The Second Great Elizabethan Age Draws to a Close

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by Sir Cecil Beaton

As I write this I am aware of a deep sense of gratitude and thanksgiving amongst the people of Sussex for the life and reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II who has been our constant point of reference in a period of unprecedented change over some seventy years. We have been blessed to live in the second great Elizabethan age.

In the aftermath of the Second World War Britain’s relative success in rebuilding was expressed in the mood of conservatism prevalent in the 1950s. This was reflected in the seemingly timeless and unchanging imagery of Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony captured in Cecil Beaton’s portrait of the Queen. For the first time the Coronation was watched on television.

The Queen’s Christian faith was a cornerstone of her life and reign. It informed her sense of calling to the role of monarch and the qualities of service, respect and duty through which she blessed us all.
Speaking about her life the Queen reflected “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God!”

A young Royal family at Balmoral

During her long reign she affirmed what is best in our national life and tended to those in need. Together we shared her joys and sorrows as she shared ours. Reconciliation, too, was a defining quality of her reign. Here was a monarch able to bring reconciliation to her peoples as witnessed in Northern Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign was also shaped by her family. A photograph from 1957 of The Queen and Prince Philip with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne shows a family happy and at ease at Balmoral.

Her faithful life provided a hope-filled, generous example to us all defined by love, service, respect, duty and courage. She said “For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people.”

As the second great Elizabethan age draws to a close our hopes and the life of our nation rest with her son, HM King Charles III. As we hold him and his family in prayer we proclaim Long Live the King! God Save the King!

Toovey’s offer our sincere condolences to HM King Charles III and his family on the loss of HM Queen Elizabeth II. We will be closed on Monday 19th September as a mark of respect.

Ploughing Match and Agricultural Show

The plough match at the show

This week I am with Rowan Allan who for twenty-five years has been the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society. Rowan shares the role with Felicity Elliott. This year the society’s plough match is being hosted by David and Lucinda Exwood, and the Christ’s Hospital Foundation, at Field Farm, Dial Post. David, assisted by his son Tom, is a tenant farmer with some 1000 hectares under his stewardship.

Rowan Allan says “David is a first generation beef, sheep and arable farmer and believes that the future of farming isn’t about managed decline and dependence on environmental payments. As Vice President of the NFU he provides an important voice and model for profitable food production to feed the nation whilst valuing nature and working towards net zero farming. The agricultural community is looking forward to being able to come together at Field Farm.”

Rowan Allan celebrating twenty-five years as Honorary Secretary of the West Grinstead & District Ploughing and Agricultural Society

The West Grinstead and District Ploughing Match and Agricultural Society seeks to re-connect town and country and educate the public.
Rowan says “The ploughing match provides a shop window for people to engage with what farming and the countryside are really about.”

It’s a great family day out with the ploughing competition, cattle and sheep shows, licenced bar, fun fair, trade stands and local produce, terrier racing, open clay shooting competitions, tug-of-war, gun dog scurry, tractor and threshing machinery and even a ferret race, there is so much to enjoy.

Since 1871 The West Grinstead and District Plough Match and Agricultural Society has been promoting best practice in the local agricultural community through its prizes and awards. Today that also includes a bursary programme which provides financial support to enable and encourage young people to take up careers in the agricultural industry.

Our landscape is one of the most important building blocks of our nation’s heritage and identity and it is wholly dependent on the life given to it by our farmers who richly deserve our thanks.

The 2022 West Grinstead and District Plough Match and Agricultural Show will be at Field Farm, Sands Lane, Dial Post, RH13 8NY on Saturday 17th September 2022. Adult tickets are just £10 on the day or £8 if you book online in advance with children under 14 free. It’s going to be a fantastic family day!

For more information contact Rowan Allan at H. J. Burt Steyning through or to book your tickets go to

Bringing in the Harvest

Looking towards Arundel Castle and the sea

I looked down from the ridge of the Sussex Downs towards the sea and Arundel Castle as the harvest was being brought in on the Angmering Park Estate. The great combine harvester processed around the field accompanied by tractors and trailers to capture the precious, golden grain.

And as we walked a Red Kite circled over a field of happy, grazing sheep. The wild flowers bordering the chalk path were abundant and alive with insects, birds and butterflies.

It is impressive how the Angering Park Estate has been proactive over many years in balancing the need to produce food for the nation with the needs of nature and conservation. They work at scale investing in technology whilst articulating long term stewardship of the land.

They work hard to achieve a balance between maintaining the fertility of the land and producing food, with close attention to the preservation of nature. They have become increasingly sophisticated in analysing the environment in their fields and in the nature corridors of woodland and hedgerows which they are continuing to create.

Seeing the harvest brought in brought back a precious memory from my youth. The summer I finished school I worked for my God Father, Pete Marshall, bringing in the harvest on the Angmering Park Estate.

Bringing in the Harvest on the Angmering Park Estate to feed the nation

Together with his team we forked hay bales by hand onto the old flatbed trailer where they were stacked high and true. The trailer was pulled by a small, ancient Massey Ferguson tractor. It was difficult to discern where the red paint ended and the rust began. Apart from the tractor I suspect that it was a scene unchanged since Victorian times. And at the end of the evening I lay on top of the bales which swayed rhythmically behind the tractor as Uncle Pete drove us gently home, the headlights dim beneath the light of the harvest moon.

Since the Second World War farmers were encouraged by the government to increase yields which have almost doubled since the 1970s and this has led to a perception that food will always be plentiful with little discussion of the carbon footprint of importing food to this country and our responsibilities around that. Perhaps global events will cause our government to promote good husbandry and stewardship in concert with feeding the nation.

It has never been more important to value our farmers and celebrate good stewardship of the land and as consumers to play our part by buying local and British produce whenever we can.

Runnymede Park Collection to be Sold at Toovey’s

Grade-I listed Runnymede Park house in Surrey

A remarkable collection of 18th and 19th century furniture and antiques from Runnymede Park near Egham and Windsor in Surrey is to be sold in a series of specialist auctions at Toovey’s Washington salerooms here in West Sussex on 7th and 8th September.

It is hard to imagine today how many important country houses were torn down in the years after the Second World War.

And yet in my view the English Country House is one of our nation’s greatest contributions to human civilization. Their assemblance of furniture and objects have a particular beauty born of the passions of their owners, importantly, English Country House taste is also comfortable.

The current house was built in the classical taste by Samuel Wyatt and was commissioned by the Jebb family. It is set in an elevated position offering fine views across the park and was constructed between 1789 and 1792.

Runnymede Park was on the brink of demolition and would have been a perfect candidate for inclusion in the V&A’s Destruction of the Country House exhibition in 1974 had it not been for the dedicated patronage of Mr and Mrs Robert Collins.
They painstakingly repaired the fabric of this elegant Grade-I listed house and then set about furnishing it with period antiques and furniture in the English Country House taste. Their passion for collecting was as strong as their passion for the house.

The entrance hall with its stone floor runs the entire depth of the house and was punctuated by a fine set of mahogany hall chairs painted with crests which lent perspective to the vista of the park beyond. The main rooms of this classical house lead off from the hall, each richly furnished with the items now entered for sale.

The Drawing Room at Runnymede Park House

The collection is a testament to their unerring eye for quality and taste. It includes wonderful library, drawing room, dining, and bedroom furniture as well as lights and decorative antiques.

Amongst my favourites are a pair of large Regency lemon gilded pier mirrors with eagle surmounts, a series of elegant pier tables and library bookcases.

The interiors at Runnymede Park captured the best of English Country House taste – textural and eclectic, reflecting the taste and interests of a family and the patchwork quilt of their stories and interests. There was nothing of the austerity of minimalism, rather an expression of comfortable, timeless taste complimenting this fine Georgian house.

Click here to view the collection online.

Rendel Williams Collection

Lot 3125 – Chailey delivery cart

Toovey’s are delighted to announce the single-owner collection of postcards from the estate of the late Rendel Williams (11 September 1941 to 12 December 2021).

Rendel Williams was a geography lecturer at the University of Sussex with a wide range of academic and personal interests connected to the Sussex landscape and history. His initial interest in collecting picture postcards was stimulated by academic research on coastal erosion where he was able to use evidence from postcards to estimate how fast the chalk cliffs had retreated over the past century. As a nature reserve manager with the Sussex Wildlife Trust he also used evidence from old postcards to show how the vegetation of the South Downs was changing and how sheep grazing needed to be reinstated to restore areas of open grassland suitable for rare orchids and butterflies.

Lot 3165 Sheep-shearing at Fulking

His professional interest in postcards soon became an absorbing hobby. At first, he limited himself to collecting images of agricultural scenes, but his interests spread to cover landscapes, buildings, transport and tourism, always in the county of Sussex. His collection grew to over 10,000 postcards.

Lot 3131 -One of a group of four postcards of Suffragists at Clayton

In studying the postcards, he became interested in the lives of the photographers the publishers who made them. He researched the background of all of the publishers and photographers in his collection, for which biographical details can be found on his website The website has become a well used historical and geographical record and will be preserved in posterity.

Lot 3230 Steam Roller accident at Littlehampton

Rendel gained great pleasure from collecting postcards and saw each one as a puzzle requiring historical and biographical interpretation. He spent many happy hours scouring postcard fairs and auctions for unusual and rare images. Meticulously assembled over more than three decades, you now have the opportunity to purchase his collection grouped into lots by locality and theme.

Toovey’s and the Williams Family would like to thank Bob Cairns for his kind assistance in sorting the collection.

The online catalogue for the first part of the collection is available here.