The Library Collection of the late W. Leslie Weller MBE, DL, FSA

The Library Collection of the late W. Leslie Weller MBE, DL, FSA

Tuesday 2nd December 2014 at 11am

Toovey’s are proud to announce this additional sale to our 2014 calendar, which comprises the contents of the library of the late William Leslie Weller (1935-2014), consigned from his former home: Hobshorts House, Rookcross Lane, West Grinstead, West Sussex.


Leslie Weller, as he preferred to be known, was born in the Sussex village of Itchingfield. His father was a tenant farmer of some 100 acres close to the church. Leslie was educated at Collyer’s Grammar School in Horsham. His rural upbringing installed in him a love of the Sussex countryside and country pursuits but Leslie also developed strong interests in antiques and the fine arts and Sussex history and antiquities. All these passions would shape his life and work to come. Leslie went on to qualify as a chartered surveyor and in later life held the post of chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Art and Antiques faculty.

Duke of Beaufort and Leslie Weller © Jim Meads
Duke of Beaufort & W. Leslie Weller © Jim Meads

Leslie enjoyed a long and illustrious career in the field of fine art auctioneering. It was his inspiration and dedication that created the first regional centre of expertise outside London for Sotheby’s. For many years he was chairman of Sotheby’s in Sussex and a director of the firm. His other interests led him to achieve the posts of President of the Sussex Archaeological Society and Master of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers. He was a keen horseman and an active member of the Horsham and Crawley Hunt for many years.

Leslie's Garden Office at Hobshorts
Leslie in his Garden Office at Hobshorts

Leslie Weller was the first chairman of Chichester Cathedral Restoration Trust and over a period of thirty years played an important part in raising more than £10million for essential restoration work to the building and artworks within, including more recently the cathedral’s panel paintings by 16th century artist Lambert Barnard. For his services to the cathedral and contributions to the arts, Leslie was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2014.

Despite his numerous achievements, Leslie Weller was a modest man who will be remembered with great fondness by his many friends and acquaintances in our local community, Sussex as a whole and far beyond.

Leslie's Garden Office
Leslie's Garden Office

Company director Rupert Toovey comments: “Leslie was a generous friend and a great inspiration to me. He supported me in becoming a chartered surveyor in the specialist fields of fine art valuation and auctioneering and was delighted when I followed in his footsteps to become chairman of the R.I.C.S. Art and Antiques faculty. It was, therefore, a great honour to be asked by Leslie’s family to conduct this single-owner sale on their behalf.”

Sussex Horsfield extra-illustrated
Fine, extra-illustrated set of Horsfield's Sussex
EH Shepard Original drawing for sale
E.H. Shepard original drawing from Everybody's Pepys

Leslie lived at Hobshorts, a fine 17th century farmhouse in the West Grinstead countryside, with his wife, Brenda, and their dogs. His library was divided between two rooms in the main house and his private office, which was in a charming converted outhouse in the garden, offering a picturesque view across a pond to the South Downs. Leslie’s books reflect all his varied interests and they were very important to him indeed. The sale features a good selection of works on his beloved Sussex, including a fine copy of Thomas Walker Horsfield’s “The History, Antiquities, and Topography of the County of Sussex”, printed at the Sussex Press in Lewes in 1835. Usually in two volumes, this copy was extended to seven in 1892 with about 1500 extra illustrations. Bound in deep purple morocco by Zaehnsdorf, the set will carry a pre-sale estimate of £3000-5000.

An original drawing by the celebrated Sussex book illustrator Ernest H. Shepard leads a collection of other personal effects from Leslie’s library to be included in the sale. Originally published in “Everybody’s Pepys”, this 28 x 18cm pen and ink drawing will be offered with a pre-sale estimate of £600-1000. Other of Leslie’s possessions to be auctioned include maps, a barograph, a globe and two of his gavels.

The sale is on view on Saturday 29th November 2014, from 9.30am to 12noon, Monday 1st December 2014, from 10am to 4pm, and on the day of the auction, Tuesday 2nd December 2014, from 9am to the start of the sale at 11am.

The catalogue will be available in print and online at by mid-November.

The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, the World’s First True Supercar

The iconic gull-wing doors which give their name to the car

As the September dew begins to settle around the Goodwood motor racing circuit, the evocative sound of racing engines and smell of Castrol oil from the 2015 Goodwood Revival are fading to memories. I am visiting my great friend John Young, the renowned racing driver, who has invited me to come and see his rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, one of the most iconic cars of the post-war era.

As we walk down the drive together in conversation, the Gullwing comes into view and its lines still have the power to excite. The silver beauty before us is particularly special, an example of the world’s first true supercar and in wonderful, original condition. John Young explains, “I bought the car in 1973 from Dennis de Ferranti, who’d had it from new. His father was a brilliant engineer who set up the electronics company Ferranti.” John, the former managing director of the Mercedes-Benz agents Rose and Young, has a particular affinity for the marque. His father, George, founded the firm with his friend Jack Rose. George Young bought out his partner in 1937. “Mercedes were amongst the best cars and selling well,” says John, “so a dealer franchise was hard to get, but we were one of the first in the country.”

The beautiful lines of the Gullwing
The Gullwing’s interior

Contemporary motoring correspondents in the 1950s were fulsome in their praise of these extraordinary cars, though most acknowledged their unforgiving nature if driven hard. John Young smiles as he exclaims, “When you drive a 300SL quickly, it’s important to keep the power on in the corners or they spin – you’ve really got to drive it! Moss was the master.” He pauses and then continues, “Moss was the best driver of these; he was very good.”

After the Second World War, Mercedes were only allowed to return to racing in 1950. 1951 saw a series of victories for the marque including a 1-2 at Le Mans. The Gullwing’s body attracted sensational interest amongst the press and motoring enthusiasts. Stirling Moss’s win in a 300SLR at the 1955 Italian Mille Miglia road race helped to seal Mercedes’ dominance in motor racing and his reputation as one of the greatest drivers of all time. Moss was accompanied by the writer and navigator Denis Jenkinson, known as “Jenks”. Jenks gave an account of Moss’s remarkable drive, writing for Motor Sport in June 1955. It emphasised the driver’s concentration and commitment and his particular gift for setting up and balancing a car at extreme speed through towns and countryside. Moss would later remark that the roadside crowds gave the event a “fiesta feeling”.

Unlike Jenks, John Young remarks that he is a “bad passenger” – unsurprising coming from a man who was used to being in control behind the wheel of a racing car. Amongst many racing drives in 1955, John was a works driver to the Connaught team and raced in the Goodwood Nine Hours Endurance Race in a Lotus-Connaught with John Coombes. “I’ll never forget my mate Roy Salvadori offering to show me a circuit,” he says. “I got in the car but, my goodness, you’d hold on when he was flat out. He went so fast that I slid under the dashboard!” Roy Salvadori famously won Le Mans for Aston Martin in 1959.

John Young, co-driver to his friend John Coombs in a 2.6 Alfa Romeo in the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival

I ask John if he ever competed in the Mille Miglia. He answers modestly, “I drove the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival in an Alfa Romeo 2.6 with John Coombs.”

Gentleman racer and collector John Young in his 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Our conversation returns to John’s beautiful 300SL Gullwing. “These cars were really advanced for their time, with their tubular space frames and in-line, six-cylinder engines, which have a racing note,” he comments. I remark on the large side vents which, like the doors, are such a distinctive feature of the Gullwing. John responds, “They are important for discharging the heat from under the bonnet. Although the lines and details are beautiful, this is above all a properly engineered car.” You sit low in the car and the evocative smell of the original blue leather captures the senses. John explains that most of these cars had fabric seats and that this was a rare option. In the driving seat, your view beyond the ivory coloured steering wheel, instrument binnacle and painted dash is of the long, gently curving bonnet with its two characteristic bulges. Underway, the engine revs rise rapidly and there is a hard note to this engine, reminding you that its heritage is in motor racing. The excitement of the engineered, mechanical qualities of this remarkable vehicle delight the senses. John acknowledges the tremendous acceleration these cars are capable of. Although they were raced, they are truly grand tourers.

Returning to John’s terrace, we sit drinking champagne as the sun begins to set on what will be one of the last warm evenings of the year. With the South Downs before us, my friend John Young regales with stories of a glamorous motor racing age of gentlemen racers and enthusiasts now overtaken. Like its generous owner, this Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing stands as a wonderful testament to this remarkable post-war period.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 1st October 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.