The Mystery Towers or Naval Giants at Southwick.

Postcards of the Mystery Towers at Southwick. Lot 3046 in Toovey

There is little doubt that Britain’s coastline has played a huge part in its success as a great nation. It has acted as a vital gateway for exploration, trade and harvest as well as an outline that marks it apart from the rest of Europe. Unsurprisingly it has also played an important part in times of war.

In reaction to the growing losses of the allied fleet through the onslaught of German U-boat attacks and fears of a German invasion, British Admiralty sought to construct a series of towers that would stretch all the way from Dungeness, Kent, to Cap Gris Nez off the Western Coast of France.

These floating forts were designed by civilian architect Mr G. Menzies and measured over 90ft high, they were intended to be united by steel boom nets and protected by mines. The towers were capable of providing a gun mounted defence system that could be manned by anything up to 100 servicemen. Work on the so-called naval giants started in June 1918, including two at Southwick, near Shoreham, Sussex. The understandable secrecy of such a project in wartime gave the structures the local nicknames of the ‘Mystery Towers’. With Armistice in November 1918, the plan never came to total fruition. Several of the towers did get built, including the two at Southwick. The First of these was towed out by steam tug on 12th September 1920 to become the Nab Tower off the coast of the Isle of Wight, the other was eventually dismantled. Locals at the time thought this was rather lucky, as it is rumoured the second was built 6ft too wide to leave the harbour mouth.

Whilst today no visible remains of these important local monuments survives, their memory lives-on through the vintage picture postcard which document this interesting folly of the First World War.

On Tuesday 1st November 2011 Lot 3046 will be going under the gavel at Toovey’s Spring Gardens auction rooms in the Sale of Paper Collectables. This lot consists of two albums containing 247 important postcards relating to Southwick and its environs, the albums include 25 postcards featuring the rise of the Mystery Towers (selection pictured above, click for larger image, for more images of the lot click here), most by local photographer Joseph Gurney Ripley. Offered in the specialist sale with a presale estimate of £1200-1800, these postcards brilliantly bring to life this moment in Sussex history.

Samuel Pepys & Charles II document to be sold at auction

Samuel Pepys and Charles II document

ADVANCE NOTICE: To be offered in our forthcoming auction of Paper Collectables on 1st November 2011.

Charles II, King of England, and Samuel Pepys. A manuscript document on vellum in a secretarial hand, signed by King Charles II and countersigned by Samuel Pepys. Whitehall, London: dated 12th April 1678. 1p. folio (222 x 330mm.) The document addressed to ‘Captn. Cyprian Southack’ appointing him in command of the ‘Turky Friggott’ [probably the Turkey Frigate], with remnant of seal. Presale estimate £2500-3500. To view the lot click here.

The timing of the document suggests that Southack may have been commissioned as part of a larger force being assembled to deal with possible problems with the French in the West Indies, although this is supposition as no mention of a mission is contained within the document. Captain Southack was the father of Captain Cyprian Southack (1662-1745) who gained well-deserved fame for his cartographical work, and for the various maritime engagements which he took part in, or led, whilst employed in the colony of Massachusetts.

Toovey’s sold a similar document in a specialist auction at their salerooms on 17th May 2011, for £5300, which can be seen by clicking here.

June Select Sale of Paintings

Lot 4: Henry Scott Tuke's 'Half Length Portrait of a Boy'
Lot 14: Frank Kelsey's View of Schooners at Anchor in a Cornish Estuary
Lot 76: Harald Pryn's 'Gandlose'

The June Sale of Selected Paintings and Prints will be held on 15th June 2011.  The sale starts with Lot 1, an important watercolour album compiled by the relatively little-known artist R.H. Manning as a present for his niece. The album hints towards Manning being a collector as well as an artist. He obviously asked a number of his contemporaries for a small watercolour for inclusion in the album and so it includes works by David Cox Junior, James Duffield Harding, Henry Gastineau, Henry Pilleau and William Leighton Leitch to name but a few. The works on paper have largely survived in excellent condition hidden from sunlight and dust in the pages of the album. The album carries a presale estimate of £3000-5000, click here to view the contents of the album and see a detailed collation of the contents.

The Select Sale continues with two watercolours and an oil on board by the highly collectable Cornish artist Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929). ‘Half Length Study of a Boy’ is a small oil on board (12 x 19cm) by Tuke highlights his mastery of capturing light. It is beautifully presented in a gilt frame which carries a David Messum gallery label to the reverse adding important provenance to this unsigned work. Lot 4 is offered with a presale estimate of £6000-10000.

Continuing with the Cornish theme is Lot 14, a beautiful painting of Schooners in a Cornish Estuary by the artist Frank Kelsey (1864-1932). In contrast with the Tuke, this oil on canvas is very large, measuring 89cm x 135cm excluding the wide gilt wood section frame. Showing size does not always dictate value it is offered with a presale estimate of £2000-3000.

Measuring 100 x 135cm, another large oil on canvas within the auction is Lot 76. A work by Danish artist Harald Pryn (1891-1968) titled ‘Gandløse’. This painting of a lane near Copenhagen glistens under the artist’s handling of snow. This lot is estimated at £1500-2500.

The auction also includes four original oils on canvas by David Shepherd (click here for more information). To view all the paintings, drawings and prints within the June auction please click here.  The June sale continues with Silver, Jewellery, Medals & Militaria, Oriental Ceramics & Works of Art, British & Continental Ceramics & Glass, Furniture, Metalwork and Collectors’ Items, Textiles and Rugs. In addition, on the 14th June Toovey’s hold their Specialist Sale of Toys, Dolls and Games. To view the free online catalogue please click here.

David Shepherd Originals for Sale at Toovey’s Auction

Lot 58: David Shepherd's 'Rhinos in Namibia'
Lot 59: David Shepherd's Study of Three Hippos
Lot 60: David Shepherd's depiction of a Cougar

The Sale of Selected Oil Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Prints will be held on June 16th 2011. The sale includes four original works by David Shepherd (born 1931). Shepherd is a famous painter of animals and the offering in the auction includes depictions of a cougar, rhinoceros and hippopotami. Known for his limited edition colour prints, this is an opportunity to purchase an original work by the artist.

Lot 58 is titled ‘Rhinos in Namibia’ and has an adult rhinoceros and its calf in the African Landscape. The 33 x 51cm signed oil on canvas is dated 1999 to the reverse and is presented in a gilt frame. The pre-sale estimate is £6000-9000.

Lot 59 is an oil on canvas of three hippopotami in their natural habitat. This is the smallest of the four works included in the sale measuring 22 x 34cm excluding the swept gilt composition frame that surrounds the painting. This signed work is dated 2001 to the reverse and has a presale estimate of £3500-4500.

Lot 60 departs from the African theme with a snowy landscape and a beautifully executed cougar (or mountain lion) amongst trees.  Measuring 44 x 70cm, this signed oil on canvas is presented in a silvered frame echoing the tones in the painting. It is dated 1997 verso and is estimated at £8000-12000.

Lot 61: David Shepherd's 'Study for Oil "Muck" and Sunlight'

Completing the selection of original works by David Shepherd offered in the auction is Lot 61. It is a departure from his animal work and shows another facet of his output with a detail of a locomotive titled ‘Study for oil “muck” and Sunlight’.  In addition to being a vocal conservationist, David Shepherd is a steam locomotive enthusiast, owning many engines, most of which are displayed at museums around the world. It is therefore no surprise that in addition to painting animals locomotives often feature in his work. This sketch in oils on canvas measures 75 x 63cm and is sympathetically framed in a painted frame. This final work of the group is the largest and has a pre-sale estimate of £2000-3000.

All four works were consigned for sale by the same single-owner. They join a diverse selection of other works by fantastic names offered for sale at Toovey’s Auctioneers and Valuers this June.

Paul Scofield’s Books at Toovey’s Auction

TOOVEY’S specialist antiquarian & collectors’ book sale on May 17th 2011 includes part of the library of the late Paul Scofield, CH, CBE (1922-2008).  His fascinating library includes numerous volumes with presentation inscriptions to Paul and his wife Joy from the authors and his contemporaries.  Paul received an Academy Award and a BAFTA for his performance in the 1966 film ‘A Man for All Seasons’ and was a highly regarded actor on stage and screen.  Going under the gavel from his collection is a first edition copy of Marlene Dietrich’s ABC (Lot 3291) with a wonderful presentation inscription to Paul ‘Oh – how I wish I could write about you this morning! p.150 Marlene May 3. 1963’.  Page 150 in the book is an entry by her on Paul “I saw him at a time when most actors and stars affected the head-scratching, incoherent mumbling, embarrassed attitude on screen and stage… he had authority and elegance, he had perfect dictation…”.

Please click on images to see full version

Also included from the Scofield collection is a beautifully leather-bound 1943 version of the works of Shakespeare (Lot 3270).  The book was originally purchased from Truslove and Hanson, fashionable bookshops of the date operating in the West-End of London, this volume would have also been bound for them as they offered a bookbinding service.  What makes this copy so unique is a fascinating presentation inscription on the front-free endpaper ‘Terry L[ove] Chips’ dated November 2nd 1944.  ‘Terry’ refers to Terence Rattigan (1911-1977), a noted dramatist and friend and colleague of Scofield.  Numerous celebrations are planned for 2011 to mark the centenary of Rattigan’s birth.  ‘Chips’ refers to Henry “Chips” Channon (1897-1958), an American-born English politician and diarist, who had an affair with Rattigan.  This copy also has the bookplate of Terence Rattigan mounted on the inside cover.  Viewing for the sale is on Saturday 14 May 9.30 – 12.00, Monday 16th May 10.00 – 17.00, and on the sale day Tuesday 17th May 10.00 – 13.00 at Toovey’s Spring Gardens auction rooms, West Sussex.