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.

Sussex Prairie Gardens Wins Prestigious Architectural Awards

The Sussex Prairie Gardens in full bloom

This week I am in the company of Pauline and Paul McBride at their Sussex Prairie Gardens.

Pauline can barely contain her excitement “The garden is special at the moment – full of flowers, the wonderful mass planting with swathes of grasses, Echinacea and Rudbeckia. It’s beautiful to walk through the borders and get up close with the plants. The gentle breeze gives movement to the garden. It’s a visual spectacle, a sensory overload with the sound of the insects, the scent and touch of the plants. I walk the garden every morning and it still takes my breath away.”

Their home, Morlands Farm Dutch Barn and the Tower have just been celebrated taking home South East Award Winner, Small Project of the Year and Client of the Year in RIBA’s 2022 South East Regional Awards, and a coveted Sussex Heritage Trust Award.

Sandy Rendel Architects converted a Dutch Barn into a new home for Pauline and Paul. Pauline is full of praise for Sandy Rendel and Robert Longley of Cranbrook Iron in Kent.

Pauline explains “Paul and Rob built the tower over the period of a week – a true labour of love – handmade!” Reminiscent of an agricultural grain silo the viewing tower encapsulates the joyful nature of this architectural project and the gardens.

Paul and Pauline share their Sussex Prairie Gardens abundantly. Pauline says “The students who come to the gardens are fabulous. This year they’ve come from all over including France, China and India. I continue to be amazed by these young people and the boundless possibilities of their lives. We love working with them. We try to reach out and connect people.”

The RIBA and Sussex Heritage Award winning Morlands Farm Dutch Barn and Tower

Pauline talks about The Indian Bazaar which is at the heart of a month long festival which runs until the 4th September. She describes the scene “The marquees are overflowing with ethically commissioned and sourced decorative objects and clothing for sale – all delicious, gorgeous, shinning, and glittering.”

Friendships like communities are bound together by shared stories. It is the vision and gentle patronage of Pauline and Paul McBride, and their desire to share the joy of the garden they have created, which has brought such beauty to our built and natural landscape and a community together.

Gardens are places of blessing, invitation, hospitality and encounter, and none more so than the Sussex Prairie Gardens, Morlands Farm, Wheatsheaf Road, Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9AT. To find out more and to plan your visit

Hidden Wines and Spirits can be Surprisingly Valuable

Toovey’s wines and spirits specialist Simon Garner

Across the ancient world wines and spirits were produced, celebrated and valued. Today wines and spirits represent one of the most competitive collectors and investment markets.

This week I am in the company of Toovey’s wine specialist, Simon Garner, who is excitedly preparing an inaugural auction of wines and spirits.
Simon explains that the wines and spirits in a home are often much more valuable than people expect. He explains “I’ve been discovering fine wines and spirits across the county. It’s exciting that so many of the clients we have will have wine hidden away in their homes that is definitely going to be of value, sometimes without them knowing it.”

I remark that it is the collectors’ markets, like wines and spirits, which are booming in today’s auction world, Simon agrees. So what should people look out for?

Simon replies “People are unaware that it is the old bottle of whiskey, not just wine which is valuable. If it was a ten year old bottle of whiskey 30 years ago its now obviously a 40 year old bottle and its worth a lot more than it was then. Look out especially for names like Macallan, Glenmorangie, Laphroaig as well as the better known whiskies.

Also any vintage Champagne, so Möet and Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Christal and other leading houses, if it’s been stored correctly, cellared, it will be of value. A lot of wines and spirits are bought as an investment.”

I ask Simon what is the most notable entry for the auction so far and he shows me a bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion from 1919.

A selection of wines entered for Toovey’s inaugural auction of wines and spirits

He says “This is a rare vintage and more than 100 years old. It’s survived a century which witnessed the Second World War and a remarkable period of social change. The paper label is M Larrieu who were owners of Château Haut-Brion between 1801 and 1922.

Château Haut-Brion is located in Pessac, Bordeaux. Jean de Pontac founded the field Haut-Brion in the sixteenth century where he built the castle and planted the vineyard. Haut-Brion continues to be recognized as one of France’s best wines.”

If you want to find out if your wines or spirits are valuable send photographs to Simon Garner at or telephone him to discuss your collection.

Simon concludes “The hidden treasure in our homes is often in the drinks cabinet, larder or cellar.”