Celebrating Art, Heritage and Community in West Sussex

The High Sheriff of West Sussex with Jeremy Knight and some of the volunteers at The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
The High Sheriff of West Sussex with Jeremy Knight and some of the volunteers at The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

Last week I accompanied the High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, as she visited the ‘William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion’ exhibition at Petworth House and The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, celebrating art and heritage in our county.

Lady Emma is the current custodian of Parham House and is passionate about art and heritage in West Sussex.

I explain to Lady Emma how excited I am to see the National Trust daring to put on an exhibition of national importance which speaks of, and is displayed in, the context of William Blake’s story here in Sussex. She agrees and congratulates Andrew Loukes, the National Trust’s exhibition manager and curator in Petworth, on this jewel like exhibition and his work. ‘William Blake in Sussex’ is the sixth in a series of annual exhibitions curated by Andrew directly relating to Petworth’s remarkable collections of art and to Sussex.

In an age when our nation is in danger of losing her historic, diverse regional identities with homogenised housing and High Streets it has never been more important that we keep alive the unique characteristics and stories of our nation’s counties, towns, countryside and historic houses.

The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, with Andrew Loukes at Petworth House
The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, with Andrew Loukes at Petworth House

As we explore the exhibition Andrew Loukes weaves together the central threads of William Blake’s art and writing with the formative time that this revolutionary artist spent in Sussex, connecting the artist’s work with our landscape and the lives of his patrons and friends.

We journey from Petworth through Sussex villages and countryside to Horsham’s Museum & Art Gallery in the Causeway.

Under Jeremy Knight’s leadership the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery has become one of the most visited art and heritage attractions in West Sussex. His reputation and the exhibitions he puts on continues to attract the attention of the Tate Gallery and other national institutions. The Horsham District Council’s continued commitment to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is deserving of praise. Jeremy has had an enormous influence on the promotion of culture and heritage across the Horsham District.

In the museum he balances the public’s appetite for art with an ability to display our local social and economic history in creative and unique ways. Trades and shops now lost to Horsham and the District are recreated with real windows into bygone workshops and businesses.

Jeremy Knight is a modern antiquarian; passionate about the use of objects in telling stories from our past. He stands against the current concerning trend of removing objects and labels from our nation’s museum displays.

Jeremy has been the curator at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery for thirty years. He explains to Lady Emma how vital the volunteers are to the success of the museum. He says “We have over sixty volunteers ranging in age from nineteen to nearly ninety – they work on everything from gardening, to making fittings for exhibitions, cataloguing, researching collections, digital recording and local history, as well as guiding.” The quality of community amongst the volunteers and their fond respect for Jeremy quickly comes to light in their conversations with the High Sheriff as they gather in the museum’s library and she celebrates their work.

Our visits highlight the importance of generous, long-term leadership and service, in preserving the history and art of our county, qualities which Andrew Loukes and Jeremy Knight both share.

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.

William Blake: Sussex and the New Jerusalem

William Blake, ‘Blake’s Cottage at Felpham’, plate 36 from Milton a Poem, etching and watercolour © The British Museum, London
William Blake, ‘Blake’s Cottage at Felpham’, plate 36 from Milton a Poem, etching and watercolour © The British Museum, London

This week I am revisiting the exceptional William Blake in Sussex exhibition at Petworth House. Many visitors will be surprised to find that many of Blake’s most famous jewel like works are intimate in scale contrasting with their often epic themes.

Amongst these is the preface to Blake’s ‘Milton a Poet’ which was inspired by his time at Felpham and begun here in Sussex. The preface, titled ‘And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time’, measures just 9 x 7 inches and is better known to us today as ‘Jerusalem’. It embodies a creative freedom which responds to the pastoral, natural beauty of rural England whose spirit was awakened in Blake in Sussex.

William Blake, ‘Preface, plate 2 from Milton a Poem’, etching and watercolour © The British Museum, London
William Blake, ‘Preface, plate 2 from Milton a Poem’, etching and watercolour © The British Museum, London

At the heart of the poem is a questioning of the myth that Jesus Christ briefly visited these Isles with his Uncle Joseph of Arimathea, a tin dealer, making the new Jerusalem, heaven on earth, here in Britain.

The poem builds on that wonderful passage from the Bible in chapter 21 of the Book of Revelations where Creation is perfected and renewed as heaven and earth are united:

‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Behold, the dwelling of God is with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”’

Blake must have had this passage in his mind when he wrote to Thomas Butts shortly after his arrival in Sussex: ‘the sweet air and the voices of the winds, trees and birds and the odours of our happy ground makes [Felpham] a dwelling for immortals.’ Blake’s language articulates an earthly paradise contrasting with his lifelong experience of the environs of London.

A little over 100 years later in response to the huge casualties of the Battle of the Somme and declining morale Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, edited a patriotic anthology of poems titled ‘The Spirit of Man’. Amongst these was the then little known poem by William Blake titled ‘And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time’ better known to us today as ‘Jerusalem’.

In 1916 Bridges invited Hubert Parry to set William Blake’s poem ‘Jerusalem’ to music and the hymn became a national anthem. Jerusalem’s success inculcated redemption, renewal and hope into our national psyche.

‘Milton a Poet’ has an image titled ‘Blake’s Cottage at Felpham’. It depicts Blake visited by the figure of ‘Inspiration’ in the garden of his cottage. The narrative forms part of a very personal mythology of his own creation. Felpham continued to inform the pastoral qualities of his Arcadian figures depicted under a ‘tranquil moon’ and ‘setting sun’ in his later work.

I am delighted that Toovey’s are headline sponsors of this important show which so beautifully connects William Blake’s art and life to Sussex. This is an exceptional exhibition and The National Trust’s Andrew Loukes, Curator of William Blake in Sussex, is deserving of our thanks.

The exhibition runs at Petworth House in West Sussex until the 25th March 2018. Entry is by pre-booked timed tickets which can be purchased online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth. Discounted tickets are available to National Trust Members.

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 Working Life of Horsham Folk

William Hogarth’s engraving ‘The Tailor Apprentice’ from ‘Industry and Idleness’, circa 1747
William Hogarth’s engraving ‘The Tailor Apprentice’ from ‘Industry and Idleness’, circa 1747

With the current debate and concerns about the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence on jobs Horsham Museum’s latest exhibition on work could not be more relevant.

The exhibition, ‘All work and no play – the working life of Horsham folk’, charts the evolution of business and work in the Horsham District over the last two hundred years against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries to the present day.

This exhibition provides a hopeful message from the past and illustrates how work has changed and evolved over the centuries.

Both science and theology acknowledge that we live in a perfecting Universe and we affect and can have a positive part to play in that perfecting through our stewardship and work. Work is fundamentally important to our wellbeing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It informs our human experience of the world and our identities.

Horsham Saddler, William Albery © Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
Horsham Saddler, William Albery © Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

Amongst my favourite images in the exhibition is a photograph of William Albery working on a saddle in his workshop. Hand crafted objects are still highly valued today. He apprenticed to his father’s Saddlers firm in 1878 and was running the business by the time he was twenty-one. William Albery was a man with a keen social conscience and a member of the Labour Party. In 1929 he successfully campaigned to become a Horsham District Councillor. He was known for his care for those down on their luck including the shoe maker and folk singer, Henry Burstow.

William Albery was also a keen historian and the horse related Lorinery items which he collected are on permanent display at the museum.

The staff at Coolhurst
The staff at Coolhurst

The lives and work of the English country house have been characterised in Downton Abbey. The photograph of the staff at Coolhurst depicts the working community of an English country house at its height.

The plate ‘The Tailor Apprentice’ from William Hogarth’s 1747 series of engravings ‘Industry and Idleness’ speaks of the virtues of industriousness over idleness. Two apprentices strike out from the same place upon very different paths. Francis Goodchild through hardwork and discipline becomes the Lord Mayor of London whilst Thomas Idle’s more chaotic approach to life tragically leads him to Tyburn and execution.

The stories told by these images from different centuries speak into our own time. Work and the jobs that we do have always changed and there is no doubt that they will continue to do so. The different models of work described in this exhibition establish that we flourish in work where the relationship between employer and staff is informed by mutual respect, care, fairness, industry and duty – then our lives are not ‘all work and no play’.

This insightful exhibition ‘All work and no play – the working life of Horsham folk’ runs at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE until 13th April 2018. For more information go visit www.horshammuseum.org.

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.

Racing Driver’s Collection of Automobilia

John Young racing in the 1955 Goodwood Nine Hour Endurance Race in his Lotus-Connaught
John Young racing in the 1955 Goodwood Nine Hour Endurance Race in his Lotus-Connaught

A remarkable collection of automobilia from the Sussex based 1950s motor racing driver, the late John Young, is to be sold at Toovey’s Washington salerooms on Friday 23rd February 2018.

John Young was a gentleman motor racer and enthusiast. He joined the R.A.F when he left Dulwich College. He once told me “I wanted to fly a Spitfire but there were too many pilots just after the war for me to get a look in, so I left and joined the family firm, Rose and Young. We were agents for Mercedes-Benz.”

1955 was an important year for British motor sport, especially in endurance sports car racing.

In August 1955 John Young raced in the Goodwood Nine Hours Endurance Race here in Sussex driving a Lotus-Connaught. His co-driver was John Coombs. John explained to me “We were going well in the Connaught and racing into the evening until Coombs came in saying his hands were cold and borrowed my gloves. Shortly after that he turned it over but, thank God, he was alright!” The story was a timely reminder of how dangerous motor racing was in the 1950s.

Earlier in 1955 as April turned to May Stirling Moss famously won the Mille Miglia with his navigator Denis Jenkinson. They finished thirty-two minutes ahead of second place Juan Manuel Fangio. Both men were driving a Mercedes 300SLR. Commenting on his own 300SL Gullwing Mercedes John Young told me “When you drive a 300SL quickly it’s important to keep the power on in the corners or they spin – you’ve really got to drive it! Moss was the master…the best driver of these; he was very good.”

At the Le Mans twenty-four hours race in June 1955 Mike Hawthorn won in a works Jaguar D-type. In the early stages of the race Hawthorn raced closely with Fangio who was co-driving a Mercedes 300SLR with Stirling Moss. But the tragedy of the accident which resulted in a Mercedes disintegrating and killing some eighty spectators would overshadow Hawthorn’s victory. Hawthorn was devastated.

A fine ⅛ scale hand-finished model of Mike Hawthorn's 1955 Jaguar D-type Le Mans winner
A fine ⅛ scale hand-finished model of Mike Hawthorn’s 1955 Jaguar D-type Le Mans winner

The beautifully crafted and poignant ⅛ scale hand-finished model of Mike Hawthorn’s 1955 Jaguar D-type Le Mans winner is just one of the lots of automobilia entered from John Young’s collection and carries a pre-sale auction estimate of £600-£900.

An oil painting by Roy Nockolds of an Aston Martin DBR1/300 with a presentation plaque to Roy Salvadori from Aston Martin owner David Brown
An oil painting by Roy Nockolds of an Aston Martin DBR1/300 with a presentation plaque to Roy Salvadori from Aston Martin owner David Brown

John Young’s great friend, Roy Salvadori, would deliver victory at Le Mans for Aston Martin in a DBR1/300 sports car in 1959. The evocative oil painting by Roy Nockolds of a DBR1/300 has a presentation plaque to Roy Salvadori from Aston Martin owner, David Brown, dated December 16th 1957. It is estimated at £800-£1200.

John Young’s delight in sharing a story and his enthusiasm were balanced by his self-effacing modesty. A generous man, he epitomised the best of his era: a gentleman racer, a collector and an enthusiast with a deep love of life, cars and the Sussex countryside. His collection of automobilia will be sold at Toovey’s on Friday 23rd February 2018. For more information visit www.tooveys.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.

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Toy Valuation Morning

Toovey’s toy specialist Chris Gale with a rare Star Wars Han Solo Action figure
Toovey’s toy specialist Chris Gale with a rare Star Wars Han Solo Action figure

Toovey’s toy valuation event in support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery has become an extremely popular annual fundraising event. Toovey’s specialist toys valuer, Christopher Gale, will be at the museum on Saturday, 17th February 2018, between 10am and 12noon providing free auction valuations and advice on your toy trains, cars, Star Wars action figures, models, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys.

A number of valuable toys have been discovered at previous events. Chris Gale who is donating his time explains: “A third of the seller’s commission for items subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated by us to Horsham Museum to help with its important work.”

Chris is excited by a Star Wars Han Solo action figure by Kenner in its original box which has already been entered for his toy sale in March. He says “This particular action figure depicts Han Solo wearing his Rebel Alliance Medal of Honour which Princess Leia presents him with in the closing parade of a New Hope after the Death Star has been destroyed. This particular model was never sold but was given to the cast and crew on the film. This one was purportedly given to the vendor by Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca- it’s worth hundreds of pounds!”

For a morning of fun and free pre-sale valuations come to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE on Saturday 17th February, 10am to 12 noon. Toovey’s next specialist toy sale will be held on 20th March 2018.