Music and Nature Celebrated at Knepp Castle

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The Bernardi Music Group in the music room at Knepp

he Shipley Arts Festival’s remarkable program of music continued last weekend. The Knepp Castle concert, generously hosted by Sir Charles and Lady Issy Burrell, is always one of the highlights of the Sussex summer season. The concert was performed in the company of The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard – artistic excellence, stewardship and community were affirmed and celebrated.

The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, and Mr Andrew Bernardi with the 1696 Stradivarius

Honouring Knepp Castle and its Wilding project the concert was wittily interspersed with musical references to the Sussex countryside and nature celebrating the work of this important Sussex estate.

Knepp’s re-wilding project uses large herbivores to drive habitat changes across the estate. The various cows, deer, horses and pigs affect the vegetation in different ways helping to create a patchwork quilt of habitats including: open grassland, regenerated scrub, bare ground and forested groves. The project is born out of Sir Charles and Lady Izzy Burrell’s desire to respond to the urgent need for nature conservation in Britain. The numbers of native species of flora and fauna, especially farmland birds, have plummeted over the past decades – theirs is vital stewardship.

The Shipley Arts Festival’s growing national status is apparent in the commanding reputations and performances of the musicians who Andrew Bernardi brings together.

This was apparent in the rendition of the Trout Quintet, also known as the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667. It was composed in 1819 by Franz Schubert when he was just 22 years old. The original and complex harmonies of the piece were portrayed with a remarkable joy, intensity and passion by the pianist Maria Marchant, Andrew Bernardi, playing the 1696 Stradivarius violin, Virginia Slater, Viola and Gemma Murray, Double Bass. The work is considered to be uniquely sonorous amongst chamber works for piano and strings and was brought to life by their vivid performances.

Last year the English operatic baritone and composer, Roderick Williams premiered his beautiful and profoundly moving ‘Goodwood Variations’ as part of the Shipley Arts Festival. It once again met with applause.

Singers and founders of the British Pilgrimage Trust, Guy Hayward and Will Parsons were joined by Sam Lee. They had been on pilgrimage in the villages around Horsham to return to sing the folk song Turtle Dove to the colony of Turtle Doves which have re-established themselves at Knepp thanks to the re-wilding. Their performance of the piece spoke wonderfully of Sussex and delighted the audience.

As the concert concluded we all stood to sing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ famous pilgrim’s hymn which he called Monk’s Gate. Mrs Harriet Verrall, who gave him the folk tune upon which it is based, lived at Monks Gate just outside Horsham. The words were adapted from John Bunyan by Percy Dearmer:

“He who would valiant be ‘gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.”

Pilgrimage reflects life. It is a journey of questioning, exploration and celebration. This was a remarkable evening of exemplary musical performances. As we accompanied Andrew Bernardi the musical journey transformed us allowing us to glimpse something of the world beyond our immediate perception.

Sir Charles and Lady Issy Burrell at Knepp Castle

Thanks were rightly given to Sir Charles and Lady Issy Burrell, the gathered audience, the musicians, as well as the sponsors Toovey’s, Kreston Reeves and Henfield’s NFU Mutual Agency. But most of all our thanks should go to a most gifted and generous musician, Andrew Bernardi, whose passion, hard work, generosity of spirit and vision continues to bless Sussex.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to www.bmglive.com. Tickets are on sale at The Capitol, Horsham box office. Telephone 01403 750220 or go to www.thecapitolhorsham.com. Demand for tickets is always high so don’t delay!

To explore Knepp’s re-wilding project go to www.kneppsafaris.co.uk or telephone 07739 083650.

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.

Royal Visit Celebrates Heritage and Community

HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent with Peter Thorogood, Roger Linton, and The Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, opening the new King’s Garden at St Mary’s, Bramber

It is a bright early Summer afternoon as Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Kent opens the new King’s Garden in the company of the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, Peter Thorogood, Roger Linton and the volunteers at St Mary’s House and Gardens, Bramber. Heritage, hard work and community are affirmed and celebrated.

Peter Thorogood., MBE and Roger Linton., MBE, bought the house and gardens in 1984. Their passion for this wonderful place is infectious. They have created and gathered a community of people around the house and gardens. This team of volunteers have also offered their resources, time and talents to the repair, restoration and maintenance of this important house and garden.

Peter Thorogood has just celebrated his 90th birthday. I offer my congratulations on his birthday and work at St Mary’s. He responds self-effacingly noting the “hard work of the volunteers” and the camaraderie of all who have been involved in the house and gardens. These sentiments are echoed by Roger Linton who reflects upon how he gains such “pleasure from their pleasure”.

St Mary’s House and Gardens, Bramber

Whilst we await the arrival of the Princess I join the volunteers in the tea rooms. The great affection in which they hold Peter and Roger quickly becomes apparent. They clearly value the friendships and sense of community which underpins the work of St Mary’s.

HRH Princess Alexandra is shown around the house and gardens. She pauses in the Jubilee Garden to admire the Princess Alexandra of Kent roses and the Acer palmatum shindeshojo which has been planted to mark her visit.

A Boscobel Rose in The King’s Garden

The King’s Garden also shares a royal theme and has been designed by Roger Linton to commemorate Prince Charles, later Charles II’s escape through Bramber village to Brighton and then to Shoreham from where he would sail into exile in France. It is said that Charles eluded the Parliamentarian forces at both Houghton and Bramber by disguising himself as Colonel George Gunter’s servant and leading his horse. At the heart of The King’s Garden is a sapling oak whose lineage goes back to the famous Boscobel Oak in which Charles II hid after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

St Mary’s House and Gardens has a vital and continuing role in our community. Its story encompasses and tells the story of our county’s place in the history of our nation.

The vision, dedication, hard work and generosity of Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton has permanently written their names into the story and history of this grand old house and her gardens.

These generous custodians have always wanted to share St Mary’s with others and it is their intention that St Mary’s will remain accessible and at the heart of the local community for future generations.

St Mary’s House and Gardens, The Street, Bramber, BN44 3WE, are open to the public for the 2017 season. For further details of opening times, concerts and events visit www.stmarysbramber.co.uk or telephone 01903 816205.

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 Very British Motorcycle Enthusiast

Simon Elliott at Ideal Motorcycles

This week I am in the company of lifelong motorcycle enthusiast and mechanic, Simon Elliott. He greets me at the entrance to the Ideal Motorcycle showrooms, a venue well known to enthusiasts and collectors.

As we enter the contemporary barn showroom I am greeted by an extraordinary range of vintage, classic and historic motorcycles, most of which are for sale. Each has been painstakingly researched and sourced by Simon. He says “I have a passion for the history of these bikes and their owners. It’s fascinating when you have the original bill of sale or some photographs of a bike from its past.”

Simon’s father, John, racing an Ariel at the Isle of Man TT in 1954

His father, John, raced in the Senior Race at the Isle of Man TT in 1954 which perhaps, in part, explains Simon’s love of motorcycles. His interest dates from an early age. In 1967, at the age of seven, Simon was competing with the Horsham Schoolboy Scramble Club on a bike built by his father.

Simon Elliott has turned a passion for motorcycles into a business.

Two of Simon’s favourite bikes currently in the showrooms are trials machines from the era when his father was racing.

A 1950 Triumph T5 Trophy motorcycle

He is keen to show me the Triumph TR5 Trophy which was first registered on 2nd January 1950 and is delighted that he has the original bill of sale and records for much of the motorcycle’s history. Simon enthuses “The bike’s Trophy name came after Triumph won the Italian International Six Day Trial (ISDT) and the manufacturer’s team trophy in 1949. Triumph would also win the ISDT in 1950 and 1951. It was a motorcycle designed to be used every day and for competition at the weekend with its 500cc twin overhead valve engine and wide ratio gearbox.”

A 1951 Norton 500T motorcycle

Simon draws my attention to a beautifully restored Norton 500T dating from 1951. Simon explains “It was the only trials bike Norton made in any quantity. It was really intended for competition and unlike the Triumph even the lights were an extra.”

Simon is often to be found at motorcycle shows and events and really values the camaraderie amongst his fellow enthusiasts. He says “People who are passionate about motorcycles often visit or telephone the showrooms just for an informed chat. I’m really pleased that Ideal Motorcycles is becoming a hub for fellow collectors in West Sussex. It’s always good to see them.” Simon has recently welcomed Sussex members of the Vintage Motorcycle Club and British Motorcycle Club at the Ideal Motorcycle showroom.

Simon Elliott’s eclectic motorcycling interests are reflected in his stock. You will find bikes from many eras and nations each carefully chosen by this knowledgeable and passionate connoisseur.

British motorcycles of the Post-War period reflect our nation’s engineering flair and inventiveness. Each has a unique character and individuality which continues to delight enthusiasts more than half a century after they were manufactured.

Simon Elliott has turned his passion for collecting motorcycles into a business. To find out more about Ideal Motorcycles, Spring Gardens, Washington, West Sussex, RH20 3BS, go to www.idealmotorcycles.co.uk or telephone 01903 892492.

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.

St Mary’s House Welcomes Visitors over the Centuries

As you walk up the garden path through the beautifully clipped topiary St Mary’s House reveals herself

As you walk up the garden path through the beautifully clipped topiary St Mary’s House reveals herself. The close set vertical timbers and contrasting white panels reflect the light with a particular quality.

St Mary’s captured the imaginations of her current custodians and patrons, Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton, who bought the house and gardens in 1984. They have worked tirelessly and invested constantly in the house and gardens which were in some disrepair when they took them on. It has always been their express wish to open them to the public.

Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton at work in the Library of St Mary’s House, Bramber

Their different gifts have blessed St Mary’s. Peter brought his experience at the British Council and his talents as a writer and researcher to the task of preserving St Mary’s. Roger, with a background in design seeded at the Royal College of Art, brought his skills as a conservator and set about restoring the property and designing the gardens. Peter’s love of music and theatre are given expression in the program of concerts and theatre which are also at the heart of St Mary’s life.

The house we see today incorporates the surviving wing from the late 15th century when William of Waynflete, the Bishop of Winchester, built a new Chapel House around a galleried courtyard. The house is a good example of the use of close set vertical timbers known as close studding which became widespread in Sussex at that time. The house would have originally welcomed pilgrims.

The Painted Room with trompe l’oeil panels which are believed to date from Tudor times

Although there is a grandeur to this wonderful old house it is very much a home informed by the passions and interests of Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton. The collections and furniture speak of their lives, families and interests. I discover them at work in the Library. They tell me about the continuing challenges of restoring and preserving this important landmark in the history of Sussex. We walk along the landing as they speak passionately about the history of the house. I am always delighted by the Painted Room with its trompe l’oeil panels. Peter explains that they are thought to date from Tudor times. The panels have beautifully painted landscapes and sea-battle vignettes.

Over the years they have inspired a team of volunteers and friends to join them. Peter and Roger have a deep sense of dedication to this place and their vision to share St Mary’s with all of us. The care of St Mary’s has become a way of life for them and they deserve our thanks.

Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning to an old friend, as I often do, St Mary’s has a particular gift of taking us out of the busyness of our own lives and allowing us to see ourselves in that broad procession of human history of which Sussex has so often been at the centre. St Mary’s House and Gardens are open to the public for the 2017 season. For further details of opening times, concerts and events visit www.stmarysbramber.co.uk.

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.

Coins, a Rising Market

A cased George VI gold four-coin specimen set, 1937, comprising a five pounds, two pounds, a sovereign and a half-sovereign
A cased George VI gold four-coin specimen set, 1937, comprising a five pounds, two pounds, a sovereign and a half-sovereign

The field of coin collecting brings together social, political and economic history with art and culture. Coins have been collected since Roman times and provide a tangible link to our past, present and future.

Coins have often been crafted by the finest engravers and sculptors of their time and are frequently works of art in their own right.

A William IV Crown, 1831, 'W.W.' on truncation of bust
A William IV Crown, 1831, ‘W.W.’ on truncation of bust

Whilst rarity is important to the value of any particular coin it is condition which is of overriding significance in establishing values. There is an enormous disparity between the price of a worn example of a coin compared to one in extremely fine or uncirculated condition. This is apparent in the prices realised by the exceptional George VI gold four-coin specimen set from 1937 and the William IV Crown from 1831 which made £8500 and £6000 respectively at Toovey’s specialist coin sales.

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)

Sharper coins were produced by the process of milling coins with dies mounted onto a screw press. This can be seen by comparing the handmade Charles I gold Unite with the later coins illustrated. The Unite was a 17th century gold coin worth twenty shillings or one pound but this example sold recently at auction for £1600. The difficulties of manufacturing blanks to a uniform weight ensured that coins continued to be made by hand until the Restoration in 1660. Charles II brought the Roettiers brothers with their improved screw press from Holland to London. The first English coins made by this method for circulation were the 1662 silver Crowns.

As a general rule coins should never be cleaned without seeking expert advice. Silver and copper coins can appear to be tarnished but this patina is prized by collectors.

Collectors quickly develop an understanding of condition and quality. As they handle and inspect different examples their understanding and eye tone.

There are many fields to capture the attention of collectors. Some will collect coins from a particular country, others will focus on a specific type of coin like Crowns, or a period. Many are attracted by collecting coins made from precious metals.

I love to imagine who might have held the coins which come to auction and what points of history they have encountered.

With such breadth of interest, price and quality coins have a growing following and remain one of the most buoyant collectors’ markets.

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.