Wiston’s Sublime Bubbly and Wimbledon

Harry and Pip Goring at the Wiston vineyard on the Sussex Downs
Harry and Pip Goring at the Wiston vineyard on the Sussex Downs

Wimbledon fortnight is fast approaching as I set out for the Wiston vineyards on the slopes of the Sussex Downs. I drive up the shady, narrow lane with dappled sunlight breaking through the canopy of trees, past a farmyard and the view suddenly opens onto the beautiful vineyard bathed in brilliant sunshine.

Wiston’s English sparkling wines are my favourite and I’m excited as Harry and Pip Goring welcome me. Harry is keen to show me the vines. He says “We have three traditional champagne grapes here – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier” He acknowledges the breeze and explains how important it is to the health of the vines. I ask him how important the weather is to a successful harvest. Harry replies “Bad weather around Wimbledon can be a disaster. If the covers are on all the time at Wimbledon it’s terrible for the vines as they can’t flower and fruit.”

Harry Goring’s family have farmed the estate since 1743. He remarks “It has always been a traditional family estate until now.” He is quick to point out that the Wiston vineyard is his wife, Pip’s inspiration. Pip and Harry were married in 1972. Pip explains enthusiastically “I always wanted to plant a vineyard. I grew up in Cape Town in site of the mountains and rows of vines. I knew that we could do this here in Sussex. We planted our vines in 2006. The Wiston Estate Winery is about family, celebration, and sharing.” The Goring’s are proud of the community of talented people who have joined this generous enterprise which continues to grow and evolve.

Also at the heart of Wiston’s acclaimed and award winning English sparkling wines is Dermot Sugrue who has been described as the ‘best wine maker in England’. Dermot strives for a purity of expression throughout the wine process. Wiston has produced the first English sparkling wine to win overall in the international 2019 Decanter awards – it’s the Oscars for wine.
Wiston’s wines are exuberant, crisp on the palette with fragrant notes of orchard fruits overlaid with delicious brioche and toasted hazelnut, complimented by its persistent stream of tiny bubbles.
There is a processional quality to the unfolding of this remarkable project which is continuing under the leadership of Harry and Pip’s son Richard and his wife Kirsty.

This a blessed spot. The vineyard is at one with its landscape surrounded by traditional wheat and barley crops, the sheep grazing beneath Chanctonbury Ring. This generous family gives expression to their wish to share their blessings and the importance of long-term stewardship through their work.
I ask Pip to summarise Wiston Estate Wines and she says “It’s a celebration of everything, it sings its own song – an elixir vitae – a drink of life!”

Wiston’s sublime bubbly and Wimbledon – what could be better!

Strawberries and Wiston’s irresistibly delicious bubbly – what could be better to accompany the BBC’s exemplary coverage of Wimbledon’s finals this weekend! You can pick some up from Hennings Wine in Pulborough, Petworth and Chichester, or online at www.wistonestate.com.

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.

Sussex Historian Robert Hutchinson and the Tudors

“Henry VIII – The Decline and Fall of a Tyrant”

The Sussex author and Tudor historian Robert Hutchinson has just launched the latest book in his popular series on the Tudors – ‘Henry VIII – The Decline and Fall of a Tyrant’.
I meet Robert in the village of Amberley where he has lived for some 43 years. I ask him why the timeless appeal of the Tudors still holds such a fascination for us today. He replies “The Tudors are like us, vain, greedy, social climbers – risk takers.”
The current book, ‘Henry VIII – The Decline and Fall of a Tyrant’, combines an extraordinary depth of scholarly research with a rich and accessible narrative. Robert says “The painstaking Tudor administration left behind thousands of paper documents creating a window into their age.” Each chapter provides a series of vignettes in which the players on this historical stage are portrayed with a rare three-dimensional quality so that we, the readers, are invested in the individual characters and their stories.
The book brings together the key threads of the later years of Henry VIII’s reign – his desire to secure the Tudor dynasty with an heir against the turbulent backdrop of the Reformation, his later marriages, court intrigue, threats of invasion, debt and ill health.
This processional book begins in 1539 as the Vatican moves to align Scotland, France and Spain against Henry VIII. Robert comments “Out of this crisis a grand strategy was born. Henry wanted to fight a war with France and recover the tribute owed to him, with the chance to fulfil the ancient claim of English monarchs to the French Crown. He sought to neutralise Scotland by making his son King Consort to the infant Mary Queen of Scots. After he declared himself King of Ireland Henry almost created the United Kingdom more than 250 years before the Act of Union was passed”. Most of his potential triumphs would be snatched from him through ill-fated alliances, finances and ill health.
Henry’s malevolence and brutality is central to the story casting a shadow over not only his dealings with his perceived enemies but also with those close to him. Robert reflects “Henry’s long-held principle that ‘fear begets obedience’ is reflected in the despotic quality of his reign. He had a mordant sense of humour and delighted in toying with his advisers, like a cat with a trapped mouse.” The book highlights Henry’s manipulative nature as he publicly humiliated those he sought to control at court.

Sussex author and Tudor historian Robert Hutchinson
Sussex author and Tudor historian Robert Hutchinson

Interestingly Robert examines the medical notes made at the time and questions whether Henry did actually die of syphilis. He argues that Cushing’s syndrome may be a more plausible reason for Henry’s increasing irritability, depression, anxiety, insomnia and mood swings in his later years. There can be little doubt that his obesity and ulcerated legs added to his decline.
Henry VIII died with most of his objectives, his hopes, unachieved. Despite the despotic nature of Henry’s reign this gifted writer brings us to a point of sympathy for this most famous King as we are led through the terrible sufferings of his last years.
I have barely been able to put the book down since I started it. Robert Hutchinson’s ‘Henry VIII – The Decline and Fall of a Tyrant’ is a must read!

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.

Edmund Spencer – Elizabethan Renaissance Poet

Edmund Spenser ‘The Faerie Queen: the Shepheards Calendar together with The Other Works of England's Arch-Poet, Edm. Spenser’ collected into one Volume, 1611. The general title with figurative woodcut borders with dedication to Queen Elizabeth I.
Edmund Spenser ‘The Faerie Queen: the Shepheards Calendar together with The Other Works of England’s Arch-Poet, Edm. Spenser’ collected into one Volume, 1611. The general title with figurative woodcut borders with dedication to Queen Elizabeth I.

I have long admired the work of the Elizabethan writer Edmund Spenser (1552/53 -1599) so I was delighted to see an early collection of his work, published in 1611, in Toovey’s last specialist sale of Antiquarian and Collectors’ books. . The single volume included ‘The Faerie Queen, ‘The Shepheards Calendar’ and other works.

Edmund Spenser attended Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1569. He studied the Classics in Latin and Greek as well as Italian and English literature. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1573 and a Master of Arts degree in 1576.

Spenser’s ‘The Shepheards Calendar’ published in 1579/1580 is often described as being the first work in the 16th century English literary Renaissance and is influenced by the Roman poet Virgil’s pastoral Bucolics.

‘The Shepheards Calendar’ is formed of twelve short poems each named after a month in the year and is beautifully illustrated with woodblock vignettes. The elegantly constructed verse gives expression to a series of conversations between simple shepherds. Paradoxically these conversations form satirical, sophisticated commentaries on the questions and ambitions of the day.

‘Aprill’ from ‘The Shepheards Calendar’

For example ‘Aprill’ speaks in praise of the shepherdess Elisa who Spenser uses to represent Elizabeth I. Edmund Spenser was a protestant and supporter of Elizabeth I. He gave voice to the importance of upholding and protecting the national and moral purity of the Elizabethan church. The good and bad shepherds act as metaphors for reformed and catholic clergy respectively.

Spenser’s poem ‘The Faerie Queene’ is considered to be one of the greatest in the English language. It is an allegorical work in praise of Elizabeth I who is represented by the Faerie Queene, Gloriana. The poem provides a celebration and critique of the Tudor dynasty employing frequent allusions to contemporary Elizabethan politics and events.

This epic poem is written in an archaic style and takes the form of a series of books. Each book follows the adventures of a particular knight who in turn represent the virtues of holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy. The first part was published in 1590 but Spenser never completed it.

Edmund Spenser’s work brings together the influences of the Elizabethan age he inhabited, his strong Christian faith, early myth, legends and folklore which resonate with literary enthusiasts today. This volume, in its later binding, realised £2400.

Toovey’s book specialists Charlie Howe and Nick Toovey are currently preparing their next specialist auction of books which will be held on Tuesday 13th August. Whether you are seeking to sell your books or building a collection they are always delighted to offer advice and share their passion for their subject with others. You can contact them by telephoning 01903 891955.

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.

Clinton Lodge Gardens

The Rose Garden at Clinton Lodge Gardens

This week I am joining the Sussex Heritage Trust at Fletching to celebrate Clinton Lodge Gardens where we are the guests of the garden’s creator and owner, Lady Noel Collum.

As we gather on the terrace between the showers Lady Collum greets us framed by the lawns, architectural hornbeams and the parkland beyond. Lady Collum is delighted as the Chairman of the Sussex Heritage Trust, Dr John Godfrey, thanks her and quotes some lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Glory of the Garden:

“Our England is a garden that is full of stately views
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye…
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade…”

Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum
Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum

Lady Collum explains how the garden happened slowly drawing inspiration from the house with its Caroline stonework and George III brick extension. She says “I set out to connect the garden to the house. I really wanted it to be peaceful – being peaceful was absolutely essential. I read a lot about garden designers like Russell Page and my sense of proportion and composition was influenced by looking at paintings, especially of the period of the house, whilst I was with Christies.”

The house and the gardens are very at ease with themselves reflecting a gentle elegance and understated grandeur. The formal garden is made up of a series of garden rooms each complete in its own right. The paths gather and lead us revealing each garden in turn.

Lady Collum observes “You should always go through a supported garden with borders on both sides – double borders support you in that way.”

I comment on the playful sense of theatre in the garden and her remarkable planting with swathes of colour. She responds “Formality with exuberance – rather like at Sissinghurst! I control the colours more as I’ve got older as it’s more relaxing – I think it’s important not to find ‘clever’ shocking [contrasts in] palette. It’s also frightfully important that the plants are happy.”

We arrive in a walled garden filled with abundant, old varieties of scented roses, including Chapeau de Napolean, Empress Josephine, and Compte de Chambord. The roses grow tall and are reflected in William Pye’s remarkable water feature. Lady Collum says “If you’re walking with a nice companion it’s lovely not to have to bend to enjoy the scent.”

I remark on the softness, gentleness and movement which pervades the garden. It has a sensory quality. Lady Collum responds “I did want it to have movement, the fluttering of the lime leaves and a sympathetic texture – I like to be able to stroke the plants. It has taken time.”

Lady Collum’s disarming modesty, her genuine hospitality and delight in the reaction of her visitors make this a very special, peaceful place to be.

Clinton Lodge Gardens welcomes groups by appointment but is rarely open to the public. However, the garden is open this coming Monday, 24th June 2019, as part of the National Garden Scheme between 2pm and 5.30pm. To find out more about Clinton Lodge Gardens visit www.clintonlodgegardens.co.uk. And to learn more about the exceptional work of the Sussex Heritage Trust and how to get involved visit www.sussexheritagetrust.org.uk.

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.


Maggi Hambling and Max Wall

Maggi Hambling., CBE, ‘Max Sitting (no.9)’, oil, signed and dated 1982

An important portrait by the leading British artist Maggi Hambling, from her famous Max Wall series of portraits, is to be auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 19th June 2019.

Maggi Hambling was the artist in residence at the National Gallery in London during 1980 and 1981 as her work grew in confidence and power. It was during this time that she went to see Max Wall at the Garrick Theatre for the first time.

Max Wall’s public life as a clown and entertainer was in contrast to his often unhappy and disrupted private life.

In the summer of 1981 Max Wall played Vladimir in Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ to much acclaim in the Royal Exchange production at the Round House. Hambling went to see him in the role on four or five occasions and began to work out a series of pictures based on his performance. As Max sat for her Maggi’s portraits of him became more intimate and insightful. Although they corresponded between October 1981 and Easter 1982 they remained apart.

In his absence, Hambling completed three of her most impressive paintings in the series. Among these is the picture illustrated, ‘Max Sitting (no.9)’. The painting is an act of recapitulation. Hambling gives expression to a painting of dreams, recalling a dream where a white owl bursts through a pane of glass in an isolated, lonely house. Max sits dreaming, his cigarette smoke hangs in the air as he waits on his muse represented by the owl’s arrival. The challenges of his life are signified by the cat’s shadow as the floor veers off in a nightmarish way. Her use of colour to create mood and atmosphere and the rendering of his features acts as though the portrait is a mirror into his soul. It gives voice to her concern for the individual human predicament.

Hambling would recall “At Easter 1982, Max reappeared and posed for drawings. After painting so long from my internal image of him, it was a traumatic experience to have him in front of me again, and to work from life.” Max thought it was marvellous that he should inspire Hambling in this way.

This powerful portrait would be reproduced on the cover of the exhibition catalogue for ‘Max Wall Pictures by Maggi Hambling’ at London’s National Portrait Gallery in 1983.

It was a measure of Hambling’s status as an artist when, in 1986, ‘Max Sitting (no.9)’ was hung alongside her fellow London Group artists, including Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Ron B. Kitaj at Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery in the ‘Artist and Model’ exhibition.

This important work will be auctioned at Toovey’s as part of their sale of fine paintings on Wednesday 19th June 2019 with a presale estimate of £10,000-£15,000. For more information telephone Nicholas Toovey on 01903 891955.

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.