The Mystery Towers or Naval Giants at Southwick.

Postcards of the Mystery Towers at Southwick. Lot 3046 in Toovey

There is little doubt that Britain’s coastline has played a huge part in its success as a great nation. It has acted as a vital gateway for exploration, trade and harvest as well as an outline that marks it apart from the rest of Europe. Unsurprisingly it has also played an important part in times of war.

In reaction to the growing losses of the allied fleet through the onslaught of German U-boat attacks and fears of a German invasion, British Admiralty sought to construct a series of towers that would stretch all the way from Dungeness, Kent, to Cap Gris Nez off the Western Coast of France.

These floating forts were designed by civilian architect Mr G. Menzies and measured over 90ft high, they were intended to be united by steel boom nets and protected by mines. The towers were capable of providing a gun mounted defence system that could be manned by anything up to 100 servicemen. Work on the so-called naval giants started in June 1918, including two at Southwick, near Shoreham, Sussex. The understandable secrecy of such a project in wartime gave the structures the local nicknames of the ‘Mystery Towers’. With Armistice in November 1918, the plan never came to total fruition. Several of the towers did get built, including the two at Southwick. The First of these was towed out by steam tug on 12th September 1920 to become the Nab Tower off the coast of the Isle of Wight, the other was eventually dismantled. Locals at the time thought this was rather lucky, as it is rumoured the second was built 6ft too wide to leave the harbour mouth.

Whilst today no visible remains of these important local monuments survives, their memory lives-on through the vintage picture postcard which document this interesting folly of the First World War.

On Tuesday 1st November 2011 Lot 3046 will be going under the gavel at Toovey’s Spring Gardens auction rooms in the Sale of Paper Collectables. This lot consists of two albums containing 247 important postcards relating to Southwick and its environs, the albums include 25 postcards featuring the rise of the Mystery Towers (selection pictured above, click for larger image, for more images of the lot click here), most by local photographer Joseph Gurney Ripley. Offered in the specialist sale with a presale estimate of £1200-1800, these postcards brilliantly bring to life this moment in Sussex history.

Samuel Pepys & Charles II document to be sold at auction

Samuel Pepys and Charles II document

ADVANCE NOTICE: To be offered in our forthcoming auction of Paper Collectables on 1st November 2011.

Charles II, King of England, and Samuel Pepys. A manuscript document on vellum in a secretarial hand, signed by King Charles II and countersigned by Samuel Pepys. Whitehall, London: dated 12th April 1678. 1p. folio (222 x 330mm.) The document addressed to ‘Captn. Cyprian Southack’ appointing him in command of the ‘Turky Friggott’ [probably the Turkey Frigate], with remnant of seal. Presale estimate £2500-3500. To view the lot click here.

The timing of the document suggests that Southack may have been commissioned as part of a larger force being assembled to deal with possible problems with the French in the West Indies, although this is supposition as no mention of a mission is contained within the document. Captain Southack was the father of Captain Cyprian Southack (1662-1745) who gained well-deserved fame for his cartographical work, and for the various maritime engagements which he took part in, or led, whilst employed in the colony of Massachusetts.

Toovey’s sold a similar document in a specialist auction at their salerooms on 17th May 2011, for £5300, which can be seen by clicking here.

Dora Gordine Exhibition at Worthing Museum

Dora Gordine and Richard

8 October 2011 to 21 January 2012

Fearless and feisty Dora Gordine stormed the art world of Europe from the 1920s to the 1950s, producing sculptures of nudes, portraits and public commissions. She also became involved in the early use of mass media advertising for the cosmetics industry. This is a rare opportunity to see this unique loan of over 25 sculptures, drawings, photographs, letters and magazines from Dorich House Museum and private lenders. The exhibition tours to Estonia in 2012 and Singapore in 2013. Guest Curator Brenda Martin from Dorich House Museum said: The social history of the 20th century is told through Gordine’s extraordinary life as an artist – wild Paris of the 1920s, exotic Singapore in the 1930s, war torn London of the 1940s and flamboyant America in the 1950s. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of talks and workshops for adults and family groups sponsored by Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers and Thomas Eggar LLP, a leading law firm in the south. John Bunker, Thomas Eggar LLP partner said: Thomas Eggar LLP Worthing is pleased to support the Dora Gordine exhibition at the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery. It’s part of our contribution to the vibrant life of the town. At the same time we are delighted to be a joint sponsor with Toovey’s. The collection brings something a bit different, some new cultural life to the town and with Worthing Museum being in a great central position it is one of those features of our community which is easy to take for granted. We’d wish to encourage the use of this valuable resource for Worthing, starting with this exhibition. Discover more about Gordine and her link to Worthing Museum by visiting the Museum’s website.

Nicholas Toovey visits the Brighton Art Fair

Claire Palastanga's Black Heart Dish

The Brighton Art Fair held its Private View this evening and opens the doors again on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of September. Nicholas Toovey had his usual snoop around the show viewing the contemporary art on offer. Familiar faces from the Contemporary Art Auctions were present and offered some of the highlights of the show. Dan Bennett was showing his amazing work inspired by phosphenes – the intricate swirling patterns that form before the inner eye. Natalie Martin had two wonderful depictions of the West Pier, Brighton on display, whilst Sheila Marlborough’s bright and vivid landscapes leapt from the white background of her stand. It is always a pleasure to have a chat with Eve Shepherd especially when you can admire her fascinating bronze ‘Broken’ in the process. It was also nice to see some ceramics on display, with Contemporary Art Auction regular Claire Palastanga having arguably the most subtle but eye-catching display in the Corn Exchange. A heart-shaped dish similar to the one pictured was truly beautiful in the flesh – unsurprisingly she had already made her first sale by the time Nicholas got to say hello. Sarah Young, Bill Phillip and Frances Doherty made up the other exhibitors that can regularly be found at Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auctions. Other artists that have not participated in the auction before, included Christine Tongue, Claire Bibaud and Gillian Bates, whilst the two printmakers Janet Brooke and Flora McLachlan are well worth seeking out at the 93 stand art fair. For more information visit

Artistic Versatility: Sarah Young

'Pegasus' collagraph with gold leaf by Sarah Young

Sarah Young is a West Sussex based illustrator and printmaker who isn’t afraid to diversify to express her creative vision. Her prints are created by hand and are instantly recognisable and as an illustrator, she has worked for many leading publishers. Nicholas Toovey tells us more

04 'Brighton Rock' linocut by Sarah Young
'Brighton Rock' linocut by Sarah Young

Born in Surrey, Sarah’s mother was a fashion designer during the 1950s, her father was a sculptor and art teacher at the Reigate School of Art and Design. As a child she recalls that she was always very interested in the Illustration Diploma Shows at her father’s school. Her creative parents did not dictate her career path, but they did allow her the freedom to pursue an occupation of her choice. She chose to attend a two year foundation course at Reigate, after which she moved to Brighton and obtained a degree in illustration at the College of Art, under the tutorage of Raymond Briggs. Sarah cannot recall ever making a conscious decision to become an artist and illustrator; she purely followed a path that she felt was best suited to her own personal skills and interests. She can however remember writing and illustrating books as a child for her younger sister, perhaps this is when her decision was subconsciously made.

'Cock' linocut
'Cock' linocut by Sarah Young
 'Barbara Hepworth's Garden, St Ives' oil on board
'Barbara Hepworth's Garden, St Ives' oil on board by Sarah Young

Whilst studying in Brighton she fell in love with the town, particularly the ‘Old Brighton’. She decided to stay, in part due to convenience and in part because ‘it just felt like home’. Sarah did not work as an illustrator immediately, so to help pay the bills, she occasionally took to the streets busking by drawing on pavements. She enjoyed the freedom but felt there must be a more interesting and creative way of making a living whilst retaining some of that sense of liberty. She decided to make a travelling puppet theatre with Jon Tutton. They toured pub gardens, tea rooms, parks and museums with their theatre that was meant equally for children and adults. Sarah built up her portfolio of illustration work whilst also creating jewellery, toys and prints with the same techniques used making the puppet theatre. This creation of a spiralling miscellany of objects has remained with her throughout her career.

'Minotaur' Illustration from 'Greek Myths'
'Minotaur' Illustration by Sarah Young from 'Greek Myths'

Today, Sarah works from her home by the sea. As an illustrator she has worked for an array of famous publishers, including Harper Collins and Dorling Kindersley. She has illustrated ‘20 Sussex Gardeners’, ‘20 Sussex Gardens’ and ‘20 Sussex Churches’ for the Snake River Press and has contributed to the artistic journal ‘Nobrow’. In 2010, she illustrated ‘Greek Myths’ by Ann Turnbull published by Walker Books. A work perfectly suited to her subject matter which often incorporates folklore and mythology, the book is her tour de force as an illustrator to date. This year her book cover artwork for ‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath was shortlisted for the V & A Illustration Award.

As an artist, Sarah uses a variety of different techniques to create her prints which are hand-pulled at the Ink Spot Press, Brighton. She creates relief prints cut from vinyl, lino and wood, in addition to silkscreens, etchings and collagraphs (a print made from a collage), often incorporating many different methods in a single print. Four years ago she started painting original works in unison with her prints and illustrative work. She has also recently created mixed media dolls and a range of four tea-towels that can be turned into soft toys or doorstops. Sarah has always loved sculpture and is constantly drawn towards three-dimensional qualities, even within her two-dimensional work. Does Sussex inspire her? Without question, she would like to do more prints based around Sussex, both landscape and folklore inspired to add to her existing selection of Brighton. Sarah’s next project is a series of prints inspired by pub names for the Penfold Press. She also plans ‘one day very soon’ to wire in the kiln she bought several years ago and start making ceramic sculpture.

The artist, Sarah Young

Sarah’s work can often be found at Emma Mason Gallery, Eastbourne, Castor & Pollux, Brighton, and at the bookshop in Pallant House, Chichester. On Friday 23rd, Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September, Sarah will be joining over 100 other artists at the annual Brighton Art Fair in the Corn Exchange, Brighton. As the only major contemporary art fair in the South-East it offers a fantastic opportunity to meet and buy affordable original art direct from the artists.

Many people might think that she flits between projects, but for Sarah this is the stimulus for her creativity, with each different venture influencing another. It is this multifaceted approach that makes Sarah’s work interesting, allowing her the freedom to keep her mind and work fresh and exciting. The overall output is united by her personal expression, creating her familiar, signature style.

For more visit

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in September 2011.