“Bruneliana” sells at Toovey’s

The Brunel/Noble silver trunk

The Brunel Hawes Archive was successfully sold by Toovey’s in November 2010. The sale made national newspapers including the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, and was even a topic of discussion by the National Trust in a fascinating blog post. Since the single owner auction it has been well reported that Toovey’s have established themselves as the leading auctioneers in the successful marketing and sale of items relating to the Brunel family. As the main port of call for selling items relating to Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and his son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it is unsurprising that an array of related items have gone under the gavel at our Spring Gardens auction house.  Items offered for sale since the Brunel Hawes Archive include ‘The Great Eastern ABC’ (featured in a previous blog post), that sold for £9000. In the same auction a slightly tatty copy of  the scarce publication ‘A Complete History of the Great Eastern‘ sold for £800.  This fascinating pamphlet published by the Liverpool department Store, Lewis’s, advertised the ship’s final use as a floating music hall. A mug and nursery plate commemorating the Thames Tunnel sold for £580, showing the demand is not just for I.K., but for his father, Sir Marc, too.  Among the slightly more unusual items offered was a silver trunk that once belonged to the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel which also beared the marks of his granddaughter’s husband Saxton William Armstrong Noble, who coincidently, was also an engineer. The oak and metal bound trunk sold for £1750 in March this year.

George Henry Andrews watercolour

In April, a fascinating and possibly unique group of seven magic lantern slides were sold for £5800. Each documented the last few days of the Great Eastern and included views on deck with items grouped as lots prior to the breaking up of the ship in 1889. Two months later a mid-19th Century watercolour was consigned, titled ‘History of Steam Navigation‘, this monochrome watercolour by George Henry Andrews was probably a preliminary drawing for the ‘Illustrated London News’ for whom the artist worked for. The central view was of the S.S. Great Eastern but surrounding this was smaller titled vignettes including I.K. Brunel’s other ships the Great Britain and the Great Western. This original work sold for £3200. The most recent offering of “Bruneliana” appeared in August as part of the auction of Paper Collectables. A concertina style optical toy peepshow of the Thames Tunnel from the Wapping Entrance sold for £1100. Over the last two years a variety of photographs relating to Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his engineering triumphs have also featured in Toovey’s auctions and always attract considerable interest, more of these are already consigned for the Sale of Paper Collectables on 6th November. Some people might wonder why these items appear in Sussex when the Brunels are much more associated with Bristol and London. The days of internet advertising and Toovey’s direct marketing mean that successful sales of “Bruneliana” can be held in Sussex. These items have sold to private collectors, specialist dealers, institutions and investment corporations across the country.  As the Antiques Trade Gazette reported on the 24th March “The Sussex village of Washington has to a very large degree become the preferred point of sale for Brunel material in recent times.”  Those still wanting a tenuous link with the Brunel family and Sussex however, can find one in the schooling of Isambard Kingdom. Between 1816 and 1820 the young, future engineer attended Dr Morell’s Academy in Hove, where it is believed he nearly choked on a half sovereign. As a result of this local connection the Brighton & Hove 673 double-decker bus is named after the famed engineer – an arguably useless piece of trivia to finish with!

1948 Olympic Torch for Sale at Auction

The 1948 London Olympic Torch offered on 13th July in Toovey's Auction

A topical item has been consigned for auction at Toovey’s Sale of Collectors’ Items on Friday 13th July 2012.

The torch is Lot 2601 and is described as a London Olympics 1948 aluminium relay torch, the bowl pierced with the trademark symbol of interlinking rings and inscribed ‘XIVth Olympiad 1948, Olympia to London, with thanks to the bearer’.

The 41cm high torch was designed by Ralph Lavers, specifically to house the tablet-form fuel that it would contain. It is documented that 1720 of these torches were produced for the relay from Greece to England, allowing enough for those to be used for demonstrations, trials and spares.

This particular torch was given to the current vendor by a relative who was employed at management level by H.M.V. at their Hayes factory. To add to this provenance, H.M.V.’s parent company, E.M.I., produced the torch at their Hayes factory. Presumably, this was an ex-demonstration or trial model.  For some fourteen years the torch hung above the bar of The White Horse public house in Graffham near Petworth, West Sussex.  At some stage the torch has been converted to a wall light, having a drill hole to the stem and a bulb attachment to the interior.  This has been reflected in the £1000-2000 pre-sale estimate. Whether this modification will actually affect the final selling price will only become clear on July 13th at Toovey’s Spring Gardens auction house.

Last Orders at the Bar…

Toovey’s February sale of Collectors’ Items on Friday afternoon 24th February 2012 includes the majority of the decorative contents of the celebrated public house The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, New Cross, London SE15 (Lots 2601 to 2662).

The last pint has now been pulled at The Montague Arms but for over forty years it garnered a reputation for idiosyncrasy, which attracted troops of fascinated and sometimes bewildered visitors from all over the world. Run by landlord Peter Hoyle from 1967 until its recent closure, it offered the traditional pub welcome and atmosphere of a bygone era, juxtaposed with unconventional live music, cabaret and themed events, in a somewhat surreal interior, crammed with curiosities. Voted number one by The Rough Pub Guide, A Celebration Of The Great British Boozer (Orion Books 2008) and hailed as “one of our strangest, and best, boozers” by The Sun newspaper, The Montague Arms was famed for its eccentric décor. An eclectic mixture of nautical items, curios, copper and brassware, ethnic memorabilia and taxidermy, the collection includes numerous ships’ fittings, large-scale models of ships, a vintage diving helmet and boots, a penny-farthing bicycle, tribal artefacts and a range of stuffed animals’ heads, including that of a zebra, which used to gaze out from one of two horse-drawn carriages permanently installed in the pub.  The collection will be offered for auction at Toovey’s Spring Gardens saleroom.

Please click on an image for full view, and again for further magnification