I started Toovey’s Auctioneers twenty-five years ago, with a dedicated team of people who remain passionate about the company and the work we do. We opened on a stormy Valentine’s night in 1995 and were delighted when hundreds of guests braved wind and rain to support us and celebrate this new venture. I set out to create a family firm where people are valued.
The pleasure of accompanying people through their art, collectors’ items and antiques remains as strong as it has always been. We all value objects which allow us to speak of our lives – the prompts to fond memories. Many will also celebrate the beauty of a piece, whilst others collect in the pursuit of knowledge, continually refining and adding to their depth of understanding of a particular field or period, training their eye to the subtle details which set apart exceptional objects. In an age which increasingly confuses information with knowledge and understanding, they are a generous, exciting and refreshing community of people to accompany.
Provenance and the human story behind individual objects or collections add a frisson, which always has an important and positive effect on the prices achieved for them at auction. This has been reflected in Toovey’s sales again and again over the years. The Little Thakeham House Sale, the Bolney Lodge million pound single-owner collection of works of art and furniture, paintings sold for hundreds of thousands and the £520,000 Qianlong period Chinese vase have been just some of the markers which have defined Toovey’s reputation.
Many of the most memorable collections and objects speak of the collectors that form them. Single-owner sales often provide a very personal and particular insight into the lives of the individual collector, such as our 2014 sale of the Library Collection of the late W. Leslie Weller MBE, DL, FSA, which reflected his love of Sussex and his prominent role at Sotheby’s. His friendship, support and advice I always valued highly. In 2015, the collection from Angmering Park House of the 16th Duke of Norfolk’s daughter, the late Baroness Herries of Terregles, reflected the English country house taste which defines us. A number of important single-owner collections auctioned more recently at Toovey’s have included a remarkable group of Chinese porcelain and works of art from London and the collection of the well-known post-war racing driver John Young.
At Toovey’s I and my remarkable team value people before objects and this is given expression not only in the way that we serve people professionally but also in the way that we have always invested our time, money and expertise in the community here in Sussex.
I remain a passionate advocate for building communities through art, heritage and culture which I write about in my weekly column in the West Sussex Gazette and Horsham Gazette. Toovey’s are long-term sponsors of the Shipley Arts Festival, Pallant House Gallery, Sussex Heritage Trust, the wonderful Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, the National Trust at Petworth and many others.
Our company continues to invest in the Sussex community which I love, supporting numerous charities and community groups including Mary How Trust, our local hospices St Barnabas, Chestnut Tree House, St Catherine’s and the Friends of Sussex Hospices, the NSPCC, as well as the WI, U3A and numerous parish churches across the county with talks, professional advice and fund-raising.
We remain a family firm, as we have always been, with family firm values. Our forward looking, dynamic and talented team bridges across the generations and ensures that we remain one of the country’s leading regional auction houses providing a centre of expertise for the valuation and sale of art and antiques with leading specialists and international marketing.
Almost twenty-five years on, I am proud that Toovey’s has fulfilled our hopes and aspirations.
None of this would have been possible, though, without the generous support and encouragement of the collectors, our clients, friends and supporters. On behalf of all of us at Toovey’s, I would like to offer our thanks.