The West Horsley Place Collection

West Horsley Place – Photo © Richard Lewisohn

Toovey’s are pleased to announce that our forthcoming specialist sale of books on 15th May includes a collection of volumes from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.Lots 3001-3179 in this auction have been consigned from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.

The estate was inherited in 2014 by Bamber Gascoigne from his great aunt, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. In 2015 Bamber gave ownership of the house and estate to a newly created charitable trust: the Mary Roxburghe Trust. The Trust’s mission is to restore the Grade I listed manor house (currently on Historic England’s ‘Heritage At Risk Register’) and its estate, with the aim of creating a vibrant centre for the performing and visual arts as well as the teaching of crafts. An expert on prints and the writer of many books himself, Bamber is popularly known as the original host of University Challenge. While not living in the house itself, he has been overseeing its conservation and transformation, which has included the building within the grounds of the 700-seat Theatre in the Woods by Grange Place Opera, who hold a summer opera season at West Horsley Place. Funds raised from this sale of selected volumes from the library will be used towards the ongoing restoration work, all part of the Mary Roxburghe Trust’s long-term plan. For more information on the house and the work of the Mary Roxburghe Trust, visit www.westhorsleyplace.org.

The Library at West Horsley Place

The library was assembled by Robert Milnes-Crewe, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945) and his father Richard Monckton-Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton (1809-1885). Lord Houghton was a great man of letters, a poet, politician and patron of literature. He wrote the first biography of Keats in 1848, was a close friend of Alfred Lord Tennyson and helped to make Ralph Waldo Emerson become known in Britain. His particular interest was in French literature, especially of the revolutionary period.

Lord Houghton’s son, Lord Crewe, (bookplate above) was a Liberal statesman, who served as Secretary of State for India between 1910 and 1915. He was also Leader of the House of Lords, where he played a very significant and progressive role in removing their own veto, as well as various positions within the education sector. He was a contemporary of Winston Churchill, friend of H.H. Asquith and son-in-law to Prime Minister Lord Rosebery. The astonishing library of books, collected over generations, mainly reflects Lord Crewe’s wide interests, including his literary friendships with war-time poets, his travels to India and the East, his political career and his cultural connections. The books provide an intimate window onto the period and give the sense of a decent, moderate man who was administratively overseeing considerable change.

“Sorting through and cataloguing the books of both father and son has been an absolute pleasure. It’s been a chance to speculate on the changes England underwent from Victorian times, through the trauma of a World War and into a changed 20th century” says Toovey’s Book Specialist Charlie Howe.

The collection will be offered at Toovey’s Spring Gardens rooms on May 15th 2018. View the collection via the online catalogue here.

Collectors’ Objects from around the World

A 6th century BC, Ancient Greek Siana black figure kylix (wine cup)
A 6th century BC, Ancient Greek Siana black figure kylix (wine cup)

Toovey’s new specialist sales of Tribal Art, Antiquities and Natural history cover a diversity of collecting interests ranging from sea shells, fossils and minerals to tribal art and antiquities.

They combine the delights of the Renaissance cabinet of curiosity with the enquiry of the 18th century Enlightenment. Between 1680 and 1820 the imaginations of some of Britain, Europe and America’s leading philosophers, scientists and writers were inspired by a new age of reason and learning which became known as the Enlightenment.

During the Renaissance rooms and cabinets of curiosities housed encyclopaedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined. They were often known as wonder cabinets and rooms. Similarly 18th century collectors, antiquaries and travellers brought together, but also sought to classify, objects from the world around them. Many of these objects were categorised according to the seven major new areas of enquiry during the Enlightenment. These included: natural history, art and civilisation, religion and ritual, the birth of archaeology, discovery and trade, the translation of ancient scripts and classification.

Toovey’s first specialist sales of Tribal Art, Antiquities and Natural history earlier this year highlighted the strength of demand for these pieces.

A Senufo carved and painted figure of a hornbill, Ivory Coast, used by the Poro society
A Senufo carved and painted figure of a hornbill, Ivory Coast, used by the Poro society

The large Senufo carved and painted ritual figure of a hornbill would have been used by the Poro hunters. The Senufo people come from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Standing 142cm high this impressive example was modelled with large flat rectangular wings, the long beak centred to the swollen stomach and the surface painted with red and black pigments on a pale ground. It realised £1500.

The delicate 6th century BC Ancient Greek Siana black figure kylix (wine cup) was just 8cm high and came from the Edouard Will collection. The delicate painted depiction of swans and hens was attributed to the Griffin-Bird painter. It realised £1900.

A Palaeolithic flint stone hand axe found near West Dean in West Sussex
A Palaeolithic flint stone hand axe found near West Dean in West Sussex

Although the rarest pieces command high prices many of these collectors’ items are great value. Take for example the Palaeolithic flint stone hand axe, found at West Dean in West Sussex, near the Trundle which sold for £65. Holding this humbling object gave me a real sense of connection with stone-age man in Sussex and my place in the procession of human history.

These new specialist sales cover a diversity of collecting interests ranging from sea shells, fossils and minerals to tribal art and antiquities.

Toovey’s specialists, William Rowsell and Mark Stonard, are passionate about these collecting fields and are always pleased to offer advice and meet with collectors. They can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955 or emailing auctions@tooveys.com.

Toovey’s next specialist sales of Tribal Art, Antiquities and Natural History will be held on Wednesday 13th June 2018 and entries are still being accepted.

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.