Important Eric Gill Carvings to be Auctioned in Sussex


An important group of seven carvings by the famous Ditchling-based artist Eric Gill A.R.A. (1882-1940) are to be auctioned at Toovey’s on Friday 13th September as part of their specialist sale of Arts & Crafts Furniture and Works of Art, commencing at 2.30pm.

I first came across this extraordinary collection of carvings at Woodbarton back in 2016. The house, built in 1920 in the heart of Ditchling Common, East Sussex, was designed by Gill for his associate, the poet and artist Desmond Chute (1895-1962). Chute only lived at Woodbarton for a few years before leaving for Rapallo in Italy, where he would be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1927. The house, though, continued to provide a home to artists associated with the Ditchling arts and crafts community of the Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic until very recently.

Eric Gill was born in Steyning, West Sussex. In his formative years, he lived in both Brighton and Chichester. In 1900, he moved to London to train as an architect with the firm W.D. Caröe. He became ever more disaffected with this path, however, and took evening classes in stonemasonry at the Westminster Technical Institute and calligraphy at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. By 1903, Eric Gill had given up his architectural training to become a calligrapher, letter-cutter and monumental mason.

A carved and painted stone lavabo by Eric Gill

In 1907, Gill found himself drawn back to Ditchling. After the First World War, he founded the Roman Catholic Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic with Desmond Chute and the printer, writer and poet Hilary Pepler (1878-1951). This group of artists lived in community with their wives, children, associates and apprentices, upholding the principles of the artisan artist. Thanks to their work, this Sussex village became a centre for the Arts and Crafts movement.Eric Gill brought his artistic and architectural skills to bear when he designed Woodbarton. The carved and painted stone lavabo by Gill was set into the hallway’s wall. It would have contained holy water for a priest to ritually wash before celebrating the Mass and for members of the Guild and visitors to bless themselves. It will be offered with a pre-sale estimate of £6,000-8,000 (plus BP*).

Carved Hopton Wood limestone devotional panel, “Considerate lilia agri…’, by Eric Gill

Amongst the finest of Gill’s carvings in this collection is the stone panel carved with meditative inscriptions, which was set into a bedroom wall in the house. Gill is famous for his script. This beautifully conceived devotional panel, carved in Hopton Wood limestone, is incised in Latin and English ‘Considerate lilia agri – Consider the lilies of the field’, which relates to a passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel.. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £8,000-£12,000 (plus BP*).

In the sitting room the fireplace was framed by a stone carving with a central cross, again by Eric Gill. The stone was originally carved for the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral as a frieze for one of Gill’s Stations of the Cross. It was broken in transit, so Gill used it as part of the chimney piece at Woodbarton. It is estimated at £6,000-£10,000 (plus BP*).

Despite the controversy surrounding Gill’s personal life, these exceptional carvings, now removed from Woodbarton, form part of an important story in the history of both the Arts and Crafts movement and Modern British art in Sussex.

BP* – Buyer’s Premium 29.4% including VAT @ 20% (24.5% plus VAT) of the hammer price

Postcards from Sussex


A Sussex postcard titled ‘Steam Roller in Difficulties, Littlehampton, Jan 8, 1914’
A Sussex postcard titled ‘Steam Roller in Difficulties, Littlehampton, Jan 8, 1914’

As you know I love to send and receive postcards at this time of year and this week I am in the company of Toovey’s Director, Nicholas Toovey, who is celebrating another sell out Postcard and Paper Collectables auction. Nicholas says “The stamps, cigarette cards, letters and autographs were all buoyant but it was the postcards that stood out. It’s these collectors’ specialisms which are today’s boom markets.”

He continues “This amazing photographic postcard titled ‘Steam Roller in Difficulties, Littlehampton, Jan 8, 1914’ could have easily been titled ‘And you thought you were having a bad day!’ The scene was described contemporaneously in the Worthing Gazette as ‘a rather startling incident at the junction of Howard-road and Howard-place…the task of lifting the roller out of the hole and placing it on a firm surface again was by no means an easy one, and the operations were the centre of much interest for the greater part of the morning. It was half past two o’clock in the afternoon when the work was completed.’ The postcard sold for £260. It once again highlights that the market for Sussex postcards at Toovey’s salerooms is really buoyant!”

A Sussex postcard titled ‘Accident to Motor Mail Van, Brighton, Aug 25, 1909’
A Sussex postcard titled ‘Accident to Motor Mail Van, Brighton, Aug 25, 1909’

Nicholas draws my attention to another calamity depicted on a postcard, titled ‘Accident to Motor Mail Van, Brighton, Aug 25, 1909’ which realised £95. He says “It shows the mishap that befell the ‘A 8757’ in Preston Road.”
I comment how I loved the early motor racing scene and the people promenading in an album of some 120 Brighton and Hove photographic postcards. Nicholas explains that the album fetched one of the highest prices of the sale when his gavel fell at £1300. He says “The postcards showed many less typical scenes of the seaside town, including scenes of social history and unusual street views.”

Vintage Advertising Postcard for Harris's Sausages
Vintage Advertising Postcard for Harris’s Sausages

I cannot believe that a postcard with the slogan ‘Chief of the Clan MacSausage’ could possibly be connected with Sussex. Nicholas smiles and explains “It’s a colour postcard advertising Harris’s Sausages but on the reverse it has an overprint for Harris’s Sausage Restaurant in West Street, Brighton. He was the self-styled ‘Sausage King’. A colourful character – he was often seen wearing a top hat and evening dress around the London markets. His sons were named ‘Number One’, ‘Number Two’ and ‘Number Three’ which gives a measure of the man.” The postcard sold for £40.

These postcards provide a remarkable visual insight into our social history and it is easy to see why they attract such a strong following.

Nicholas is still inviting entries for Toovey’s next sale of Paper Collectables, featuring postcards, stamps, cigarette cards, autographs, photographs and ephemera which will be held on Tuesday 8th October.

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.

“You never know when you’ll make your next big discovery…”

Toovey’s Specialist Mark Stonard

I am in conversation with Toovey’s specialist Mark Stonard as he remarks “You never know when you’ll make your next big discovery in the auction world but it happens more often than you would think.” Mark explains how a couple recently arrived at Toovey’s reception for a free-presale valuation. He says “They were carrying a cardboard box no bigger than a shoe box. They had no idea whether the items in the box were valuable. It was filled with treasures and amongst them was the most remarkable collection of early coins.”

A Charles I Newark besieged shilling dated 1645
A Charles I Newark besieged shilling dated 1645

Mark shows me a Charles I Newark besieged shilling from the collection dated 1645 with an old ink-written collector’s ticket. Mark says “Siege money was minted during the Civil War in Newark-on-Trent in the third and longest siege between 1645 and 1646. Much of it was made from cut up Church plate and other valuables to answer the besieged Royalist’s need for money. On some of the coins you can see the original decoration from the objects they were cut from though this coin shows no evidence of this. All the time you’ve got a mint producing coins it’s a symbol of state – so for Charles I and his supporters this coin was a political statement too.”

I ask Mark how much a coin like this is worth and he replies “It’s just been sold in Toovey’s specialist coin auction for £1600.”

An Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) hammered penny from the Steyning Mint
An Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) hammered penny from the Steyning Mint

I am excited to find an Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) hammered penny from the Steyning Mint which has just realised £400. Mark comments “This coin is amongst the earliest from this collection. Look at the obverse with its facing bust of the king.” There was a mint at Steyning from the end of King Canute’s (1016-1035) reign, which was possibly the successor to the mints of Burpham and Cissbury.

An Elizabeth I milled issue shilling
An Elizabeth I milled issue shilling

I have always found Elizabeth I an inspiring historical figure. Mark points out an Elizabeth I milled issue shilling that has just sold for £1800. The depiction of Elizabeth I on the obverse is extraordinary.

He explains “Milled coins were minted for the first time in 1561 in the reign of Elizabeth I. They were the first coins to be produced employing a mechanical screw-press powered by a horse. Their production was initially overseen by a Frenchman, Eloye Mestrelle. But coins were still being produced more quickly by hand so the production of milled coins was short-lived.”

I ask Mark which markets are booming at auction and he responds “The specialist collectors’ fields like coins, jewellery and medals without a doubt.”
If you would like to discover if your coins and collectables are forgotten treasure contact Mark Stonard by telephoning 01903 891955.

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 Postcard from Parham

The Georgian Saloon at Parham
The Georgian Saloon at Parham

What could be nicer than a holiday in Sussex with the backdrop of the South Downs!

We reached this conclusion whilst sipping Wiston bubbly in our garden and so this week we are revisiting Parham House & Gardens on our holidays in the company of its current custodian Lady Emma Barnard.

Lady Emma’s great-grandmother the Hon. Mrs Clive Pearson wrote “There are many old and historic houses now opening their doors…but none, I believe, holds safe within its walls a more enchanted atmosphere, a greater peace and kindliness, distilled perhaps from all the centuries it has outlived.”

In my view the English Country House is one of our nation’s greatest contributions to human civilization. Their assemblance of paintings and objects have a particular beauty born of the passions of successive generations of their families and, importantly, English Country House taste is also comfortable. Parham’s beauty is so essentially English.

As we enter the Great Parlour we stand beside a 17th century chair covered with exquisite gros and needlepoint and a Charles II walnut table with a vase of flowers arranged in the ‘Parham way’. Behind Lady Emma hangs a 17th century portrait which is thought to depict the French King Henry IV’s daughter, Christine of Savoy, Princess of Piedmont (1606-1663).

Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Parlour at Parham
Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Parlour at Parham

Lady Emma says “There is a sense of layering if you live in a place like this, with the imprint of people who’ve gone before you. I find it very moving and enormously humbling when I think about all the people who’ve closed a door or walked through the house before me – houses are made from people.”
We enter the Saloon, which was remodelled as an elegant Georgian drawing room by Cecil Bisshopp, 8th Baronet, 12th Lord Zouche in about 1790.

The sense of the processional, generational quality in our lives in part defines the English. Lady Emma has a deep understanding that our blessings are given to us to be shared. She comments “At the heart of Parham is a desire to educate and delight, to use the words of my great-grandmother.” The qualities of inhabiting and rootedness which Lady Emma and her family give expression to has people at its centre. Their generous patronage provides a canvas upon which others paint their lives.

I ask Lady Emma what it is like to live at Parham. She replies unhesitatingly “It’s emotional. We’ve brought up our family here, but above all it’s a vocation, a calling.”

Parham gives expression to a beauty beyond its gardens and ancient facades. It blesses the visitor as it has always done over the centuries.
Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning to an old friend, as I often do, Parham never fails to delight with its architecture, collections, gardens and sense of history, and is the perfect August Bank holiday destination! For more information go to or telephone 01903 742021.

As I pen this postcard to you from Parham it remains for me to say wish you were here!

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.

Celebrating Sustainable Farming at Applesham Farm

Hugh and Christopher Passmore at Applesham Farm with Rowan Allan
Hugh and Christopher Passmore at Applesham Farm with Rowan Allan

This week I am visiting Christopher, Hugh and Sara Passmore in my role as President of the West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society with the society’s Hon. Secretary Rowan Allan.

As we leave H. J. Burt, Rowan’s offices in Steyning, for their farm he describes how the Passmore’s and their team have been practising sustainable farming at Applesham long before it became fashionable.

We arrive at Applesham Farm amongst the flint and tile workshops and are met by Christopher and Hugh. They point out how these units have gained new life and are being occupied by craftspeople in a similar way to the estate workers who used them when they were first built.

Hugh’s wife, Sara, joins us as we gather in their farmhouse kitchen. Christopher explains how his Grandfather came to Applesham in 1901 as a tenant of the Petworth and Leconfield Estate. He says “My Grandfather subsequently bought the farm. Before he came it had been empty for 18 months. We still farm 850 acres of that land today.”

The importance of continuity and long-term stewardship quickly becomes apparent. But while there is a willingness to embrace the best of traditional farming practice their approach is very modern analysing each season and allowing the facts to inform their decisions.

Changes at Applesham Farm are processional rather than revolutionary as Hugh and Christopher apply science and their deep experience and understanding of their land to their farming.

Hugh Passmore and his herd of Limousin cattle
Hugh Passmore and his herd of Limousin cattle

Today the farm combines arable with sheep and beef which is key to Hugh and Christopher’s approach. Hugh explains “We employ a traditional seven year crop rotation with the last cereal crop undersown with grass and clovers. We graze sheep and cattle on the new grass leys once the cereal crop has been harvested. The fresh grass and clover is highly nutritious, bringing fat lambs on from ten weeks.”

Hugh highlights how the sheep and cattle replenish the soil with natural manure saying “We have thin chalk soils so we must feed it constantly”. This natural approach blesses the soil with a high organic matter content.
Hugh regularly walks the cereal crops, keeping spraying to a minimum. Christopher says “We don’t use any insecticide in the summer because we would take out a lot of the beneficial predatory insects which feed on the problem insects, they are the natural pest controllers.”

As we drive out onto the farm we come across the Limousin cattle with their bull, grazing alongside the Lleyn and Texel cross sheep.

The farm sits in a bowl and the steep escarpments are nutrient poor but species rich. Hugh and Christopher maintain it as chalk grassland, occasionally grazing it to maintain the wild-flowers. There are an abundance of butterflies, birds and insects once common to our land and some 140 species of plants.
The farm has won awards for Best Farm and Conservation across the South East and Christopher was awarded an OBE for services to nature, conservation and agriculture.

Their balanced approach has created a productive, profitable farm working in balance with nature. Applesham Farm is rightly celebrated and will be hosting the West Grinstead & District & Agricultural Society annual ploughing match on Saturday 21st September 2019. Save the date!

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.