Runnymede Park Collection to be Sold at Toovey’s

Grade-I listed Runnymede Park house in Surrey

A remarkable collection of 18th and 19th century furniture and antiques from Runnymede Park near Egham and Windsor in Surrey is to be sold in a series of specialist auctions at Toovey’s Washington salerooms here in West Sussex on 7th and 8th September.

It is hard to imagine today how many important country houses were torn down in the years after the Second World War.

And yet in my view the English Country House is one of our nation’s greatest contributions to human civilization. Their assemblance of furniture and objects have a particular beauty born of the passions of their owners, importantly, English Country House taste is also comfortable.

The current house was built in the classical taste by Samuel Wyatt and was commissioned by the Jebb family. It is set in an elevated position offering fine views across the park and was constructed between 1789 and 1792.

Runnymede Park was on the brink of demolition and would have been a perfect candidate for inclusion in the V&A’s Destruction of the Country House exhibition in 1974 had it not been for the dedicated patronage of Mr and Mrs Robert Collins.
They painstakingly repaired the fabric of this elegant Grade-I listed house and then set about furnishing it with period antiques and furniture in the English Country House taste. Their passion for collecting was as strong as their passion for the house.

The entrance hall with its stone floor runs the entire depth of the house and was punctuated by a fine set of mahogany hall chairs painted with crests which lent perspective to the vista of the park beyond. The main rooms of this classical house lead off from the hall, each richly furnished with the items now entered for sale.

The Drawing Room at Runnymede Park House

The collection is a testament to their unerring eye for quality and taste. It includes wonderful library, drawing room, dining, and bedroom furniture as well as lights and decorative antiques.

Amongst my favourites are a pair of large Regency lemon gilded pier mirrors with eagle surmounts, a series of elegant pier tables and library bookcases.

The interiors at Runnymede Park captured the best of English Country House taste – textural and eclectic, reflecting the taste and interests of a family and the patchwork quilt of their stories and interests. There was nothing of the austerity of minimalism, rather an expression of comfortable, timeless taste complimenting this fine Georgian house.

Click here to view the collection online.

Rendel Williams Collection

Lot 3125 – Chailey delivery cart

Toovey’s are delighted to announce the single-owner collection of postcards from the estate of the late Rendel Williams (11 September 1941 to 12 December 2021).

Rendel Williams was a geography lecturer at the University of Sussex with a wide range of academic and personal interests connected to the Sussex landscape and history. His initial interest in collecting picture postcards was stimulated by academic research on coastal erosion where he was able to use evidence from postcards to estimate how fast the chalk cliffs had retreated over the past century. As a nature reserve manager with the Sussex Wildlife Trust he also used evidence from old postcards to show how the vegetation of the South Downs was changing and how sheep grazing needed to be reinstated to restore areas of open grassland suitable for rare orchids and butterflies.

Lot 3165 Sheep-shearing at Fulking

His professional interest in postcards soon became an absorbing hobby. At first, he limited himself to collecting images of agricultural scenes, but his interests spread to cover landscapes, buildings, transport and tourism, always in the county of Sussex. His collection grew to over 10,000 postcards.

Lot 3131 -One of a group of four postcards of Suffragists at Clayton

In studying the postcards, he became interested in the lives of the photographers the publishers who made them. He researched the background of all of the publishers and photographers in his collection, for which biographical details can be found on his website www.sussexpostcards.info. The website has become a well used historical and geographical record and will be preserved in posterity.

Lot 3230 Steam Roller accident at Littlehampton

Rendel gained great pleasure from collecting postcards and saw each one as a puzzle requiring historical and biographical interpretation. He spent many happy hours scouring postcard fairs and auctions for unusual and rare images. Meticulously assembled over more than three decades, you now have the opportunity to purchase his collection grouped into lots by locality and theme.

Toovey’s and the Williams Family would like to thank Bob Cairns for his kind assistance in sorting the collection.

The online catalogue for the first part of the collection is available here.

Rare Egyptian Stela Grave Marker Discovered in Sussex

Detail of an Egyptian grave marker for the judge Nebnenjeti, circa 1850 BC

This week I am in the company of Toovey’s Antiquities specialist, Mark Stonard, who has just discovered a rare Egyptian stela from the Middle Kingdom which dates from circa 1850 BC.

He explains that a stela is a slab used in the ancient world primarily as a grave marker but also for dedication, commemoration, and demarcation.

The Middle Kingdom saw a flourishing of the arts and Egyptian power under the Pharaohs. It lasted from 1975 BC to 1640 BC. The Middle Kingdom was the second peak period of the Ancient Egyptian civilization (the other two being the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom). During this time all of Egypt was united under a single government and Pharaoh.

The owner, a private Sussex gentleman, discovered the grave marker amongst his late Father’s possessions. Mark says “The family had always known of it and brought it to Toovey’s to be authenticated together with other antiquities including flint axes which had been acquired by the gentleman’s grandfather.”
He continues “It is unusual to have this quality of pigmentation and colouring remaining. It is of a more standard type of grave marker, so someone from middle society, the higher classes would have had black marble or black basalt grave markers while this is a sandstone example, easier to carve and easier to produce. But, it’s still an astonishing survivor.”

An Egyptian grave marker for the judge Nebnenjeti, circa 1850 BC

The script is a standard formulaic offering from the King to the funerary deity Ptah-Seker-Osiris of bread, beer, meat, fowl, clothing, alabaster and “every good and pure thing on which a god lives”. This is followed by the name of the deceased, Nebnetjeru, whose title shows that he was a judge. It also tells how his name is kept alive by his beloved son who recites the offering.
Beneath this inscription we see a table laid with other offerings including a lotus flower. He and his wife are shown on one side with his son and a daughter on the other.

I comment that it is remarkable that you can even pick out their eyes with that crisp white. Mark agrees “Amazing really, they’re beautifully drawn. There is something very contemporary in the depiction of the figures. It is quite possible that this was fashioned into a wall or a shrine inside a tomb. This is an exciting thing and almost 4000 years old.”

I ask Mark what the pre-sale estimate is for this remarkable object and he responds “£15,000 to £20,000.” The Egyptian grave marker will be auctioned on 7th July and entries are still being invited for this specialist auction of antiquities.

Dame Vera Lynn Jewellery to be Sold in Aid of Charity

A number of pieces of Dame Vera Lynn’s jewellery are to be sold by auction in aid of charity at Toovey’s Washington salerooms in West Sussex on Wednesday 16th March 2022.

Over many years I have admired and supported Dame Vera Lynn and the the work of her Charitable Trust.

During the Second World War Dame Vera was known as the Forces Sweetheart, a singer of undoubtable talent she became an icon of hope in the face of the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges of the Second World War.

In recent days there has been an almost tangible, sharp, intake of breath across a world shocked by Vladimir Putin’s actions. Against the backdrop of courageous protests in his own country Putin has brought his will and the Russian military machine to bear on Ukraine and her people waging war in Europe.

Dame Vera Lynn was always outward facing and generous using her gifts to make a difference to people’s lives, especially in the communities she was passionate about – those who served their country bravely in our Armed Forces, children with disabilities, and of course more recently those she described as ‘the silent soldiers’ in our marvellous NHS. It was a generous example.

It is that ability to press on, to do what is right in the service of others where we stand that gives dignity and purpose to our lives whether our inspiration is sacred or secular. And the more of us who actively choose this path the more evil is pushed back and hope is restored.

Dame Vera Lynn’s large diamond set heart shaped pendant locket being sold to benefit the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust

The heart remains one of the definitive symbols of love and amongst the items entered for sale from the collection is a large late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket pavé set with old cut diamonds. It was during the Victorian period that the popularity of heart shaped jewellery really reached its heights influenced by the tastes of Queen Victoria. Dame Vera’s locket is a fine example. The smaller diamonds accentuate the principle stone at its centre within a shimmering field. The back is glazed and hinged with a locket compartment. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £7000-£10000.

Alongside the pendant locket are a number of rings, bracelets, necklaces and brooches from her collection.

Dame Vera Lynn and her husband Harry Lewis

Speaking to Vera Lynn’s daughter, Ginny, about the sale she said “Mummy’s jewellery reflected points of love in her life. Her charitable work was very precious to her too, so it is very fitting that the pieces of jewellery we have entered for auction at Toovey’s will benefit the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust.” Through her life, work and the legacy of the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust Vera Lynn remains an icon of hope.

To be notified as soon as the illustrated online catalogue goes live this weekend register at www.tooveys.com/auction-alerts or visit www.tooveys.com/online-catalogue.