Bignor Roman Villa

The Ganymede mosaic
The Ganymede Mosaic at Bignor Roman Villa

Bignor Roman Villa is for me one of the most special places in all of England. The remains of this important villa nestle in the beautiful Bignor valley in view of the South Downs, a short distance from Stane Street, the important Roman road which linked London with Chichester in the first century AD.

Lisa Tupper in the North Corridor
Lisa Tupper in the North Corridor

The villa was discovered in 1811 by the farmer George Tupper, who unearthed the famous Ganymede mosaic while ploughing. John Hawkins of nearby Bignor Park took charge of the site and excavations and invited Samuel Lysons, a leading antiquary of the day, to supervise the work. In 1812 more mosaics were uncovered under the orchard hedge, which probably included the Venus panels. Lysons was meticulous in his work, presenting three papers to the Society of Antiquaries between the villa’s discovery and 1818. The barns that were erected to protect the mosaics are rare examples from the late Georgian period and are Grade II listed.

Lisa and her husband, William Tupper, are the fifth generation of the Tupper family to be custodians of this remarkable historical sight. They work closely with William’s father, Tom, and their grandparents, Jack and Jill Tupper. Lisa says: “For our family the Roman Villa stands for longevity, a sense of place and family.” The villa site has remained in the Tupper’s ownership for centuries and the family still farms 2000 acres today. “It is wonderful to think that the Romans were farming here some 2000 years ago,” Lisa continues, “and they were farming 4000 acres, a huge estate.”

The Head of Medusa
The Head of Medusa
Venus and the Gladiators
Venus and the Gladiators

The mosaics seem out of time, conserved beneath their thatched Sussex barns. The youthful Ganymede tended his father’s sheep on Mount Ida. Here he is depicted being carried off by an eagle to become a cupbearer to the gods. His cap is typical of those worn in Phrygia, an ancient kingdom in Anatolia, now part of the Republic of Turkey. I have always loved the remarkable mosaic which, although there is some debate over the subject, is thought to depict Venus. The woman’s head is flanked by long-tailed birds and delicate fern leaves above a frieze depicting cherubs enacting famous gladiatorial scenes. The scheme, composition and execution of this panel is exquisite and among the finest in Britain. Away from the main complex, the depiction of Medusa in the bathhouse delights too. In its final form, the villa would have covered some five acres, much of which remains to be excavated. Lisa concludes, “I am delighted to be carrying on the work here that has been going on generation by generation.”

Tea and an enthusiastic welcome await the visitor to the remarkable Bignor Roman Villa, which speaks so eloquently across the millennia. We are fortunate that this exemplary archaeological jewel should be in the generous custodianship of the Tupper family. Bignor Roman Villa is open seven days a week. For more information visit or telephone 01798 869259.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 26th March 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Read an archive of Rupert’s articles by clicking here.

Toovey’s Cafe

Custard Tarts and Treacle Tarts at Tooveys Cafe
Individual Egg Custard Tarts and Treacle Tarts at Tooveys Cafe
Rock Cakes at Tooveys Cafe
'Ma Toovey's famous rock cakes'
Apple Crumble Tarts and Carrot Cake at Tooveys Cafe
Apple Crumble Tarts and Carrot Cake
Homemade Sausage Rolls at Toovey's Cafe
Homemade Sausage Rolls
Gluten free chocolate cake at Tooveys Cafe
Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

Those visiting Toovey’s for our pre-sale viewing and auctions in February and March will have noticed that our in-house café is undergoing change.

Toovey’s are pleased to welcome Will Murgatroyd to the café. Will previously ran and owned The Meadow in Hove having worked in kitchens across Sussex and in London. Will is keen to develop an exciting new menu for visitors, reflecting the traditions of the café. Rupert Toovey often jokes that people only come for the food in the café, nothing to do with the antiques and fine art!

Will quips ‘Rupert virtually put it in my contract that “Ma Toovey’s famous rock cakes” and the “lemon drizzle cake” remained on the menu as they reminded him of his time at university,’ he continues, ‘Eccles cakes will also remain as they remind Alan Toovey of his late mother who made the best Eccles cakes around!’ Alongside these firm family and customer favourites this month are delicious home-made egg custard tarts and a gloriously fudgy gluten-free flourless chocolate cake; both of which the team at Toovey’s would heartily recommend. A home-made apple crumble tart was revealed today that also looks incredible.

The Toovey’s café continues to serve a breakfast menu all day, offering a toasted tea cake or the customer favourite of a bacon and egg sandwich.

The café is still very much in a transitional phase and Will is looking forward to introducing new items to the menu every month on a rotational basis, often looking at the seasons for inspiration. Those wanting a light lunch are offered a variety of sandwiches and rolls, including this month a traditional egg mayonnaise and cress sandwich or a goat’s cheese, roasted pepper and rocket roll. Also on offer are roasted shallot, brie and rosemary tarts and a meaty home-made sausage roll. The seasonal options in March are a spring pea and watercress soup with ricotta, and a seasonal vegetable and cous cous salad.

We appreciate that some favourites are not currently available, but Will hopes that they will make an appearance on a more rotational basis in the future. We are also aware people sometimes can be a little hesitant towards change, but hope that once you have tried some of the delicious offerings in the café all will be forgiven and forgotten!

Please note: the café is only open when we are open for viewing and on our sale days.

An Attic Find: Undiscovered Eduardo Paolozzi Collection

From left: Cubist bust, Computer Head and Skyscraper, plaster maquettes by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

People often remark how exciting it must be for me as a fine art auctioneer to discover wonderful things which have lain undiscovered – it is and it happens more frequently than you might expect. It was on a visit to Newhaven, Sussex, early in the New Year when the gales were blowing, that I discover a marvellous collection of sculptures and prints by the important Modern British artist, Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) which are to be auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 26th March 2014.

The sculptures and prints represented in the sale were given to the current owner over a period of years after he and his family had been befriended by Eduardo. They recount fond memories of visits to Eduardo’s home and studio, of outings and meals together.

Eduardo Paolozzi claimed to have embraced “…the iconography of the New World. The American magazine represented a catalogue of an exotic society, bountiful and generous, where the event of selling tinned pears was transformed in multi-coloured dreams…” This fascination with American culture is clearly expressed in the plaster maquette of a Sky Scrapper included in the sale and illustrated here. In the late 1940s and early 1950s a cold-war generation of artists in Britain began to turn towards New York for inspiration rather than Paris. Paolozzi had a foot firmly in both camps. He emerges as an artistic bridge between post-war Europe, Britain and the US.

Eduardo Paolozzi Bronze Relief
‘Newton after Blake’, bronze bas relief by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

One of Paolozzi’s most celebrated sculptures is ‘Newton after Blake’ made for the forecourt of the British Library. It was commissioned by its architect the late Colin St John Wilson, who was also responsible for the Pallant House Gallery extension in Chichester, which houses many works from the architect’s own collection. The collection on sale includes several bas reliefs depicting ‘Newton after Blake’. Eduardo Paolozzi was fascinated by the artist William Blake’s image of Sir Isaac Newton from 1795. In Blake’s depiction the scientist appears oblivious to all around him, consumed by the need to redact the universe to mathematical proportion. Paolozzi explained of his own sculpture that “…Newton sits on nature, using it as a base for his work. His back is bent in work, not submission, and his figure echoes the shape of rock and coral. He is part of nature.”

Alongside Paolozzi’s cultural icons and totems the resilience and fragility of the human person and the influence of humankind’s relationship with technology expressed through the culture of science fiction and robots also recur as themes in his work. The complicated array of influences are often collaged into a single work. Take for example the two heads illustrated which are defined by the geometric shapes from which they are formed. The smaller plaster bust ‘Computer Head’ references technology’s effect on our consciousness. The larger bust ‘Head’ is an example of the busts which Paolozzi described as an amalgam of African art, geometric art which speaks of the machine in our age, and the influence of boogie woogie. A rich collage which, for him, described modernism.

'Mozart Magic Flute' screen print by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

Paolozzi’s prints give voice to the idea of relationship between collage and image making. The prints with their often vibrant colour allowed the artist to explore the theme of finding visual comparisons between music and drawing. They are also connected with Paolozzi’s sculptural reliefs.

This exciting collection provides a valuable insight into the work of Eduardo Paolozzi. There are iconic examples and more modest pieces describing his delight and humour in the world, often with a surrealist influence. Paolozzi’s work is layered, textural and thought provoking delighting the eye and the mind. The sale exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to see this famous artist’s work and to acquire an example for your own collection. It is on view from Saturday 22nd March 2014 and will be auctioned on the morning of Wednesday 26th March 2014. Further details of opening times and images are available on Catalogues are available from Toovey’s offices or by telephoning 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 19th March 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Eduardo Paolozzi Sculptures & Prints for sale at Toovey’s

Lot 54 Eduardo Paolozzi at Toovey's
Lot 54: Eduardo Paolozzi 'Newton after William Blake' plaster relief

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) was a British sculptor, printmaker, filmaker and writer. He is regarded as one of the most inventive British artists to come to prominence after the Second World War with his legacy ranging from pop art to monumental public works.

0008 Eduardo Paolozzi at Toovey's
Lot 8: '72 Aeschylus & Socrates, see App 4 #123…' by Eduardo Paolozzi

He attended St Martin’s School of Art in 1944, continuing his studies in sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art where, despite his teacher’s disapproval, he discovered the work of Pablo Picasso. This influence is plain to see in his sculptures and cubist-derived collages. On a trip to France he was exposed to surrealism, which gave him the foundations for all future work. It was also while in Paris, Paolozzi produced rudimentary collages from the adverts contained within American glossy magazines that echoed Dada photomontage. These early examples of pop art were the focus of a recent exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, featured by Rupert Toovey in his article ‘“Collaging Culture” at Pallant House Gallery‘.

His large public sculptures were numerous, in Britain they included the mosaic decoration in Tottenham Court Road underground station, a bronze figure of Isaac Newton for the entrance of the British Library, an abstract monument for Euston Square in London and a large sculpture for the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh. Eduardo Paolozzi was made a CBE in 1968, an RA in 1979 and a knight in 1989. The Tate Gallery had a retrospective exhibition of Paolozzi’s work in 1971.

Throughout Paolozzi’s career the human form, language and a fascination of industrial engineering remained as sources of inspiration. These influences can all be seen in a single owner collection of works by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi to be offered at Toovey’s on 26th March 2014. The collection of plaster and bronze sculptures and prints by Paolozzi was discovered by Rupert Toovey in an attic in Newhaven. In his recent article Rupert states:

“This exciting collection provides a valuable insight into the work of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. There are iconic examples and more modest pieces expressing the joy and humour in his view of the world, often with a surrealist influence. Paolozzi’s work is layered, textural and thought-provoking, delighting the eye and the mind.”

The single owner collection will be offered for sale as part of the Selected Fine Art Auction (Lots 1-68) on Wednesday 26th March 2014. Viewing for the auction commences on Saturday 22nd March between 9.30am and 12 noon. Click here to view the collection online.

Jonathan Chiswell Jones at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

'Fox and Hare' by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

In 1954, a young art teacher called Lewis Creed at Ashfold School, Handcross, wanted to introduce his pupils to the joys of making pottery. He had little equipment at the school, but obtained clay from Keymer tiles and was encouraged by the head of Horsham Art School to fire the children’s pots in the art school kiln. In due course, the school itself got hold of a wheel and a kiln, and was able to do everything on site. 60 years later, the fruit of that teaching can be seen in Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s new exhibition ‘The Alchemy of Lustre’ – an exhibition of lustreware by ceramic artist Jonathan Chiswell Jones.

'Homage to Islam' by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

Born in Calcutta in 1944, Jonathan Chiswell Jones first saw pottery being made on the banks of the Hoogly river where potters were making disposable teacups from river clay. He was one of Lewis Creed’s pupils and, inspired by that early contact with clay, he has worked as a professional potter for the past 40 years. In 1998, Chiswell Jones was given an award by Arts Training South, which encouraged him to go on a course about ceramic lustre. He began to experiment with the thousand year old technique used by Middle Eastern potters to fuse a thin layer of silver or copper onto the surface of a glaze. This layer, protected by the glaze, then reflects light. Hence the term ‘lustre.’ The lustreware on show at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery demonstrates this almost magical transformation, whereby clay and glaze, metal and fire combine to produce pots which reflect light and colour, a process in which base metal seems to be turned to gold. Of this process Jonathan Chiswell Jones notes:

“I am proud to stand in this lustreware tradition, with its roots in the Islamic empire of the tenth century, its appearance in Spain and Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, its revival in the nineteenth century by Theodore Dec in France and by Zolnay in Hungary, and in this country by William De Morgan, and more recently by Alan Caiger Smith.”

50 pieces of Jonathan Chiswell Jones’s creation will be on display in ‘The Alchemy of Lustre,’ which opens at Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery on 20 March and closes 30 April 2014. All of the artworks will be available for purchase, including the option to buy via Own Art.