Launch of 2023 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards

Simon Knight, Chairman of the Sussex Heritage Trust, with Rupert Toovey at the launch of the 2023 Awards

Leading architects, artisans and supporters gathered in the recently completed Lancing College Chapel for the launch of the 2023 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards.

Through its work and awards the Sussex Heritage Trust promotes and encourages best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape.

Chairman of the trust, Simon Knight, thanked Lancing College for hosting this year’s launch and headline sponsors, Irwin Mitchell, together with all the trust’s sponsors and supporters.

We were welcomed by Jeremy Tomlinson who worked at Lancing College for 41 years as a teacher of English, Head of Drama, Housemaster, Senior Master and Registrar. Jeremy has also been at the heart of the Friends of Lancing Chapel for many years and provided a fascinating talk on the history, life and development of the chapel.

Begun in 1868, the Grade I listed chapel at Lancing College is the largest school chapel in the world. The friends provide funds to maintain and conserve the Chapel which is dedicated to St Mary and St Nicholas. Jeremy explained how the Friends have built the west wall and rose window, completed the glazing, lighting and furnishing of the Chapel and contributed to the Handford Porch, the South Aisle door, the new Crypt altar and on-going stone conservation.

The award winning and recently completed west end of Lancing College Chapel

For most of the Chapel’s life the west end was never completed. In 2017 the two open arches in the west wall were filled with blind tracery in limestone and a design for a west porch by Michael Drury RIBA was given official approval. The Chapel Completion Campaign was launched in 2019 and funds flooded in. This enabled a contract with Chichester Stoneworks Ltd to be signed the same year.

After 154 years the Chapel’s west porch and the Chapel itself was finally completed in time for the its dedication on 23 April 2022.

The Chapel is open to the public daily throughout the year and new Friends are always welcome.

The Chapel has received numerous Sussex Heritage Trust Awards.

The Sussex Heritage Trust’s work is important in promoting best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture. I am delighted that Toovey’s remain long-term sponsors and supporters of their important work.

The closing date for entries for this year’s Sussex Heritage Trust Awards is 31st March. To find out more visit

Juan Manuel Blanes World Record at Toovey’s

Juan Manuel Blanes’s Gaucho on Horseback in a Uruguayan Prairie Landscape, oil on canvas, circa 1875-1878

A major work by Uruguay’s most important painter Juan Manuel Blanes of a Gaucho has just broken the world record at auction selling for £1.15 million at Toovey’s.

Rupert Toovey said “I have known the painting for many years but congratulations must go to our fine art consultant Tim Williams whose exceptional research and tenacity in contacting collectors across the world has made this remarkable result possible, and Nick Toovey who conducted the auction.”

Toovey’s fine art consultant Tim Williams with Juan Manuel Blanes’s important painting Gaucho on Horseback

Tim Williams commented “Juan Manuel Blanes [1830-1901] is renowned for painting grand history paintings and portraits, as well as scenes and events that shaped Uruguay’s national identity during the years of conflict that resulted in independence from Spain.”

He continues “The Uruguayan municipal gallery in Montevideo is named Museo del Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes and houses the largest collection of the artist’s work.”

Tim’s research revealed the painting’s remarkable provenance. The first owner of the painting was the notable Spanish aristocrat Baldomero Hyacinth de Bertodano, 7th Marquis de Moral. He lived at Cowbridge House near Malmsbury in Wiltshire and the painting hung there until his death in 1921. The contents of Cowbridge House were auctioned to divide the estate between five family members. The painting was included in the sale. Described as ‘A fine Oil Painting, The Gaucho on the Pampas in Argentine about 52 by 46 ins’. Baldomero’s brother, Charles Edmund de Bertodano, a notable Railway engineer, purchased the painting from the auction and it remained with his family to the present day.

Thought originally to be an Argentinian landscape the painting sold by Toovey’s actually depicts a Uruguayan scene with a Gaucho on horseback pointing, as two horsemen gallop away on the horizon. The golden glow of Blanes’ palette and the way that he paints the effect of light playing on the prairie is remarkable.

Tim explains “Blanes’ Gaucho paintings celebrate the way of life of these independent, rugged horsemen whose lives embodied the South American ‘Wild West’ and national identity in a similar way to the cowboys of the United States. The open prairie beneath an expansive sky would have contrasted with the pressured urban lives of the cosmopolitan collectors who patronised Blanes’ work.”

Toovey’s Chairman, Rupert Toovey with the World Record Breaking Blanes Gaucho

Commenting on the result Rupert Toovey said “This is the first time that this important painting has appeared on the market in some 102 years. A hammer price of £1.15 million is a new world record and I am delighted that the painting has been acquired by a private Uruguayan collector.”

Watch the auction below:

The Kelmscott Press and the beginning of the Private Press Movement

‘The Romance of Sire Degrevant’, printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press in 1896

In the late 19th and 20th centuries many artists rediscovered their role as artisan artists and designers, as well as painters and sculptors of fine art. One of the ways that they expressed this was through making printed woodblock illustrations for fine books, printed by Private Presses.

The beginning of the Private Press movement is commonly attributed to William Morris, who in 1890 established the Kelmscott Press. William Morris led what was to become known as the Arts and Crafts Movement. Its principles were inspired by the writings of John Ruskin who mourned the effects of the industrial age on society and craftsmen. He advocated a return to an age of ‘free’ craftsman. It stood for traditional craftsmanship and simple forms often embellished with interpretations of romantic and medieval decoration including Gothic.

The Kelmscott Press woodcut frontispiece illustrated was designed by the Pre-Raphaelite, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, with whom William Morris worked in partnership on numerous designs, including churches. It depicts a scene from the book of ‘The Romance of Sire Degrevant’. The surround mirrors Morris’s own affection for the patterns of flower and leaf, which he too loved to design. The text is in Chaucer type, in red and black. Morris printed the book on 14th March 1896, a testament to his creative energy, even towards the end of his life. His principles, aesthetics, standards, qualities and techniques are strongly reflected in the Kelmscott Press project. He died on 3rd October 1896.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales printed at the Kelmscott Press in 1896

The page from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales provides another example of the decorative themes of the Kelmscott Press.

Technology has transformed the way we consume the printed word. But it is worth remembering that the Private Presses came into being as part of a reaction against the 19th century industrialised age. This was expressed through William Morris’s Arts and Crafts Movement. Like our spirited, independent local newspapers Private Press books remind us of the pleasure of engaging with the printed word. The smell, touch and sight of books speaks to our senses and delights us in a particular way.

So perhaps the future is in beautifully produced books. Certainly the demand for Antiquarian and Collectors’ books at Toovey’s has remained strong; a growth market for sellers and buyers alike. Tales of the demise of the printed word and the book, it would seem, have been over-exaggerated!

Archive gives insight into Edward VIII’s Abdication

The archive of Sir Albert George Allen, the Duke of Windsor’s solicitor during the period of the abdication

An archive of material collected and compiled by Sir Albert George Allen (1888-1956), relating to his time as Edward VIII’s solicitor during the period of the abdication, has just been sold at Toovey’s. It was a collection which resonates with our own times.

Discovered by Toovey’s Director, Nick Toovey, the archive included Allen’s ‘Confidential Notes’,  a silver cigarette case with presentation inscription to Allen from the Duke of Windsor, two fine linen handkerchiefs, Christmas cards and a pair of 9ct gold cufflinks.

Sir Albert George Allen’s archive and objects came directly from him by family descent to the specialist Paper Collectables auction at Toovey’s. The collection was sold in five lots totalling £6380.

The manuscript notes and minutes taken by Allen during meetings with Edward in the course of the events leading up to the King’s abdication were accompanied by typed-up versions, a letter from King George VI, Christmas cards and photographs of related interest.

The ‘Confidential Notes’ from the days preceding the abdication detailed telephone conversations and meetings with eminent persons, the handling of the press, a radio broadcast, and hint at the importance Edward placed on retaining the H.R.H. title for himself and Wallis.

A black and white photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor signed to the card mount by both sitters, inscribed ‘To A.G. Allen’ and dated 1946 in ink

The letter from King George VI to ‘Dear Allen’ and dated January 10th 1943 thanks the recipient ‘for sending the very clear statement of the Duke of Kent’s affairs’ and continues that the King hopes ‘it will be possible to find some way of augmenting the Duchess’s income’.

Sir Albert George Allen was educated at North Malvern School. During the Great War he served as Captain and Brigade Major. He was twice mentioned in despatches and was awarded the D.S.O. and the Military Cross. In 1930 he jointly founded the law firm Allen and Overy. He was nicknamed ‘Poker Face’ by the then King Edward VIII as they worked together through the political upheaval resulting from his decision to marry Wallis Simpson.

Objects have the ability to powerfully connect us with, and bring to life, important moments in the history of our nation and it is always a privilege to discover and accompany them at the salerooms. It was the insights and tangible connection to Edward VIII’s abdication provided by Sir Albert George Allen’s archive which captured the attention of historians and collectors.