Community and Aspiration at the Heart of Sussex in 2023

Simon Knight and Rupert Toovey at Lancing College Chapel for the launch of the 2023 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards

2023 has been a year marked by both joys and sorrows.

The close of the second great Elizabethan age and the loss of HM Queen Elizabeth II was followed by the joyous coronation of HM King Charles III.

Throughout his life the King has provided the most remarkable model of servant leadership with a deep sense of faith, calling, vocation and stewardship.

King Charles’ vision is aspirational on a societal level with a wholeness to his approach. Heritage, conservation, education, health and well being and social inclusion work in concert with business, the environment and countryside. His approach to vernacular, regional architecture has been to build buildings that build communities.

Here in Sussex these values were given eloquent expression by our county’s people, communities and charities throughout 2023. Amongst these was the work of the Sussex Heritage Trust and the West Grinstead Ploughing Match & Agricultural Society. Both of these organisations seek to promote best practice and aspiration in our built and rural environments. They do this through their awards and prizes whilst providing bursaries and encouraging people, especially the young, to invest in careers in the agriculture industry and endangered heritage crafts and trades.

Rowan Allan at the 2023 West Grinstead Ploughing Match and Agricultural Society Show

Rowan Allan, together with Felicity Elliott, is the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing Match & Agricultural Society. The Society has been holding shows for over 150 years. It seeks to re-connect town and country and show people what farming and the countryside are really about. There is extraordinary stewardship amongst our district’s farming community. Our landscape is part of our nation’s heritage and identity and it is wholly dependent on the life given to it by our farmers.

This year’s Sussex Heritage Trust awards were launched by the now past Chairman of the Trust, Simon Knight, DL, at Lancing College Chapel. The chapel has received numerous awards from the Trust and is open to the public.

The work of the Sussex Heritage Trust’s 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 proud that Toovey’s and so many local businesses continue to invest in and support charities and communities across Sussex.

The hope filled work of people, charities and organisations across Sussex blesses us and they deserve our thanks and support.

I wish you all a hope filled and peaceful New Year!

Love and Service at the Heart of the Christmas Story

Florence from the Pitti Palace

Journeying is part of what it is to be human. It is important to remain questioning and open minded, to reflect on our place in the world.

I was blessed to find myself in Florence in September and was unprepared for how profoundly moved I would be by my encounter with the Christian masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery and the Renaissance Pitti Palace where I came upon Raphael’s beautiful, intimate Madonna della Sedia painted in 1514. Mary and the Christ child’s gaze invite us into the Christmas story.

The late 19th century Continental gilt-mounted porcelain devotional panel reproduces Raphael’s famous painting. It was made to enable prayer and reflection. Christmas, too, offers us this same opportunity, a punctuation mark in our busy lives.

A late 19th century devotional panel depicting the Madonna della Sedia, after Raphael

In recent times, and not least this year, there has been much in our daily lives and the news to remind us of the difficulties of our current time. In particular the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. The accompanying mass migration of people has given cause for some in our country to voice a fear that our way of life and the things which we hold dear are in some way under threat. And yet the solution is not to be fearful but to be confident of what is at the heart of our nation’s common narrative, the values expressed in the Christian story of Christmas.

As a Christian I draw comfort from my belief that on that first Christmas day God came among us as a baby born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. His parents were displaced and without their home. The world over the millennia has often talked of value in terms of the material. By these standards Mary and Joseph had little and yet they knew that they had been richly blessed. What they had been given, this remarkable child, they shared with the world.

This intimate Christian story invites us to be active in the world and not spectators. By their example Jesus and his parents leave us in no doubt that acts of kindness to one another and a genuine concern for others can transform our lives and the lives of those around us. These are universal values held by people of good heart from all faiths and none.

The message of Christmas is that true value is defined by love and service to others, especially those in need.

I wish you all a very happy and blessed Christmas.

The Unsurpassed Work of Silversmith Paul Storr

George, the third silvergilt honeypot and stand in the form of the bee by Paul store, London 1798

During the first half of the 19th century, Paul Storr (1770 to 1844) was the most celebrated silversmith in England and his work is unsurpassed.

The George III silver gilt honeypot and stand you see here is by Paul Storr. Made in the form of a bee skep. It measures just 11.5cm high and is beautifully conceived and modelled. The wreath finial has a plain cartouche but on other Paul Storr honeypots like this one it is often engraved with a crest.

My wife’s grandparents and Uncle Maurice were celebrated beekeepers on the island of Jersey so this object speaks into some precious memories for me.

The history of bee skeps is thought to go back some 2000 years. From the Middle Ages bee skeps were made of straw to keep bees in before the invention of the beehive in 1851. Today skeps are mostly used for collecting swarms of bees.

This naturalistic object is bound up with the Romanticism and ideas of the rural idyll prevalent in the early 19th century which placed an emphasis on our emotional response to the beautiful and sublime which contrasted with the effects of the Industrial Revolution, urbanisation and the rationalism of the Enlightenment.

Detail of the honeypot’s stand showing the maker’s mark for Paul Storr on the underside, London 1798

Alongside the leopards mask of the London assay office, the Lion Passant silver mark and date letter for 1798 is the Paul Storr maker’s mark PS which remained relatively unchanged throughout his career. This honeypot was only made a year before Paul Storr was commissioned to make the ‘Battle of the Nile cup’ for presentation to Lord Nelson in 1799.

Today pieces from Paul Storr’s workshops can be found at the Duke of Wellington’s London home, Apsley House, as well as Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, Arundel Castle and museums around the world.

In 1807 Paul Storr joined Philip Randall at Randall Bridge and Randall. It was the leading firm of silversmiths in the early 19th century. It held the Royal Warrant from 1806. Working here Paul Storr would produce silver objects for both George III and George IV.

In 1819 he left the firm to regain his artistic freedom producing beautiful naturalistic pieces. In 1822 he partnered with John Mortimer founding Storr and Mortimer in 1822 with retail premises in New Bond Street, London.

Paul Storr’s remarkable talents are still revered by collectors today and the silver-gilt skep honeypot has just sold at Toovey’s for £10,400.

Christmas Charity Fundraiser Celebrates the Work of St John Ambulance

County President Giles York with Cadets and volunteers from St John Ambulance Sussex

A Christmas charity fund raising party, organised by Toovey’s on behalf of St John Ambulance at their Washington auction rooms, raised some £5500 and donations are still being received. Money was being raised for a new community support vehicle to enable the volunteers to provide first aid and welfare at events across Sussex. With some £39,000 now raised they are more than halfway towards their target of £75,000.

The St John Ambulance Cadets were out in force on the night and were celebrated by all who came. Speaking to them on the evening I was reminded how proud these impressive young people are of their association with St John Ambulance and the remarkable first aid training they receive.

Since its beginnings in 1877 the organisation has sought to save lives and support the communities it serves. The St John Ambulance service and the Jerusalem Eye Hospital charities operate under the auspices of the British royal order of chivalry, The Order of St John.

St John Ambulance provides first aid training not only to its volunteers but also to businesses and other organisations. It is humbling to reflect that it is older than the NHS who it works with as well as other healthcare partners. When Covid-19 broke out St John Ambulance worked with the NHS providing care and vaccination support.

St John Ambulance offer healthcare support to the homeless and vulnerably housed communities in Brighton and Hastings through drop-in clinics at static locations and their mobile treatment centres. They also support and celebrate organ donors’ families.

Rupert Toovey conducting the fundraising auction at Toovey’s for St John Ambulance, Sussex

Alongside these more recent developments St John Ambulance continues to be dedicated to the teaching and practice of medical first aid and the provision of ambulance services through volunteer units rooted in their local communities. The ambulances and community support vehicles are fitted out with up to date equipment so that the volunteers can provide care wherever they are and wherever people are in need.

As a former chaplain to St John Ambulance here in Sussex it was my privilege to witness their extraordinary contribution to our communities across the county.

The gifts of service to others is richly apparent in the work of the volunteers and staff at St John Ambulance here in Sussex. There is much to celebrate in their work and they need our support. If you would like to contribute to their much needed community support vehicle go to