English’ I have become increasingly aware of how my understanding of what it is to be English has been informed by my love of Sir John Betjeman’s work. David agrees explaining that he too read Betjeman avidly in his late teens.

So are the English defined by Wellington’s stiff upper-lip? David responds “That’s one side of the story but Nelson provides a more old fashioned personality – emotional, overindulgent, sentimental, and lachrymose, overwhelmingly English, with a blind eye to authority.”

The divergent subjects of this eclectic book include: warm beer, Alfred the Great, the seaside, Capability Brown, The English Hymnal, heroic failure, daffodils, bell-ringing, the King James Bible, and The Last Night of the Proms.

So how would David summarise the English? He smiles and says “The English are always polite, apologising for themselves wherever they go. The importance of practicality over intellect is a very English idea, but also the importance of trying again.” David pauses for a moment and concludes “They like pluck, fair play and cricket…”

Author, David Boyle, preparing for Steyning Bookshop launch
Author, David Boyle, preparing for Steyning Bookshop launch

Don’t let David’s gentle humour deceive you. There is a quality and depth of thinking which belies the light-hearted tone of this joyous book.

Books feed not only our imaginations and thinking but there is the physical pleasure of the touch and smell of the paper. And the best place to savour and acquire these pleasures is an independent bookseller of the quality of the Steyning Bookshop.

‘How to be English – an Evening with David Boyle’ will be held at The Steyning Bookshop, 106 High Street, Steyning, West Sussex, BN44 3RD on Thursday 23rd July 2015 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost just £4, redeemable against the purchase of a book, which might just have to be ‘How to be English’! For more information go to and to book your place telephone 01903 812062.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 15th July 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Celebrating our Quintessential Affair with the Garden

Sweet peas in the cut flower beds at Parham
Sweet peas in the cut flower beds at Parham

This week I am visiting Parham House in West Sussex as preparations for their 22nd annual Garden Weekend are in full swing. For me this quintessential celebration of our passion for gardening is one of the highlights of the Sussex summer calendar. This year’s event will be opened by the celebrity gardener and broadcaster, Rachel de Thame.

Head Gardener, Tom Brown, at Parham House

As I arrive at Parham the scene is one of great activity. An enormous cherry picker fills the courtyard, they have been tending the ancient roses on the walls of the house. Lady Emma Barnard greets me with a wave from the far side of the fountain as Head Gardener, Tom Brown, welcomes me. Tom and I walk through an ancient wooden archway and door, its russet paint complimenting the silver grey of the stone buildings. On the other side the stillness which gathers you at Parham is immediately apparent.

As we walk towards the walled garden Tom begins to talk about the gardens and his role as Parham’s Head Gardener. His face is alive with enthusiasm as he says “The garden is bigger than all of us. It’s humbling to look at how this garden behaves and its needs.” I remark on how I have always loved the naturalistic planting at Parham. Its swathes of colour and textures interact with the movement of light and a gentle breeze in the walled gardens. Tom responds “The palette of the plants is very important to the ‘Parham way’, as are the big opulent artistic borders. But this is underpinned by a rigour in the way we approach our work in the garden.” It quickly becomes apparent that I am in the company of an accomplished and sensitive horticulturist who has the rare gift of observing well. He describes how he is attentive to the way that plants respond to the garden and also people’s reactions to it. There is a quality of the relational, a deep sense of stewardship, in Tom’s approach. It is also clear that he has an awareness of his place in the ongoing story of this ancient house and garden and an understanding of the responsibilities of his position.

The Greenhouse at Parham being tended by Peta and Henry
The Greenhouse at Parham being tended by Peta and Henry

Our conversation turns to Tom’s team and the creativity it embodies. He talks with obvious respect and pride as he describes how Peta, Henry, Max, Jake and Sam bring different gifts and experience. He remarks “There is a sense of ownership for all of us with belonging to a team.” This is a team defined by respectful dialogue. There is respect both for the members of the team and the garden.

As we talk a visitor approaches us. She expresses her pleasure in the garden and Tom is clearly delighted. He stands and listens carefully to her question about planting in the shade of her garden. He responds generously and with expert advice.

Tom is clearly grateful for the time he spent at Wisley but his pleasure in the ‘canvas’ of these gardens, that Lady Emma’s patronage has given him to work on, is unmistakeable. Tom brings his generosity of spirit and depth of expertise to his role as he facilitates and leads the ongoing vision for these gardens. He loves the domestic qualities of his position too. He always ensures that there is a basket of fresh vegetables for Emma and her family when they return home and wonderful cut flowers for the house. That the gardens bless the family is very important to him. His generous care for the gardens, his team, the visitors, Lady Emma and her family is underpinned by the relational in all that he does. Tom is richly deserving of our thanks.

Parham House and Garden’s ‘Garden Weekend’ is on this coming Saturday and Sunday, 11th and 12th July 2015, 10.30am to 5.00pm. For more information go to or telephone 01903 742021. Tickets include the wonderful gardens and entry to the house and its superb collections. There will be a number of specialist nurseries and the opportunity to be inspired and take home some wonderful stock for your gardens. Don’t miss out on the marvellous cut summer flower arrangements in the house and the flower festival in St Peter’s church. I hope to see you there!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 8th July 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

In the Café this July…

Mozzarella and Nutbourne tomato salad
Mozzarella, basil and Nutbourne tomato salad

We can’t believe it’s been over a year since we last featured the café on our blog, it seems like only yesterday we were drooling over lemon tart brulées and ginger parkin cake. The café is only open on viewing and auction days and, other than on the Saturday morning view, serves breakfasts and lunches throughout the day.

Homemade Tomato Soup

Will Murgatroyd continues to develop the menu depending on the season, if you click the menu at the bottom of the page it will appear much larger enabling you to view everything available this month. This month on the special’s board at £5 is a delicious tomato, mozzarella and basil salad using delectable locally-sourced Nutbourne tomatoes.

The Nutbourne Nursery is considered one of the best, if not the best, grower of tomatoes in the UK. Insecticide free and never refrigerated these seasonal tomatoes are full of flavour and when they arrive with Will each morning they have that distinctive aroma. With such a great ingredient the soup of the day will also be a homemade Nutbourne tomato soup served with a roll for £5. Also on the Special’s blackboard this month is a mozzarella and tomato toasted sandwich.

Utilizing these local tomatoes is the classic combination of bacon, lettuce and tomatoes, giving a local twist to the classic B.L.T. sandwich.

BLT using Nutbourne tomatoes
BLT using Nutbourne tomatoes

These join a number of familiar favourites and new additions to the main menu. The staff favourite of coronation chicken with a drizzle of mango chutney and topped with a sprinkling of almonds returns as a sandwich and jacket potato filling. Brie and grape sandwiches are a popular vegetarian option, available as a toasted sandwich too, making the mature brie melt a little.

Homemade quiche at Toovey's
Homemade quiche with salad and coleslaw at Toovey's

The quiche changes every month, this July Will has a homemade goats cheese and watercress quiche served with a salad and homemade coleslaw replacing the asparagus and feta quiche served in June.

Those with a sweet tooth are well looked after as always. Ma’s famous rock cakes, Eccles cakes and Valerie’s lemon drizzle cake remain as popular as ever. Homemade and slightly oversized Jammy Dodgers have proven popular since their introduction a few months ago.

Apple and summer berry crumble cake has just returned after a seasonal break, as has the traditional Victoria sponge. Those needing a chocolate treat will not be disappointed with the rich chocolate and brazil nut gluten-free brownies with an almost torte-like centre.

Click on an image below to enlarge.

If that has tantalised your taste-buds we will look forward to welcoming you this forthcoming sale week. Viewing starts on Saturday 11th July 2015 between 9.30am and 12 noon and continues on Monday 13th July 2015 between 10am and 4pm. Our auctions commence on Tuesday 14th July with our Specialist Sale of Toys, Dolls and Games and continue throughout the week.

Visit for more information on our auctions.

The July Menu at Toovey's Café
The July Menu at Toovey's Café

I do like to be beside the Seaside…

Arthur H. Buckland - 'Brighton from Hove', oil on board
Arthur H. Buckland - 'Brighton from Hove', oil on board

I really do like to be beside the seaside! The shingle beaches of the Sussex coast have delighted me since I was a small child. If ever life seems a bit hectic I only have to head to the seaside. Within a short while the whoosh and clatter of the waves breaking upon the pebbles and the salty wind stills me.

The famous seaside music hall song ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ was written in 1907 by John A. Glover-Kind and made famous by the singer Mark Sheridan. In those same years, before the First World War, artistic activity in Britain was largely London based, though this did not prevent artists from venturing outside the city to paint.

The New English Art Club was started in 1886 to provide an exhibiting body for painters sympathetic to the artistic innovations emerging from France. By 1888 the Club had become factional. Amongst their subjects they painted the English seaside with a broken touch and increasingly brilliant colours influenced by French Impressionism. Alongside the art schools and galleries there were a number of circles which promoted work of a ‘modern’ nature. Amongst these were the Fitzroy Group and the related, but more famous, Camden Town Group. These two societies would eventually become known as the London Group. In the winter of 1913 and early 1914 they held an exhibition which was titled ‘English Post-Impressionists, Cubists and Others’.

Many followed in the footsteps of Post Impressionists like Lucien Pissarro, Anthony Devas, and Edward Le Bas in celebrating the coast of Sussex and her Downs. Their depictions of the Sussex landscape are not wholly representational, rather they allow us to see beyond our immediate perception of the world around us. As we glimpse the hidden rhythms and beauty in creation we come to understand something of our place in it.

Others, too, found a communion with the Sussex Landscape. Take for example the delightful oil shown above by the painter and illustrator, Arthur Herbert Buckland (1870–1927). In this summer scene people promenade and sit on the beach at Hove beneath their parasols. Brighton and her piers shimmer distantly in the heat and light. The handling of paint heightens the viewer’s sense of light and movement leaving room for the scene to come alive in our imaginations.

Henry Bishop - View of a Promenade and Beach at Deal in Kent, oil on canvas
Henry Bishop - View of a Promenade and Beach at Deal in Kent, oil on canvas

The oil on canvas by the artist Henry Bishop (1868-1939) is thought to depict the promenade and beach at Deal in Kent. Here once again the artist depicts that particular summer light which presents a paler palette to the eye. This is an early morning scene. A few cars are parked and figures walk past a row of bathing huts upon the beach. The air is still cool with the promise of a warm summer’s day ahead.

Joseph Henderson - 'Ayrshire Coast', oil on canvas
Joseph Henderson - 'Ayrshire Coast', oil on canvas

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries artists across the country painted Britain’s wonderful coastline and not just in the South-East. The Scottish artist Joseph Henderson (1832–1908) painted portraits, marine pictures, genre and coastal scenes. The cool light of his oil on canvas ‘Ayshire Coast’ is reflected in the blue of the sea. The two figures on the beach, together with the sail on the horizon once again draws us into the landscape and narrative of the scene.

In these paintings we see the continuing renaissance of the British Romantic Tradition, often articulated with a fresh voice. Prices at auction for oils by these artists range from middle hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds.

As I sit writing this the weather forecasters are predicting a heat wave this week! Perhaps these paintings will inspire you to revisit the Sussex coast. I hope that the whoosh and clatter of the waves breaking upon the pebbles and the salty breeze will bless you as they do me.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 1st July 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.