Inspired by Nature

A pair of Victorian novelty silver owl salt and pepper, London 1879, by Thomas Johnson II, height 6.5cm © Toovey’s 2021

As lockdown eases and the busyness of life begins to return I am making conscious punctuation marks in my life to continue to walk and be. To shut out the white noise of the demands of life, to inhabit the landscape and my garden and be truly present giving thanks to God for these blessings. Nature seems to have taken on an abundance and grown in our imaginations in these times. The delight in nesting Goldfinches, a Thrush busy tidying our garden of snails, the pickly Blackbirds flicking the soil from the borders onto the paths and terrace as they search for food, and the proud Robins at play in the bird bath as the Woodpecker taps out his tune against the old Weeping Pear.

The Victorians shared this fascination and delight in birds, wildlife and nature, made popular by Queen Victoria. Nature inspired their decorative arts and artists as it does today.

I love the expressions on the faces of the late Victorian novelty silver salt and pepper modelled as a pair of owls. Their glass eyes gift them with such life and character, they remind me a bit of E H Shepard’s wonderful depictions of Owl in Winnie the Pooh. As they stand looking at you their finely engraved plumage shimmers in the light. These fine objects were made by Thomas Johnson II who was well known for his novelty silver birds and animals. Hallmarked in London in 1879 they bear the mark of the Bond Street retailers, W. Thornhill & Co. If you fancy a pair of novelty silver owl condiments they and will be offered for sale in Toovey’s specialist silver auction on 12th May with an estimate of £800-£1200.

A pair of Elizabeth II novelty silver duck sauce boats, London 1973, By Asprey & Co Ltd, length 21.5cm © Toovey’s 2021

The pair of Asprey & Co Elizabeth II silver novelty sauceboats and stands are modelled as a pair of ducks and sold for £2200 earlier in the year highlighting the continued appeal of silver inspired by nature. They seem to glide as if on water, their finely cast and chased plumage giving them light and life. The oval stands are engraved with simulated water adding to the effect. And the matched silver ladles, engraved with feathers, are by Roberts & Belk.

There is a danger that as we return to our cars in our increasingly urbanised lives that we will once again be separated from the joys and importance of nature. I hope that our MPs and newly elected local politicians will use their positions and power to honour and maintain the rural, agricultural nature and needs of Sussex and her farmers with the undoubted need for more homes, and that the new developments will be designed to allow us to live and flourish with nature.

The Fabulous House of Fabergé

A Fabergé two-colour gold and enamel gum pot by workmaster Henrik Wigström, height 4.5cm © Toovey’s 2021.

Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920) described himself as an artist-jeweller. It was his originality and flair which created the unmistakeable character that sets apart the house of Fabergé’s creations.

Fabergé were famous for their Imperial Easter Eggs made for Tsar Nicholas II and the Russian Imperial Royal family. The Romanovs gave these fabulous objects to each other and to their Royal relatives including, notably, our own Queen Alexander.

This patronage ensured that Fabergé were internationally celebrated. Fabergé made exquisite, intimate objects not only for royalty and the wealthiest in Russian, European and British society, but also pieces for the increasingly prosperous middle classes. Fabergé opened in in London in 1906.

Peter Carl Fabergé trained in St Petersburg and travelled in Western Europe before taking over his father, Gustave’s silver and jewellery business in 1870. He was joined in the business by his brother Agathon in 1882.

Peter Carl appears to have personally directed the artistic and commercial policy of the company which at its height employed more than 500 assistants, designers, modellers, gem-cutters, goldsmiths and enamellers.
Peter Carl designed some of the most important pieces including the famous Imperial Easter Eggs.

Fabergé’s business model was very progressive. He provided workshops, tools and raw materials to his direct employees without charge, and it seems likely that he shared the profits with his master craftsmen from the items made by them.

These playthings for the rich were often of a scale which enabled them to be held and admired. These were intimate pieces.

The house of Fabergé produced a remarkable range of objects employing silver, gold, enamels in a rainbow of colours, carved hardstones and jewels.

The early 20th Century Russian Fabergé two-colour gold and enamel gum pot is by Henrik Wigström. Wigström was head workmaster at Fabergé between 1903 and 1917. He was responsible for almost a hundred works now in the Royal Collection, including the Colonade Egg, an Imperial Easter Egg made for the Romanov family.

The rose gold detachable brush with its cabochon moonstone finial compliments the spherical body. The translucent strawberry red enamel over the engraved flower swags and pendants on a waved guilloche sunray ground reflects the neo-classical style which is typical of Wigström’s work. It bore not only Henrik Wigström’s workmaster’s ‘H.W.’ mark but also the mark of assay master Alexander Romanov.

A Carl Fabergé silver guilloché engraved pattern sample panel inscribed ‘C. Fabergé’ to the reverse, 15.5cm x 12.6cm © Toovey’s 2021.

The Fabergé engraved silver sample panel also dates from the early 20th century and was engraved with twenty-five different pattern squares. It was inscribed ‘C. Fabergé’ on the reverse. The panel was removed from Fabergé in London by Mr Cooper, a workshop employee, before the store closed in 1915.

The allure of Fabergé objects remains as strong as ever amongst today’s collectors and these examples realised £13,000 and £15,000 at Toovey’s.
When the revolutionary Bolsheviks came to take over Fabergé’s business in 1918 he asked only to be allowed to put on his hat as he walked out of the door. He fled in disguise to Finland assisted by the British Embassy. His wife, Augusta and their son Eugène escaped from Russia crossing into Finland through snow-covered woods on foot and sleigh under cover of darkness.

Exiled, they made their home in Lausanne on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Fabergé died aged 74 in September 1920 of a broken heart, separated from his craftsmen, beloved Russia and his remarkable business.

Robert Hennell and the Adam Style

A pair of George III silver oval salts, London 1768 by David and Robert Hennell I

The Adam style provided a very British, joyful interpretation of Neo-Classicism which is encompassed by the work of the Georgian silversmith, Robert Hennell I (1741–1811).

The Hennell dynasty of silversmiths was founded by Robert’s father, David Hennell I (1712-85). David registered his maker’s mark in 1736 and his domestic silver was often defined by the use of understated Rococo ornament.

In 1763 father and son registered a joint mark.

Robert Hennell I made handsome pieces in the Neo-Classical Adam style.

Neo-Classicism was made fashionable in Britain in the 1760s by the work of the celebrated British architect, interior decorator and designer Robert Adam (1728-92) in partnership with his brother James (1732-94). The Adam style interpreted Neo-Classicism with lightness and delicacy, employing geometric forms and the grammar of architectural ornament from the classical antiquity of Greece and Rome.

The Adam style is apparent in the clean lines and proportions of the pair of George III silver oval salts with their pierced sides and gadrooned rims, on claw and ball feet. They were assayed in London in 1768 and bear the joint mark of David and Robert Hennell I.

A George III silver teapot of oval form, engraved on each side with a floral garland cartouche within a banded and floral garland border, London 1791 by Robert Hennell I
A George III silver teapot of oval form, engraved on each side with a floral garland cartouche within a banded and floral garland border, London 1791 by Robert Hennell I

The influence of the Adam style can also be seen in the geometric oval form of the George III silver teapot. The engraving on each side with its floral garland cartouche and border is classically inspired. I love the proportion and restrained delicacy of the decoration of this elegant teapot. It bears the mark of Robert Hennell I and was assayed in London 1791.

Robert Hennell and his sons, David (1767-1829) and Samuel (1778-1837), worked together using joint marks. David Hennell II retired in 1802 leaving his father and Samuel in partnership.

A George III silver coffee pot, London 1800 by Robert Hennell I & David Hennell II
A George III silver coffee pot, London 1800 by Robert Hennell I & David Hennell II

The George III silver coffee pot was assayed in London in 1800 and bears the joint maker’s mark of Robert Hennell I & David Hennell II. The urn form of the oval body is again in the Adam style. It is engraved with a classical foliate band and opposing shield shaped cartouche. The proportion and decoration of the coffee pot are beautiful.

All these examples were sold in Toovey’s specialist silver auctions. Tom Rowsell, head of Toovey’s silver department, is always pleased to discuss your collection whether you looking to sell or acquire pieces and can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955.

It seems that we still love to lay our tables with fine silver and silver is one of today’s boom collectors’ markets. Examples of Robert Hennell’s work are highly sort after and pieces like those illustrated could be purchased for between £200 and £1000 at auction. Perhaps you too will be beguiled by the Adam-style and quality of Robert Hennell’s work!

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 Collection of the Late Baroness Herries of Terregles

Angmering Park House, home to the Late Baroness Herries of Terregles
Angmering Park House, home to the Late Baroness Herries of Terregles

Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers are offering the principal contents of Angmering Park House, the home of the Late Baroness Herries of Terregles, as a single-owner collection at their Washington salerooms on Monday 7th December 2015.

Baroness Herries of Terregles (1938-2014) was the 14th holder of the barony. She inherited the title from her late father, the 16th Duke of Norfolk and 13th Lord Herries of Terregles, upon his death in 1975. Born Anne Elizabeth Fitzalan-Howard, she was the eldest of four daughters and grew up at Arundel Castle, the Norfolk’s family seat in West Sussex.

Lady Anne shared her family’s love of horses from a young age and would become a well-known racehorse trainer and the second wife of Colin Cowdrey, later Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, one of England’s most celebrated cricketers.

In 1970 she moved to her paternal grandmother’s home, Everingham, in East Yorkshire. There she became Master of the Middleton Hounds. In 1979 she returned to Sussex, making her home at Angmering Park House on the Angmering Park Estate, close to her childhood roots at Arundel. Horse-racing was in Lady Anne’s blood and she set about training racehorses with notable success.

Lady Anne’s life was always rooted in the countryside and most especially in the folds of the Sussex Downs. Her home, too, reflected the best of traditional English country house taste.

Alfred Bennett – ‘Arundel Castle and the Arun Valley’, late 19th Century oil on canvas
Alfred Bennett – ‘Arundel Castle and the Arun Valley’, oil on canvas

The delightful oil painting by Alfred Bennett (1861-1923) is one of the lots entered from the collection. It captures a familiar view of Lady Anne’s childhood home, Arundel Castle, and is expected to realise £800-1200.

A set of four George II cast silver Rococo candlesticks by Alexander Johnston
A set of four George II cast silver Rococo candlesticks by Alexander Johnston

Amongst the silver is a beautiful set of four George II candlesticks by the London maker Alexander Johnston. They date from 1751 and 1752. The Rococo taste is reflected in their decoration with foliate nozzles, shell moulded sconces, waisted baluster stems and leaf scroll bases. They are estimated at £3000-5000.

A Regency rosewood writing table attributed to Gillows of Lancaster
A Regency rosewood writing table attributed to Gillows of Lancaster

The Regency rosewood and gilt metal mounted writing table has been attributed to the famous cabinet makers Gillows of Lancaster. The familiar anthemion key escutcheon and six-point star handles are to be found on other examples of Gillows furniture. It carries a pre-sale auction estimate of £1500-2500. It is one of several pieces of furniture which have been attributed to Gillows of Lancaster in this sale.

I have always held a fond admiration for Lady Anne and her family. They have made such a remarkable and generous contribution to our community in Sussex. It has been my privilege to accompany them over many years through their charitable activities and, like so many others, I have valued their friendship and support. I am, therefore, delighted that Toovey’s are offering the principal contents of Angmering Park House at our salerooms at Spring Gardens, Washington, West Sussex, RH20 3BS. The sale provides an extraordinary insight into the life of a remarkable family.

Viewing for the sale of the Collection of the Late Baroness Herries of Terregles, and Toovey’s series of other Christmas auctions, begins this Saturday morning, 28th November 2015. For more details and to preview the auction go to or telephone 01903 891955. I look forward to seeing you there!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 25th November 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Anyone for Tea?

Rupert in the Toovey’s silver department
Rupert in the Toovey’s silver department with an Art Deco silver teapot

I have to own that I am passionate about tea. It is not just the diverse varieties of tea, or that it restores and revives, it is also the ritual. Each morning I delight in warming and filling my silver tea pot, allowing the tea to steep beneath its cosy before pouring the first cup of the day and preparing my thermos. Nothing beats the flavour of tea made in a silver teapot!

Tea has been drunk in China for some 4000 years. However, it was not introduced to Britain and Europe until the 17th century.

On the 25th September 1660 Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that he ‘did send for a cupp of tee (a China drink) of which I never drank before’. It is thought Thomas Garroway of Exchange Alley, London, first sold tea in England in 1657. It was made fashionable by Charles II’s Portuguese queen, Catherine of Braganza who brought her love of tea to the English court.

Early English teapots from the 17th and the early 18th centuries are rare and tend to be small as tea was very expensive. By the later 18th and early 19th centuries tea had become a little more affordable whilst maintaining its fashionable status.

A Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea and coffee service
A Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea and coffee service, circa 1820
A George III Scottish silver of inverted pear form
A George III Scottish silver of inverted pear form, Edinburgh 1777

Tea related objects proliferated including porcelain. Take for example the Flight, Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea service illustrated here. The Worcester factory had been formed in 1752 when the factories of Benjamin Lund and Dr John Wall had been united. Dr Wall retired in 1774 and in 1783 the factory was purchased by the firm’s London agent, John Flight. His son, Joseph, would enter into partnership with Martin Barr in 1792 and the company became Flight & Barr. As the partnership evolved so did the name and after Martin’s death in 1813 the company became Flight, Barr & Barr. During this last period the quality of the wares was outstanding and included tea services typified by fine, restrained decoration. This tea service dates from around 1820. The bands of brown and gilt leaf sprays are united with the form of the pieces, the design brought alive by the small red flowers. It realised £1900 at a recent Toovey’s specialist auction.

Tea related objects were often made in silver. In the later 18th century the rococo taste was fashionable. The George III Scottish silver tea pot is of inverted pear form and was assayed in Edinburgh in 1777. The chased decoration reflects the fashion for the rococo at this date with its opposing scroll cartouche and flower festoons. It sold for £950.

A set of three George III silver graduated tea caddies
A set of three George III silver graduated tea caddies, London 1766 by Thomas Foster

The three early George III silver tea caddies reflect the value of tea in the mid-18th century and are also in the rococo taste. Their flower finials and rectangular bombé outline are decorated with chased, spiral reeded bands and cornered foliate borders. The scroll and scallop aprons incorporate scalloped feet. Made by the silversmith John Foster and assayed in London in 1766, with their contemporary walnut case they realised £5100 at Toovey’s.

The fashion for tea related objects is once again in revival. Silver tea pots can still be bought reasonably at auction but prices have risen. Perhaps it’s time you treated yourself to tea and enjoyed the delight in silver and porcelain. After all tea always tastes better when it has been made in a silver teapot and is savoured in porcelain cups!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 25th February 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.