Saxon Steyning

Late-medieval buildings in Church Street, Steyning following the earlier Saxon tradition
Late-medieval buildings in Church Street, Steyning following the earlier Saxon tradition

Sussex, her towns, ports and villages, were at the heart of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex.

In my imagination I can picture wooden Saxon houses flanking the old Roman streets of Chichester, the earlier pavements covered by grass. By the late 6th and early 7th centuries Steyning, Lewes, Hastings and Pevensey had developed from their farming origins into towns of craftsmen and traders. By the 10th century all these towns had mints producing coinage which is evidence of an established urban economy. A mint was recorded at Steyning at the end of King Canute’s (1016-1035) reign, and was perhaps the successor to the mints of Burpham and Cissbury.

A Saxon penny from the Steyning mint, struck in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)
A Saxon penny from the Steyning mint, struck in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)

The penny illustrated dates from the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066) and is an example of Saxon coins from the Steyning mint. Coins are remarkable in their ability to provide a tangible connection with our past. Edward the Confessor, also known as Saint Edward the Confessor, was amongst the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and was the last king of the House of Wessex.

Saxon Cottage which actually dates from c.1550
Saxon Cottage which actually dates from c.1550

Many antiquarians argue that where buildings of a varied type, arranged in close proximity to one another along the main street of a town or village are found they are often following a tradition dating back to Saxon times. This would certainly appear to be the case at Steyning. Saxon Cottage in Church Street actually dates from c.1550 but its name perhaps hints at an earlier structure on the site now lost. The town was located on the River Adur and is generally believed by historians to have been one of the most important ports in Saxon times.

The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning
The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning

The current parish church of St Andrew and St Cuthman has Saxon origins and replaced a timber structure built by St Cuthman. Inside, in the south aisle, alongside the fine Norman arcading, is an arch exquisitely carved with fabulous beasts. Contemporary historians are increasingly of the view that this arch dates from the late Saxon renaissance which took place during the reign of King Canute. The Saxon St Cuthman and Aethelwulf (839-858 are both said to have been buried there). Aethelwulf was father of King Alfred.

Today Steyning with her fine church, architecture and Museum connects us with our past. The Sussex Produce Company and the wonderful Steyning Bookshop along with a rich array of other independent retailers, restaurants and tea rooms maintain the vibrant tradition of this ancient and important town. The perfect place to visit as spring returns to Sussex!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Rudgwick Artist, Dennis Roxby Bott

Dennis Roxby Bott ‘Venice’, watercolour
Dennis Roxby Bott ‘Venice’, watercolour

‘Dennis Roxby Bott, RWS: A Showcase’ is a charming exhibition of some fifty watercolours by this respected local artist. The show runs for just two more weeks at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

Dennis is a member of the Royal Watercolour Society which was founded in 1804. It is the oldest watercolour society in the world. It remains an artist led society made up of an elected membership. Dennis has received commissions from the National Trust, the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne and Hove Museum. His work can even be seen in the wardroom of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Dennis Roxby Bott ‘The Kiosk, Hove’, watercolour
Dennis Roxby Bott ‘The Kiosk, Hove’, watercolour

Dennis Roxby Bott was born in London 1948 and lives in Rudgwick, near Horsham, West Sussex. He studied at Colchester School of Art, Norwich School of Art and Keswick Hall, Norwich.

Exhibition curator, Jeremy Knight is delighted with the show which has been well received by visitors. He comments “Dennis displays a mastery of the brush and pallet and also has an ability to see and record minute detail.”

Jeremy continues “Architecture and the man made environment are the inspiration for many of Dennis’ paintings. Several of the watercolours in the exhibition depict Brighton and Venice. These subjects really suit his keen eye for perspective and detail.”

Dennis Roxby Bott ‘The Steps, Hove’, watercolour
Dennis Roxby Bott ‘The Steps, Hove’, watercolour

There is a firmness of line in Dennis Roxby Bott’s paintings which lend them a graphic quality. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that his work has been reproduced as illustrations in books and as cards. In addition he has held exhibitions at galleries across England and is a regular exhibitor at the Royal Watercolour Society spring and autumn exhibitions at the Bankside Gallery, London.

The artist Dennis Roxby Bott
The artist Dennis Roxby Bott

Over the centuries Britain’s artists have been inspired by its landscape, history, architecture and people which continue to provide rich opportunities for artistic exploration. Dennis Roxby Bott’s work is in this tradition.

Exhibitions like this would not be possible without the Horsham District Council’s understanding of the importance of art and heritage to the identity and economy of Horsham and the broader district. Jonathan Chowen, Horsham District Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, and his team are deserving of our thanks for their continued long term support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

‘Dennis Roxby Bott, RWS: A Showcase’ is in its final fortnight and runs until 6th May 2017 at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE. Admission is free. For more information visit horshammuseum.org or telephone 01403 254959.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Fairyland Lustre: The Art of Daisy Makeig-Jones

A Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre Imperial shape bowl, designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, the interior gilt and enamelled with Bird in a Hoop pattern against a flame ground, diameter 21cm
A Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre Imperial shape bowl, designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, the interior gilt and enamelled with Bird in a Hoop pattern against a flame ground, diameter 21cm

The ceramic designer Daisy Makeig-Jones was amongst a rising number of young middle-class women in the early 20th century who sought to break with the social mores of the time by working. Her designs would have an enormous influence on Wedgwood’s new lustre decoration and was she responsible for the revered Fairyland designs.

Daisy Makeig-Jones studied at the Torquay School of Art. A personal introduction by the Revd. Archibald Sorby to his friend Cecil Wedgwood led to her being employed at the Wedgwood factory. She trained for two years on the factory floor as a painter before joining John Goodwin’s design department. John Goodwin had been employed at Wedgwood as art director and brought his skills as a well organised and intelligent designer to the factory at a vital moment in the firm’s history.

Since medieval times lustre ceramics have caught the imaginations of collectors and people across Europe and the Middle East. Softly gleaming gold and pearly rainbows are captured in the potter’s glazes.

The manufacture of lustre wares at Wedgwood in the early 20th century employed new decorating processes. Daisy Makeig-Jones’ designs were engraved to allow their transfer to the objects. Underglaze painting, lustreing and gold printing followed. The lustre was prepared by a ceramic chemist in the form of a brown liquid which was quickly applied in wide sweeping brush stokes before being fired at a low temperature.

Initially the lustre designs included dragon, butterfly and bird motifs.

Daisy Makeig-Jones had delighted in the Colour Fairy Books edited by Andrew Lang in her childhood and these books became an important inspiration to her work. Building on the success of her Wedgwood lustre wares she began work on the Fairyland designs. The first of these was produced by Daisy at the end of 1915.

A Wedgwood Fairyland lustre Imperial shape bowl, designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, the interior gilt and enamelled with Picnic by a River pattern, diameter 20cm
A Wedgwood Fairyland lustre Imperial shape bowl, designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, the interior gilt and enamelled with Picnic by a River pattern, diameter 20cm

A multitude of designs followed with disparate individual titles and landscapes which often have an illogical dream like quality to them. There were, however, stylistic similarities and motifs which cross over and unite Daisy’s Fairyland designs. These include woodland elves’ fairies, goblins, gnomes, toadstools, spiders’ webs and trees. These can be seen on the richly decorated pair of vases and two bowls illustrated.

The Great Depression and era of austerity brought to a close the success of Daisy Makeig-Jones’ Fairyland lustre. Forced to retire she struggled to come to terms with the end of her remarkable career which had become so closely bound up with her life and identity.

A pair of Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre malfrey pots and covers, designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, each decorated with Candelmas design, height 21cm
A pair of Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre malfrey pots and covers, designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, each decorated with Candelmas design, height 21cm

Today collectors from across the world seek out Fairyland lustre designed by this gifted, influential and determined female ceramic designer. The pieces illustrated realised between £1700 and £7500 at Toovey’s auctions. The rarest examples can fetch tens of thousands today.

It is perhaps a fitting tribute to Daisy Makeig-Jones and her work that it is so highly respected.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

A New High Sheriff at Parham

The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, in the Great Hall at Parham
The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, in the Great Hall at Parham

Lady Emma Barnard is embarking on her year as High Sheriff of West Sussex. This ancient role, dating back to Saxon times, brings together important threads in the life of our nation and County.

We meet at Lady Emma’s Sussex home, Parham House. Thanks to Emma and her family’s stewardship Parham is a gathering and generous place. The April spring weather blesses us with a moment of warmth and light as we sit and talk. She is clearly excited about the coming year and says “I’m really looking forward to celebrating and acknowledging the quiet heroes in West Sussex; those people who add to the richness of life in our county by constantly contributing in so many ways without seeking praise or recognition.” I comment that the exceptional is so often to be found in the everyday and she agrees.

The Hon. Clive and Mrs Alicia Pearson, Lady Emma’s great-grandfather and a former High Sheriff of West Sussex
The Hon. Clive and Mrs Alicia Pearson, Lady Emma’s great-grandfather and a former High Sheriff of West Sussex

Lady Emma explains that she is not the first High Sheriff to live at Parham “There have only been three families who have lived at Parham and each family has fulfilled the office of High Sheriff. Thomas Palmer was the first in 1571. He inherited Parham from his father and was much regarded by Elizabeth I. The Bisshopps were next. Thomas Bisshopp was High Sheriff in 1583 before he bought Parham in 1601. His son, Sir Edward, held the office in 1636 under Charles I. The Hon. Robert Curzon followed under William IV in 1834. Then there was my great-grandfather, Clive Pearson, who fell in love with Parham and carefully restored this fine Elizabethan house during the 1920s and ‘30s. I have inherited his delight in sharing the joys of Parham with visitors. It is extraordinary to think that he was the High Sheriff in 1940 as the Battle of Britain was being fought in the skies over Sussex.”

Like Parham the role of High Sheriff is steeped in history. Originally known as Shire Reeves they were Royal officials appointed to enforce the King’s interests in the County. In particular they were responsible for the collection of revenues and the enforcement of law and order. Their extensive powers included the right to summon a ‘posse comitatus’, a military force, to enforce the law. It has often been suggested that it was Queen Elizabeth I who first marked the appointment of her High Sheriffs by pricking their names through on the Sheriff’s Roll. In fact there are earlier vellum examples dating back to the reign of Henry VII. Nevertheless the tradition of the Monarch pricking the names of the High Sheriffs continues to this day.

The role of the High Sheriff today is rooted in its history. Lady Emma will be called upon to support the Royal Family, the Lord-Lieutenant, the Judiciary, the Police, the emergency services, local authorities, and the Church and faith groups. Hospitality to visiting High Court Judges and promoting the voluntary organisations in West Sussex will also be central to Lady Emma’s shrieval year.

Despite the duties of High Sheriff Lady Emma and her team are excitedly preparing for the coming Easter weekend when Parham will once again welcome visitors, as it has done for centuries, as the House and Gardens once again open to the public.

Parham House and Park in the spring sunshine
Parham House and Park in the spring sunshine

In the grounds to the south of the house, beyond the ha-ha, is St Peter’s Church. The family’s pew still has its own fireplace but with beautiful weather forecast they shouldn’t need to light it this Easter. The Easter Sunday Holy Communion starts at 10am. The church remains open all day so you might decide to attend the service or perhaps just take time to be, to rest, to reflect and pray as part of your visit to Parham.

Parham House and Gardens opens this Easter Sunday 16th April 2017 at 2pm and 12pm respectively and last admissions are at 4.30pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Victor Pasmore Towards a New Reality

Victor Pasmore, Abstract in Black, White and Ochre, c.1958, oil, British Council Collection © Estate of Victor Pasmore. All rights reserved, DACS 2017
Victor Pasmore, Abstract in Black, White and Ochre, c.1958, oil, British Council Collection © Estate of Victor Pasmore. All rights reserved, DACS 2017

Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality, curated by Anne Goodchild, is currently on show at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. The exhibition provides a welcome opportunity to reassess the work of this leading British artist.

As you move through the galleries the story of Victor Pasmore’s questioning artistic journey which took him from the figurative to abstraction through a constant experimentalism is told with great assurance. There are works of exceptional beauty from each phase of Pasmore’s oeuvre which never lose touch with the artist’s fundamental desire to depict a new reality of the world he inhabited.

Victor Pasmore, Reclining Nude, c.1942, oil, Tate. Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1951 © Tate, London 2015
Victor Pasmore, Reclining Nude, c.1942, oil, Tate. Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1951 © Tate, London 2015

Victor Pasmore was largely self-taught attending evening classes at the Central School of Arts whilst working for the London City Council. He was influenced by the work of the Post-Impressionists and quickly became an assured painter of figures, landscapes and still-life studies. His friendship with the artists William Coldstream and Claude Rogers led to his joining the London Artist’s Association and the London Group in 1934. In 1937 Pasmore, together with Coldstream and Rogers, founded the Euston Road School. The school centred on observation and life drawing. Victor Pasmore would describe his time working at the Euston School as a period as much about learning as teaching. Kenneth Clarke’s patronage enabled Pasmore to devote all his time to his art and teaching. The subtle nude from 1942 is a fine example of Pasmore’s assured interpretation of the Post-Impressionist style. There is delicacy and restraint in his handling of light and paint in the depiction of the girl reclining on a bed. The Euston School closed as the Second World War broke upon Europe.

Moving towards abstraction Pasmore would later describe the effect Paul Klee’s cubist painting, Castle in the Sun, had on him: ‘At an exhibition in London I discovered a painting by Paul Klee made up only of coloured squares. I decided straight away that this was the objective point from which I could start again.’

Victor Pasmore, Triangular Motif, c.1949, oil and collage, Ferens Art Gallery: Hull Museums © Estate of Victor Pasmore. All rights reserved, DACS 2017
Victor Pasmore, Triangular Motif, c.1949, oil and collage, Ferens Art Gallery: Hull Museums © Estate of Victor Pasmore. All rights reserved, DACS 2017

Pasmore’s collages were made in preparation for paintings. Triangular Motif from 1949 is a collage employing oil paint and paper. The triangles work in concert with the circles. This constructed approach creates movement through the intersections in the layered composition.

Victor Pasmore’s abstracts would show a concern for spatial exploration with directed movement which were linked in the artist’s imagination to journeys through landscapes and built environments. His painting ‘Abstract in Black, White and Ochre, painted in 1948, displays these themes and the influence of Paul Klee. The roughly painted lines once again lends movement to the composition which combines enclosed and open spaces, curves and spots to draw the viewer’s attention.

Victor Passmore: Towards a New Reality runs at The Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until the 11th June 2017. This visually beautiful exhibition is a must. Pallant House Gallery are providing a fine start to the artistic year in Sussex with their spring exhibitions and you should include a visit as one of your Easter treats.

For more information on current exhibitions, events and opening times go to www.pallant.org.uk or telephone 01243 774557.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.