The West Horsley Place Collection

West Horsley Place – Photo © Richard Lewisohn

Toovey’s are pleased to announce that our forthcoming specialist sale of books on 15th May includes a collection of volumes from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.Lots 3001-3179 in this auction have been consigned from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.

The estate was inherited in 2014 by Bamber Gascoigne from his great aunt, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. In 2015 Bamber gave ownership of the house and estate to a newly created charitable trust: the Mary Roxburghe Trust. The Trust’s mission is to restore the Grade I listed manor house (currently on Historic England’s ‘Heritage At Risk Register’) and its estate, with the aim of creating a vibrant centre for the performing and visual arts as well as the teaching of crafts. An expert on prints and the writer of many books himself, Bamber is popularly known as the original host of University Challenge. While not living in the house itself, he has been overseeing its conservation and transformation, which has included the building within the grounds of the 700-seat Theatre in the Woods by Grange Place Opera, who hold a summer opera season at West Horsley Place. Funds raised from this sale of selected volumes from the library will be used towards the ongoing restoration work, all part of the Mary Roxburghe Trust’s long-term plan. For more information on the house and the work of the Mary Roxburghe Trust, visit www.westhorsleyplace.org.

The Library at West Horsley Place

The library was assembled by Robert Milnes-Crewe, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945) and his father Richard Monckton-Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton (1809-1885). Lord Houghton was a great man of letters, a poet, politician and patron of literature. He wrote the first biography of Keats in 1848, was a close friend of Alfred Lord Tennyson and helped to make Ralph Waldo Emerson become known in Britain. His particular interest was in French literature, especially of the revolutionary period.

Lord Houghton’s son, Lord Crewe, (bookplate above) was a Liberal statesman, who served as Secretary of State for India between 1910 and 1915. He was also Leader of the House of Lords, where he played a very significant and progressive role in removing their own veto, as well as various positions within the education sector. He was a contemporary of Winston Churchill, friend of H.H. Asquith and son-in-law to Prime Minister Lord Rosebery. The astonishing library of books, collected over generations, mainly reflects Lord Crewe’s wide interests, including his literary friendships with war-time poets, his travels to India and the East, his political career and his cultural connections. The books provide an intimate window onto the period and give the sense of a decent, moderate man who was administratively overseeing considerable change.

“Sorting through and cataloguing the books of both father and son has been an absolute pleasure. It’s been a chance to speculate on the changes England underwent from Victorian times, through the trauma of a World War and into a changed 20th century” says Toovey’s Book Specialist Charlie Howe.

The collection will be offered at Toovey’s Spring Gardens rooms on May 15th 2018. View the collection via the online catalogue here.

Nellie Lenson-Smith Collection offered at Toovey’s

Nellie Lenson-Smith sign at Toovey's
Nellie Lenson-Smith sign at Toovey’s (Part Lot 2519)

Many items in our forthcoming March auction were consigned from the estate of the late Nellie Lenson-Smith (1928-2017). Further items from her estate will be offered in future sales.

A late 19th century enamelled copper rectangular panel by John William Bailey titled 'Winslow's dog - Champion' from the Nellie Lenson-Smith collection.
A late 19th century enamelled copper rectangular panel by John William Bailey titled ‘Winslow’s dog – Champion’ from the Nellie Lenson-Smith collection. (Lot 2565)

Nellie Lenson-Smith was born in Aix-la-Chappelle. Her mother was a Russian aristocrat who had fled her homeland during the 1917 revolution. Nellie grew up in Germany and Austria and was educated in Switzerland during the war. The last years of conflict, however, saw her interred in concentration camps until liberated by the Americans in 1945. She subsequently went to university in Paris, married notable pilot Ben Lenson DFC and became a British national in 1952. Ben’s post-war position as a chief pilot for El Al Israel Airlines enabled them to travel widely and they enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle. Nellie went on to work as a continuity director in the film business for a number of years.

A late 19th century Black Forest carved softwood three bottle tantalus from the Lenson-Smith Collection
A late 19th century Black Forest carved softwood three bottle tantalus from the Nellie Lenson-Smith Collection (Lot 2501)

Nellie and Ben divorced in 1976 and Nellie pursued a career in antiques. She met and married her second husband, Roy, and they traded together as Lenson-Smith over the next four decades, specializing in decorative objects. They had several shops and were regular exhibitors at the major antiques fairs. Roy died in 2015 but Nellie was still active in the business up to her final year.

Nellie Lenson-Smith was, by all accounts, quite a character and she is remembered fondly by many in the antiques trade.

View the collection by clicking here.

Ref: Obituaries, Nellie Lenson-Smith, Antiques Trade Gazette 2283, 18/3/17

Ancient Chinese Jade Ceremonial Blade Discovered

A rare archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th - 15th century BC) with important collectors’ labels, inscribed with a translation of the engraved Chinese calligraphy which reads: ‘In the Royal 12th year in the 1st Moon, and the fortunate 1st day of the King whilst staying in the Capital caused to be made this blade of jade. May it be for perpetual use.’
A rare archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th – 15th century BC) with important collectors’ labels, inscribed with a translation of the engraved Chinese calligraphy which reads: ‘In the Royal 12th year in the 1st Moon, and the fortunate 1st day of the King whilst staying in the Capital caused to be made this blade of jade. May it be for perpetual use.’

A rare and important archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th – 15th century BC) has been discovered by Toovey’s specialist, Mark Stonard. This remarkable object formed part of the collection of the late Fred Clark, a gifted and meticulous antiquarian, whose collector’s label it bears.

It is believed that Fred Clark bought it in the years immediately after the Second World War. The blade has an older hand written paper label which offers a translation of the Chinese calligraphy engraved into the jade and also a printed paper segment which reads ‘Beasley Collection’.

It is always the cause of some excitement when an archaic piece surfaces bearing the name of the early 20th century collector Harry Geoffrey Beasley (1882-1939).

Between 1895 and 1939 Beasley put together one of the largest collections of ethnographic material in Britain. The collection was formed of more than 10,000 objects from Asia, Africa, Scandinavia, and across the world. In the years after Beasley’s death in 1939 the majority of the collection was donated to leading British Museums.

The Chinese have always prized jade more highly than gold. This hard translucent stone has, over the centuries, been worked into decorative and ritual objects as well as ceremonial weapons.

Jade was worn by kings and nobles in life and was buried with them, affording the material a high status and associations with immortality.

The Chinese way of life was based on a combination of faith, tradition and ethics which bound families and communities together. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), emphasized the moral responsibility that accompanies authority. Confucius established a school with a radical new principal of accepting students of sufficient intelligence regardless of their background or ability to pay. He combined this belief in meritocracy with a faith in the generous order of a hierarchical society. The hierarchical principles expressed in Confucianism may, perhaps, give some insight into the use of this jade blade. A ruler had a right to obedience and respect but equally had a duty to act justly in the best interests of his subjects. Many academics believe that jade objects like this blade were symbols of office. If this is correct it is probable that blades of this type were used in a similar way to ceremonial jade Kuei tablets of the period. A high ranking courtier would have held the blade to his mouth and spoken through it when addressing the Emperor.

When you hold this ancient ceremonial blade you become aware of the exquisite workmanship employed in its making. The balance and line of the blade work in concert with the patterns in the jade. It has the power to move you and a particular, vital quality to it.

This late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty jade ceremonial blade has just returned from exhibition at the International Asian Art week in London where it attracted much attention and is expected to realise thousands of pounds when it is auctioned at Toovey’s specialist Asian Art sale on Thursday 30th November 2017.

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.

The Coin Collection of the Late Frederick Sydney Clark

Fred Clark (1923-2016)
Fred Clark (1923-2016)

Fred Clark, as he was always known, was born to publicans in South London. Sometime later, the whole family moved to Seaford in East Sussex.

Fred’s greatest passion in life was collecting and, following the family move, he loved nothing more than field-walking in Seaford and on the Peacehaven Downs. These areas were rich in fossils and prehistoric flints. Such was his passion for collecting that he would, on occasions, ride all the way to Suffolk on his BSA Bantam motorbike, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Dr William Allen Sturge and those of his great friend, the collector Dr Hugh Fawcett, who was well-known for his lithic collections.

Lot 892 a Byzantine Empire Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine (610-641AD) gold solidus, the obverse with two busts, Constantinople mint.
Lot 892: A Byzantine Empire Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine (610-641AD) gold solidus, the obverse with two busts, Constantinople mint.

Once again the family moved, this time to Woking in Surrey, and in the 1960s Fred decided to open a shop in nearby Guildford selling collectables. These included fossils, minerals, prehistoric tools and coins. His shop was to become very popular with collectors and he continued to trade there until he retired in the mid-1980s.

Following his retirement, he moved to Worthing, where he stayed for many years until he sadly passed away following a short illness.

A Roman Empire Balbinus (238AD) antoninianus, the reverse with clasped hands beneath 'Concordia Augg'.
Lot 807: A Roman Empire Balbinus (238AD) antoninianus, the reverse with clasped hands beneath ‘Concordia Augg’.

Fred Clark was meticulous with recording. Every artefact he found would be written on with a location and his monogram ‘FC’, which remains well-known by academics and collectors to this day.

Fred formed his coin collection predominantly during the 1960s and 1970s.

Leo Genn Archive For Sale at Auction

Lot 3271 Leo Genn Archive
Lot 3271 Leo Genn Archive

A large archive of material collected by Leo Genn (1905-1978), all concerning the investigation and prosecution of war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946. The archive comprises Genn’s original copies of the signed witness and prisoner statements, photographic evidence and images of the defendants, case files and other evidence. The majority focuses on Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps, including statements and photographs of the defendants Irma Grese, Hilde Lohbauer, Karl Schmitt, Walte Steuer, Franz Harich, Jonas Levi and Willy Jong and others. Also included are Leo Genn’s identity tags and an army-issue canvas bag, in which the archive was discovered.

Lot 3271 Courtroom Scene
Lot 3271 Photogrpah of a Courtroom Scene included in the Archive

Leo Genn studied law at Cambridge and was a qualified barrister, but he also enjoyed a successful career in film and theatre. He volunteered his legal knowledge to the British Army unit involved in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war crimes perpetrated at the Belsen concentration camp, and subsequently became an assistant prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.

One of the many photographs included in the archive of Irma Grese and Hilde Lohbauer