Geoffrey Sparrow, Horsham Doctor, Artist and Huntsman

Dr Geoffrey Sparrow (image courtesy of Horsham Museum & Art Gallery)
Dr Geoffrey Sparrow on horseback (image courtesy of Horsham Museum & Art Gallery)

Geoffrey Sparrow was a doctor living in Horsham with a particular talent for drawing. His pictures often express his love of horses and hunting and provide a witty insight into country life in and around Horsham between the wars.

An Illustrated Alphabet by Geoffrey Sparrow
An Illustrated Alphabet, hand-illustrated book by Geoffrey Sparrow
The letter 'H' from the Illustrated Alphabet
The letter 'H' from the Illustrated Alphabet

My family moved to Horsham in the 1960s from Pinner and Harrow, a story common to many at that time. In those days Horsham was still very much a provincial market town with its wonderful, faded, Regency theatre and houses where Swan Walk stands today. The town centre was on a human scale, rich in its vernacular architecture and independent shops. I have fond childhood recollections of watching the Crawley and Horsham Hunt riding out from the Carfax on Boxing Day. The smell of the horses, the colours of the hunting coats and the sounds of hooves on the road, huntsmen’s horns and barking hounds all remain vivid in my memory. I imagine that the town’s atmosphere then had changed little since the days between the First and Second World Wars, when Geoffrey Sparrow was practising as a doctor and making his prints, paintings and drawings.

Geoffrey Sparrow was born on 13th July 1887 in an age of trains and horses, not cars. He grew up in Devonshire and lived for foxhunting. He studied medicine at Cambridge and Bart’s but the Great War disturbed the procession of his life, as it did for many others of his generation. Sparrow volunteered and was accepted by the Admiralty as a temporary surgeon in the Royal Navy in September 1914, bearing the rank of Surgeon-Lieutenant. He served with distinction in numerous campaigns and was awarded the Military Cross, though he never described the events that led to this decoration.

Sparrow was demobilised in 1919. He had thought to specialise in London after the war but his former chief advised that, as he was then thirty-three and unknown in medical circles, he would be better off taking his Edinburgh Fellowship and practising in the provinces. Sparrow enjoyed his time in Edinburgh, which for him had the added appeal of a bit of grouse-shooting!

In those pre-NHS days, Dr Sparrow journeyed south to Horsham, where he joined the old family practice of Messrs Vernon and Kinneir. Well-liked and well-respected, he served prosperous families and schools in the area, like Christ’s Hospital. In addition, he attended to local tradespeople, undertook Poor Law work and public vaccinations and held a part-time position at the infirmary. Foxhunting with the Crawley and Horsham Hunt remained his passion.

During the Second World War he again engaged in military service. At the end of the war he retired from medical practice to devote time to his hunting and art until his death in 1969. Geoffrey Sparrow’s evocative pictures represent a warm and witty commentary on his times. The work is of exceptional quality with a sense of movement and line which delights collectors, especially from Sussex.

A Scurry in a Pewy Country by Geoffrey Sparrow
A Scurry in a Pewy Country by Geoffrey Sparrow

I am excited that a private collection of some twenty-one examples of his work have been entered into Toovey’s Christmas auction of fine paintings and prints to be held on Wednesday 4th December 2013. Pre-sale auction estimates range from £50 to £500. One of my favourite entries is this book, An Illustrated Alphabet, estimate £300-500, with hand-painted illustrations by Sparrow in watercolour and gouache; the page “H for the Huntsman who rides a grey mare” seems particularly apt. The hunting theme continues with the dry-point etching A Scurry in a Pewy Country, estimate £150-250, which shows Sparrow’s skill as a printmaker.

Dr Geoffrey Sparrow’s work, like the man himself, is regarded fondly around Horsham and further afield. It is worth mentioning how fortunate we are that the wonderful Horsham Museum and Art Gallery has a fine collection of his work, as well as his war medals. For more information, visit www.horshammuseum.org

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 20th November 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Hester Bateman, 18th Century Entrepreneur and Silversmith

As the Industrial Revolution burst into life during the 18th century, a new professional class emerged, marking the birth of the middle class. Success for members of this social group was accompanied by a desire to give expression to their new wealth and position in society.

In the 18th century they were often referred to as the ‘middling sort’ and among this diverse group were a number of lady entrepreneurs. It took the intuition of one particular lady to notice the potential demand from this emerging professional class for aspirational silver; her name was Hester Bateman. (1708-1794). Hester was the mother of six children. In 1760 her husband, John Bateman, a maker of gold chains, died of tuberculosis, leaving her his tools in his will. Hester took over the family business and began to make silver objects. In 1761 she registered her first maker’s hallmark, an ‘HB’ in script, with Goldsmiths Hall in London. By the mid-1770s she had significantly expanded her family firm. Bateman pieces were often pierced and punched from thin gauge silver sheets using machines. Industrial manufacturing techniques allowed the firm to compete with those making Sheffield Plate pieces.

A set of three George II silver graduated tea caddies or condiment vases and covers by Nicholas Sprimont, London 1743
A set of three George II silver graduated tea caddies or condiment vases and covers by Nicholas Sprimont, London 1743

The finest silver in the mid-18th century set fashions and tastes. Regular readers of this column will remember the part played by the Chelsea porcelain manufactory in establishing the rococo taste in England. Chelsea founder Nicholas Sprimont (1716-1771) was born in Liège and apprenticed as silversmith to his uncle Nicholas Joseph Sprimont. He came to England in 1742 and worked as a silversmith until he established the Chelsea factory in 1745. His work as a silversmith is of the highest quality and today examples are to be found in The Royal Collection. He worked in silver for such a short time that his silver objects are rare. Take, for example, this set of three George II silver graduated tea caddies or condiment vases and covers by Nicholas Sprimont. Each cover has a tapering, foliate knop finial above a fluted, undulating rim. The pentagonal lobed bodies have oval guilloche borders above later-engraved crests, inscribed ‘Feroci Fortior’. The reeded, tapering bases are raised on spiral-fluted, undulating pentagonal feet. Hallmarked in London in 1743, they measure between 15cm and 14cm high and sold in a Toovey’s specialist silver auction for £7600.

Silver sweetmeat basket by Hester Bateman
A George III silver sweetmeat basket by Hester Bateman, London 1784

For the emerging professional class, objects as fine as these Nicholas Sprimont caddies were out of reach. Hester Bateman and her sons, Peter and Jonathan, expanded their range to include items like sweetmeat baskets, jugs, tea caddies, salvers and salt cellars in the neoclassical style. In addition, they continued to produce silver tableware. The silver sweetmeat basket shown here, which realised £550 at Toovey’s, illustrates the characteristic bright-cut engraving and beaded decoration so typical of their output.

Hester Bateman retired in 1790 but the business continued under the direction of her sons and family. She died on 16th September 1794. Her work and achievements are applauded by silver collectors and social historians alike. As a true 18th century manufacturing entrepreneur of the Industrial Revolution, Hester Bateman challenges our contemporary perceptions of women’s place in Georgian society and deserves to be celebrated.

Today, English silver has become one of the boom markets at Toovey’s with interest from collectors throughout Britain and the rest of the world, including the newly emerging professional class of China. Hester Bateman pieces are particularly popular with collectors in America.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 13th November 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Rupert Toovey’s articles in the West Sussex Gazette

Winston Churchill and Percy Cox at Chartwell

Every week Rupert Toovey, senior director of Toovey’s, writes an article for the West Sussex Gazette newspaper. If you would like to read an archive of Rupert’s articles you can do so on the Toovey’s blog by clicking here. You can always read Rupert’s articles first in the West Sussex Gazette. His article this week was on the fascinating Percy Cox archive to be offered for sale in Toovey’s auction of Paper Collectables on the 5th NovemberClick here to read the article.

Sir Winston Churchill and Chartwell

Winston Churchill and Percy Cox at Chartwell
Percy Cox OBE wearing a flat cap, standing behind Sir Winston Churchill at Chartwell, image from the Percy Cox Archive

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill bought Chartwell in 1922. It was to be home to the Churchill family over the next forty-three years. Toovey’s paper collectables specialist, Nicholas Toovey, has uncovered a small archive of photographs, letters, telegrams and notes, which document the Churchills’ relationship with their friend and estates manager, Percy Cox, OBE. The correspondence and images give a very personal insight into life at Chartwell. The Percy Cox Archive is to be auctioned in November at Toovey’s.

View from Chartwell
The view from Chartwell looking south over the gentle landscape of the Weald of Kent

Churchill’s youngest child, Lady Mary Soames, has written that her father was “captivated by Chartwell from the moment he set eyes on the valley, protected by the sheltering arm of beautiful beech woods… and by the house on the hillside”. As you stand on the terrace at Chartwell, you are presented with a southerly view over the gentle landscape of the Weald of Kent; it speaks of an older England. Unsurprising, then, that this scene so inspired our greatest war-time Prime Minister. Whenever the English find themselves under threat, they turn to their monarch, their church and their landscape; our nation’s identity is bound together by these timeless threads.

An hour from London, Chartwell between the wars hosted a cast which included politicians, scientists and intellectuals. Among these were Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Camrose, the powerful proprietors of The Daily Express and The Daily Telegraph, and T.E. Lawrence and Charlie Chaplin. Famously, debates after dinner would continue into the early hours.

Churchill’s fortune from writing was severely affected by the financial crash of 1929, which signalled the arrival of the Great Depression. Life at Chartwell was always accompanied by financial worries and these coloured Churchill’s wife, Clementine’s view of their country home. By 1946 there were concerns as to whether the Churchills would be able to continue living at Chartwell.

Winston Churchill always felt his roots were at Blenheim, where he was born in 1874. Blenheim had been given to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, by Queen Anne and a grateful nation after his victory at Blenheim in 1704. Lord Camrose felt it wrong that Winston Churchill, the great war-time leader, could lose his home. With resonances of the gift of Blenheim, he and a group of wealthy men anonymously purchased Chartwell, on the express understanding that the Churchills would continue living there undisturbed until the end of their days, after which it would be given to the National Trust.

Churchill was always influenced by the long shadow of history, mindful to heed the warnings the past offers to the present. Much of Churchill’s writing was historical. He employed researchers like Maurice Ashley and William Deakin and would draw on their notes. Whether preparing a manuscript for a book or a speech, he liked to work standing and to dictate, cigar in hand, as he paced the room, often late into the night. Once these notes were typed, he would engage in painstaking revision. His method of working gifts his writing with the immediacy of the spoken word and displays irony, rhetoric and an honest passion.

Churchill English-Speaking Peoples
Percy Cox’s set of Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples

Secure in his beloved Chartwell, he continued to write, working on his multi-volume war memoirs and his four-volume A History of The English-Speaking Peoples. The Percy Cox Archive also includes a first edition set of A History of The English-Speaking Peoples, published between 1956 and 1958, which has presentation inscriptions to Percy Cox. The worldwide syndication of these works made Winston Churchill a very wealthy man and all concerns about money vanished. Along with numerous acts of quiet generosity, it enabled Churchill to buy Chartwell Farm and a number of neighbouring farms. Nicholas Toovey comments, “The Percy Cox Archive relates to this post-war period and illustrates the fondness and respect in which the family held him. In particular, it casts light upon Mr Cox’s relationship with Winston and Clementine Churchill and their daughter Mary. Letters relating to the management of Churchill’s estates and invitations to dine at Chartwell and to attend Mary’s wedding with Lord Soames, together with photographs of Churchill and others, provide a very personal and poignant insight into their lives.”

The Percy Cox Archive contains some fifty items and is estimated to realise between £6000 and £8000. It will be auctioned at Toovey’s as part of our specialist sale of Paper Collectables on 5th November 2013. For more information, visit www.toovey’s.com or telephone 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 30th October 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Dalek is coming…

2D Adventures Daleks
Dalek artwork circa 1960 from the exhibition

Excitement is building amongst Whovians as the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who approaches. Fans of Doctor Who will know that in the stories it was the evil Davros who created the deadly Dalek race. However, it was in fact the writer, Terry Nation, who dreamt up the Daleks. But few will be aware that the man who gave the Daleks form was prop-designer and artist Raymond Cusick. Raymond Cusick lived in Horsham securing the town a place in the Doctor Who story. This important connection is being marked by an exhibition at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery of Doctor Who memorabilia including a Dalek! The exhibition, ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’, is the perfect half-term treat, entry is free and it runs until 1st January 2014.

We all know what a Dalek is but what sort of Doctor Who creature is a Whovian? In recent years a teenage generation have grouped themselves into fandoms. So if you can’t resist Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes you are a Sherlockian. But if the debate in your household is whether you are most looking forward to seeing Matt Smith, David Tennant or John Hurt as the Doctor, in the 50th Anniversary Special to be screened on 23rd November, then you are Whovians.

The exhibition is the inspiration of Horsham Museum Curator Jason Semmens who has been a fan of the show since he was three years old. “Doctor Who was the hero of a range of cartoon strips published in various comics and annuals from the mid-1960s onwards” Jason explains, “The artwork for the comics are much larger than the comic books and have real visual impact.” I ask him what his particular favourites are, he responds “The TV21 magazine Dalek cartoon strip from the 1960s is vibrant and fun and the weekly cartoon strips from 1980 with Tom Baker in them are also really good.”

For me the highlight of the exhibition is the Dalek shown here with Horsham District Council’s Head of Museums and Heritage, Jeremy Knight and Whovian, Emma Toovey. I still find them menacing. An episode of Doctor Who is guaranteed to make me jump out of my skin in fright. Laughing Emma says “You’re as frightening as the Doctor Who monsters when you do that Dad!” She has a point.

Jason Semmens’ favourite Doctors are Tom Baker and the earlier Patrick Troughton. Each generation will have their favourite Doctor but what unites us is our delight in the stories and our shared experience of hiding behind the sofa. For me the latest batch of Doctors have been exceptional with the alien quality of Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant’s emotion, passion and energy and Matt Smith’s compassion, courage, determination and humour, not to mention his Harris Tweed jacket and catch phrase “bowties are cool”, I could not agree with him more.

You don’t need a Tardis to travel back in time just a trip to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery as witnessed by Emma Toovey and K9 transported back to late Victorian Horsham’s P. Williams & Co pharmacy from West Street.

Many of us now come from generations where our shared memories are often caught up with TV and Film. The ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’ captures something of our own childhood stories brilliantly. Toys also reflect childhood memories. For example, model railways speak to a generation whose childhoods were defined by a passion for steam engines and an ambition to drive them. For the TV and Film generation toys as iconic as a James Bond 007 Corgi Aston Martin DB5, or a Corgi Batmobile, capture their imaginations in a similar way. Indeed Toovey’s toy sales are a boom market!

The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, according to published information, is the third most visited heritage attraction in Sussex. This is an extraordinary achievement which speaks of the importance all of us place on our common history and heritage. The economic impact of these visitors is profoundly important to Horsham and the broader Horsham District’s businesses and economy. Councillors like Jonathan Chowen understand this. Thanks to them The Horsham District Council continues its important involvement in supporting the museum, the hard work and dedication of its Curator, Jason Semmens and Head of Museums and Heritage, Jeremy Knight. All involved deserve to be applauded.

Be transported back in time this half term at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery and delight in ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’. Don’t miss that marvellous Dalek – entry is free! For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org or telephone the museum on 01403 254959.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 23rd October 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.