Robert Hill-Snook and the Royal Pavilion Gardens

Robert Hill-Snook, Head Gardener at the Royal Pavilion Brighton

Robert Hill-Snook’s passion for gardening as Head Gardener at the Royal Pavilion is matched by his passion for people. When you meet him it quickly becomes apparent that gardening is not a job but a vocation, a way of life.

I remark that I cannot imagine that there would have been any peace without answering his sense of calling and vocation to be a gardener. Robert smiles and agrees.

As we walk in the gardens people approach him to talk about their lives and how this space at the heart of a city affects and blesses their lives. The most creative and exciting things are born out of relationship. It is clear that Robert’s care for and relationship with the gardens, his professional team, volunteers and those who come here has been transformative. A friend and colleague describes Robert as an “Anima Naturaliter Christiana”, a naturally Christian soul, and his work is a natural expression of faith.

Robert explains that John Nash’s Regency designs and the Royal Head Gardener William Aiton’s planting reflected the British taste for landscape gardens and the creation of picturesque views. Nash’s restored serpentine drive and the naturalistic beds of mixed flowers and shrubs reveals a series of vignettes of the Pavilion framed by the planting.

Robert remarks “The planting is all about textures, different shades of green – not dense so you can see through. The effects change with the light throughout the day. We’ve introduced succession planting so there is always something of interest to see as we move through the seasons. But we’re late this year because of the weather. There is a wholeness to the gardens and the building bringing together the English countryside and exotic plants from China and around the world.”

The Royal Pavilion Gardens at the heart of a city

The bird song rises in an anthem amongst the beautiful Elm trees alongside the bustle and noise of the city as Robert bends to pick a weed he’s spotted. He continues “We’re still bringing nature into the town. It’s really blessed people, especially during Covid.” I am pleased to hear this. I have been concerned for people deprived of an adequate outside space during these times.

I ask Robert about his legacy as he retires after almost twenty-five years at the Pavilion. He pauses and says “Every gardener uses one’s own expression because it is a living thing. And things will continue to change. The gardens gather and it’s a beacon, a great source of well-being for people and nature.”

I comment on his remarkable achievements in the gardens. Robert with his usual humility responds by talking about the importance of his team and the volunteers. Accompanying and enabling people, his individual friendships and the chance encounters with people in the gardens are clearly very important to him. Gardens provide a wonderful place for conversation and relationship. Robert explains that these encounters are built on mutual respect.

Robert’s care for the gardens and people, his sense of servant leadership, of putting the needs of others before his own is refreshing. For a busy chap there is a rooted stillness to his spirituality which blesses him with a wholeness of life. His stewardship has blessed these precious gardens and the community of people who share them.

A Collection Inspired by The Natural World

Emma Faull – Snipe in reeds, watercolour on a gold ground

The things that we collect so often reflect our lives and interests. This is true of the collection of the connoisseur and patron, the late Frank Warren, who lived near Horsham. A gentleman, amateur naturalist and sportsman, his collection of art and his library reflect his deep love of nature and the countryside and are to be auctioned at Toovey’s.

A man of broad interests with a knowledge, care and excitement for the world in which he lived the collection reflects his outward facing, generous nature.
The paintings are from an established group of contemporary realist artists who are once again returning to the British tradition of recording the world and nature. Many of the paintings in the collection are by Michael Jevon, as well as Rodger McPhail, George Lodge and Emma Faull, artists who this private collector counted as friends. He enjoyed the quality of patronage when buying work from these contemporary, realist artists. They depict birds, wildlife, and the countryside.

Painted in watercolour on a gold ground the beautiful study of Snipe in reeds is by Emma Faull. There is an accuracy and life to her work which defines her painting. Emma works with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey and is a passionate conservationists. Her art is represented in permanent collections such as the Audubon Society in the USA and collectors of her work include HM the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Six limited edition, leather bound volumes on British sporting game birds and wildfowl, illustrated and published by Richard Robjent

The book department is one of my favourite rooms at Toovey’s; a library where the volumes are constantly changing. I catch up with Toovey’s book specialists, Charlie Howe, who is busy cataloguing and ask him about the books in the collection. He says “It’s notable to see that all these books are in very fine condition – he obviously was a genuine collector with wide and varied interests.

There’s literature and poetry, fine bindings of Shelley and Keats, all sitting alongside a strong collection of books on hunting and natural history.”
Six beautifully bound volumes in slip cases catch my eye. Charlie explains that the volumes are limited editions, bound in leather with tipped in illustrated plates by the artist and publisher, Richard Robjent. They cover all the sporting game birds and wildfowl of the British Isles and were published by Fine Sporting Interests. The volume ‘The Partridge – Studies in Words and Pictures’ includes a foreword by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

Charlie continues “Frank had a keen interest in travel too. There’s a first edition of Bruce Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’, as well as a scarce first printing of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s ‘A Time to keep silence’. There are many other rare volumes.

Estimates range from under £100 to the low thousands. This beautiful collection reflecting the interests of a country gentleman and connoisseur will be auctioned in Toovey’s Fine Art sale on Wednesday 23rd June and the Antiquarian and Collectors Books sale on Wednesday 21st July 2021.

Stewardship and Renewal in the Gardens at Parham

Lady Emma and James Barnard in the greenhouse at Parham

This week I am returning to Parham to meet Lady Emma and her husband James Barnard as they embark on a major restoration of their celebrated walled gardens at Parham.

The history of the garden has only been recorded since the 1920s when Lady Emma’s great-grandparents came to Parham.

James is keen to show me a series of old framed sketches and plans for the clematis in the gardens drawn by Lady Emma’s great aunt, Mrs Tritton, during her time at Parham. He remarks “Amongst my most striking memories of my first encounter with the gardens at Parham were the clematis.” He continues enthusiastically “Gardens have to change and evolve to have life. We are so glad that Andrew Humphris has joined us as Head Gardener with his wife Jo. Collaborating with them and the garden team on this restoration is very exciting.”

We find Andrew working in the borders and I ask him how it is going. He replies “Well, we’ve had the rain, it will all take off as soon as the sun comes.”
Lady Emma says “The gardens here have been worked for hundreds of years. Our only ‘rule’ has been to work with and not against this ancient place sensitively accepting and preserving its spirit.” Andrew agrees “We’re enhancing what is a fantastic place already.”

I remark that we are a processional people – that we have an ability to confidently embrace change and the new but always with one eye fixed on the past. Lady Emma responds “It’s so nice that long process with a generosity of spirit, like the changing seasons. I love the changing seasons in the garden, there is always something to look forward to whether it’s the spring tulips or the seed heads in winter.”

Parham’s Head Gardener, Andrew Humphris, and his team working on the restoration of the gardens

To me this bodes well. Parham has always given voice to our nation’s quintessential celebration and passion for gardening. All gardens, like nature and the seasons, have a cycle to them and evolve. There is a real sense of renewal, a gardening renaissance at Parham as the restoration gets underway.
At the heart of the generous and outward facing spirit which pervades all that Parham does are Lady Emma and her husband James who, together with their sons, bring such life and vitality to this timeless place. The family’s long-term, generous stewardship blesses us all.

The 18th century garden walls, the paths and borders still enfold you against the backdrop of the house and Sussex Downs. We are all in need of a fresh horizon and a generous place to gather us as we begin to meet and walk in conversation with friends and loved ones. Parham, with its new, delicious Naked Food Company café, is the perfect place for a day’s holiday! Visit www.parhaminsussex.co.uk to book your visit to the gardens.

Another Rare Louis Vuitton Trunk Discovered by Toovey’s

The recently discovered Louis Vuitton cabin trunk.

Toovey’s have unearthed another rare Louis Vuitton ‘Explorer’ travelling trunk.

This rare Louis Vuitton zinc covered ‘explorer’s’ cabin trunk (malle cabine) was produced circa 1895. The interior displays the original printed label numbered ‘33525’, and is comparable to the example we sold in October 2017 (read our blog post here). The current vendor having discovered our previous success was surprised by the value and decided to consign it with Toovey’s.

Louis Vuitton printed label
Louis Vuitton printed label

These trunks were issued in zinc and aluminium and were designed to withstand the extreme environments of the late 19th century explorer, giving the trunks their nickname.

This rare cabin trunk will be offered for sale at Toovey’s on Friday 6th December 2019 with a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000. Please contact Will Rowsell for any enquiries regarding this trunk.