An Actor, Auctioneer and a Vicar

Rupert Toovey taking to the rostrum for post lockdown live and online auctions

I will never forget the first auction I ever attended. It was the mid-1980s and with Margaret Thatcher reinventing the nation’s economy there was considerable unemployment especially amongst graduates. Against this backdrop I had turned down my place to read history at Sussex with no real idea of what I was going to do. Mum and Dad had packed me off to see my Grandpa. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. We sat at his George V oak dining table as the light from his town garden lit up the bees-waxed surface.

“So Rupert what are you going to do?” he said. “I have no idea.” I replied. “Well it seems to me you have three choices. You love people, you love art and history, and you’ll have to own a sense of theatre. You can be an actor, an auctioneer or a vicar!” I paused to think for a moment, as the eldest of five I didn’t think I could really put my parents through the drama of acting. I knew what vicaring was but auctioneering? “What’s auctioneering?” I found myself saying. “Let’s go and see, there’s a sale on today, come on.” Grandpa responded.

It was a crisp spring morning, bright with a nip in the air as we walked through the Morth Gardens onto Horsham’s beautiful Causeway, past the Horsham Museum and Old Town Hall and into the Carfax. In those days cars still circled through the town. We dodged the traffic by the King’s Head as we crossed the road. The alley way between the pub and the newsagent was cast in shadow. As we walked up past the saleroom office we could hear the rise and fall of the auctioneer’s voice and crack of his gavel. We were greeted by a huge pea green door hung on rusty sliding hinges with a smaller door cut into it. We pulled hard on the smaller door and it swung open. The crowd was gathered amongst the furniture around a towering oak rostrum. The light came from a window set high above in the wall like an artist’s studio bathing the audience in a warm light and causing the medullary rays in the oak to shimmer. The auctioneer, Jack Ash, who would later teach me to sell, had worked at Churchman Burts in Steyning and sold livestock as well as antiques before the war. His voice filled with excitement called the bidding increments at great speed “£220, 20, 20, 40 now, £240 any advance £240?” as the gavel fell.

Furniture, Antiquities and Collectors’ items on view to the public once more

Beautiful things, wonderful people and the theatre of a sale day, I was captivated. That thrill of a sale day, the theatre, the people and the objects has never left me which is why I am so delighted to see the salerooms beautifully laid out and to once again and be able to welcome people by appointment to Toovey’s specialist auctions over the coming weeks – many of the sales catalogues are online already.

Looking back it’s fascinating to reflect how much Horsham and our county has changed. An actor, an auctioneer and a vicar – I have certainly fulfilled the last two of Grandpa’s suggestions and perhaps with the theatre of the sale day all three. So exciting!

Five Lot Preview of the Toovey’s August Auction

Lot 2200
A pair of late 19th century Louis XV style kingwood marquetry and parquetry card tables at Toovey's August Auction
Lot 3023

Ahead of Toovey’s auction on the 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th August, we look at five lots that will feature in the summer sale.

The Specialist Sale of Paper Collectables is the largest to date and boasts some fantastic quality items, including the Great Britain 1882 5 shilling rose on blued paper Plate 4, used. Offered as Lot 3023, this single stamp carries a presale estimate of £500-600.

Lot 1025
Lot 1050

The Asian & Islamic Ceramics & Works of Art Specialist Auction includes two interesting highlights: Lot 1025 is a large Chinese archaistic bronze hu vase, in the Han style but 16th century, height 42.5cm, estimate £2000-3000. Lot 1050 is a Chinese white jade vase and cover, probably late Qing dynasty, height 15.8cm, estimate £800-1200.

Lot 1494

A Troika pottery two-face mask, Lot 1494, is one of the highlights of the British & Continental Ceramics & Glass auction. Each side is decorated with a relief mask motif and was produced circa 1970-1983. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £300-500.

The Furniture auction includes a pair of late 19th century Louis XV style kingwood marquetry and parquetry card tables. This pair, Lot 2200, is estimated at £2000-4000.

The catalogue for the auction will be available online by 7th August at

Viewing for the August Auction as follows:

Saturday 9th August: 10am to 4pm
Monday 11th August: 10am to 4pm
Tuesday 12th August: 10am to 4pm (10am to 1pm for the Paper Collectables)
Wednesday 13th to Friday 15th: 9am to the start of each session.

Order of sales for the August Auction as follows:

Sale of Paper Collectables

Tuesday 12th August
At 1.30pm Stamps. Postcards. Cigarette Cards.
Autographs, Photographs & Ephemera.

Sale of Antiques, Fine Art & Collectors’ Items

Wednesday 13th August
At 10am Decorative Art.
At 1pm Silver & Plate. Jewellery. Objects of Virtu.

Thursday 14th August
At 10am Asian & Islamic Ceramics & Works of Art.
At 1pm British & Continental Ceramics & Glass.

Friday 15th August
At 10am
At 1.30pm Tea Caddies, Boxes & Diminuitive Furniture.
Collectors’ Items, Works of Art, Metalwork & Light Fittings.
Needleworks & Textiles. Rugs & Carpets.

Sublime Sevres in Sussex

Vincennes cup and saucer
A Vincennes porcelain cup and saucer, circa 1752

The French porcelain which became ‘Sèvres’ began at Vincennes around 1740, when the French nobleman Orry de Fulvy established a manufactory at the Châteaux de Vincennes, near Paris, and employed Gilles and Robert Dubois. The Dubois brothers, one a sculptor, the other a painter, were runaway workers from the Chantilly porcelain factory in Oise. They claimed to know the secret of porcelain manufacture and were joined by fellow Chantilly worker Louis-François Gravant. In 1745 a company was formed and King Louis XV granted a royal privilege giving Vincennes an exclusive right to make porcelain decorated with figures and gilding. The privilege even prevented Vincennes workers being employed elsewhere.

Sevres porcelain coffee can and saucer
A Sèvres porcelain coffee can and saucer, circa 1776, painted by Guillaume Noël
Sevres porcelain painted by Jean-Baptiste Tandart
A Sèvres porcelain plateau carré, circa 1764, painted by Jean-Baptiste Tandart
Sevres-style Timepiece by Achille Brocot
A mid-19th Century French ormolu and Sèvres-style porcelain mantel timepiece by Achille Brocot

Like the later Sèvres pieces, Vincennes output was commonly marked with interlaced ‘L’s to the bases. The Vincennes cup and saucer illustrated dates from 1752. The inky blue-glazed ground sets off the richly gilded flower sprays and laurel garland beautifully. Pieces such as these are highly sought-after by collectors around the world and this cup and saucer realised £2600 in a Toovey’s specialist auction.

In 1756 the manufactory was moved to new buildings at Sèvres. Success in making hard-paste porcelain of the type produced by Meissen and the Chinese remained elusive, despite large sums of money being paid, often to false arcanists. In 1769 this goal was achieved, though few hard paste porcelain pieces were produced until 1772. Those that were made were marked with interlaced ‘L’s beneath a crown. This mark was used at Sèvres in various forms until 1793.

The Sèvres porcelain coffee can and saucer, circa 1776, painted by Guillaume Noël with circular rose vignettes within blue and gilt scale borders, shows the extraordinary skill of the artists working at the factory. It was marked to the base with blue enamel interlaced ‘L’s, date code and Noël’s monogram and was sold at Toovey’s for £2200.

A particular favourite of mine was this exquisite Sèvres porcelain plateau carré of square outline, circa 1764, which we auctioned for £3000. It measured a little under six inches in width. Jean-Baptiste Tandart’s fine painting delights with four cornflower and pink rose oval garlands, alternating with puce ribbon ties, on a stippled gilt ground. The delicate composition is framed by a pierced Vitruvian scroll rim, heightened in gilt.

Many French clocks and pieces of furniture are decorated with Sèvres-style panels. This fine mid-19th century French ormolu mantel timepiece had a year-going, five-spring barrel movement by Achille Brocot. The case is decorated with Sèvres-style porcelain panels, painted with cherubs within bleu céleste and gilt borders. Son of the famous Louis-Gabriel Brocot, Achille Brocot is recorded as working at Rue d’Orleans au Marais, Paris, between 1850 and 1874. It sold in a Toovey’s specialist clock sale for £2200.

The qualities of Sèvres porcelain are sublime and still captivate the eye of the connoisseur today. Toovey’s next specialist sales of porcelain and clocks will be held on 22nd May 2014. If you would like advice on the sale of your fine china or timepieces, contact Tom Rowsell on 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 23rd April 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Toovey’s End of Year Sale 2013, Tuesday 31st December

Robert Thornton Vinaigrette
A Victorian silver vinaigrette, Birmingham 1876 by Robert Thornton, already consigned for the End of Year Sale at Toovey's

Our annual End of Year Sale is always a highly popular event in the auction calendar. Toovey’s are one of only a handful of UK auction rooms to hold a sale between Christmas and the New Year and, indeed, the only one in the South this year! For that reason, there is always particularly enthusiastic support for the sale, from both the antique trade and private collectors. Traders are always keen to return to work and seek out new stock as soon as possible after the Christmas period. Many of our private clients, who are not always able to attend weekday auctions, are still on their festive break and the sale always attracts a new audience of curious browsers, eager to experience their first auction and escape the Christmas television!

There will be a good selection of art, furnishings, silver, jewellery, collectors’ items and rugs on offer and it will be a lively and full day of sales. As always, our café will be open throughout the view day and the sale day.

All are welcome for viewing of the sale at our Spring Gardens Auction rooms on Monday 30th December between 10am and 4pm. We open at 9am on Tuesday 31st December for a quick preview before the auction starts at 10am. The catalogue will be online for a digital preview by Friday 20th December. We are closed for the festive period from Friday 20th to Sunday 29th December and all email enquiries regarding the sale will be replied to after our return to work on Tuesday 30th December.

If you would like to enter items in the sale, we’ll need to view and value them by Friday 13th December at the very latest. The sale is always oversubscribed so bring them sooner, if you can, to be sure of inclusion. Our valuations reception is open between 10am and 4pm from Monday 9th to Friday 13th December.

We look forward to seeing you!

Tiffany Studios floor lamp for sale at Toovey’s Auctioneers

ADVANCE NOTICE: To be offered as part of our three-day auction of Antiques, Fine Art & Collectors’ Items on the 1st December 2011 in our sale of British and Continental Ceramics and Glass. As part of an important group of American Art Nouveau lamps consigned for sale by a lady. A Tiffany Studios Nasturtium pattern green and brown patinated domed leaded glass shade and matched gilt bronze floor lamp, circa 1910, the column base with relief stem detail emanating from the circular foot with stylized onion moulded decoration, raised on four scroll feet, shade stamped ‘Tiffany Studios New York’, base underside stamped ‘Tiffany Studios New York 379’, overall height approx 164cm, diameter of shade approx 55cm. Presale estimate £40,000-£60,000.

For further images of this floor lamp click here.