Remarkable Collection of Postcards to be Sold at Auction

Lot 3120 R & E Cross Newsagents and Confectioners, Littlehampton, circa 1904
Lot 3120 R & E Cross Newsagents and Confectioners, Littlehampton, circa 1904

A remarkable collection of postcards from the estate of the Sussex collector, Maurice Stevens (1932-2015) is to be offered for sale at Toovey’s Washington salerooms in West Sussex on Tuesday 22nd March 2016.

Maurice Stevens was a Sussex man. Born in 1932 at Hurstpierpoint, his childhood was spent at Albourne. Once married he moved to Burgess Hill where he lived happily for fifty-six years. A horticulturist and keen angler, he was rooted in our beautiful county and delighted in its towns, countryside and social history. Throughout his life he formed and dispersed numerous collections, one of his main interests was photographic topographical postcards of Sussex. He had a gift for identifying unattributed views and scenes and many of the postcards have his pencil annotations on the back. These collector’s notes and comments are fascinating and reveal Maurice’s deep understanding of postcards and the history of our county.

Auctioneer and head of department, Nicholas Toovey, is the specialist in charge of the sale. He shared a long and valued friendship with Maurice, as well as a passion for postcard collecting. I ask Nick what delights him about this particular field of collecting. He responds enthusiastically “Postcards give a glimpse into a bygone age. They provide one of the earliest photographic images of life one hundred years ago and how things were. I’m amazed by the number of small and remote places that were documented. Often these images will have been the first visual record of that place other than, perhaps, an artist’s interpretation.”

The Maurice Stevens Collection includes postcards depicting topography and social history. These include early aviation, motoring, railways, traction engines, military events, fairs and shops. As we leaf through the catalogue image after image captures the eye.

Nick draws my attention to a postcard of the Littlehampton Newsagents and Confectioners, R & E Cross and describes the scene “The staff are outside this Surrey Street shop. You can see the Sussex postcards being displayed alongside Cadbury’s and Fry’s chocolate. It shows the lives of everyday people.” He continues “The publisher, Frank Spry, moved to Littlehampton in 1904 with his wife. His offices were in the same street as this shop.” It carries a pre-sale auction estimate of £80-120.

Lot 3019 a photographic postcard of a steam roller at Blackstone in West Sussex
Lot 3019 a photographic postcard of a steam roller at Blackstone in West Sussex

I love traction engines and my eye is taken by a photographic postcard of a steamroller and workmen in a road. Maurice’s pencil note on the reverse of the card reveals his extensive Sussex knowledge. It reads ‘on the Woodmancote Road south of the village, W.S.C.C. Team, S.E. Sayers working’. These rare insights give life to the collection. The card is expected to realise £50-80.

A postcard titled ‘Welcome to Arundel of the 1st Batt, Royal Sussex regt. Aug 29th 1933-8’
A postcard titled ‘Welcome to Arundel of the 1st Batt, Royal Sussex regt. Aug 29th 1933-8’

Social history and topography are once again combined in the postcard titled ‘Welcome to Arundel of the 1st Batt, Royal Sussex regt. Aug 29th 1933-8’. It was published by White. This hopeful scene, with soldiers on parade in Arundel as flags blow in a summer breeze, stands in contrast to the growing troubles in Europe at that time and the approach of the Second World War. Offered with a postcard of similar interest, the two are estimated at £25-35.

A photographic postcard ‘Delivering Provisions during the flood at Bramber’, circa 1924
A photographic postcard ‘Delivering Provisions during the flood at Bramber’, circa 1924

With so much talk of flooding again this year in the news it is interesting to note supplies being delivered by boat in the postcard ‘Delivering Provisions during the flood at Bramber’. Nick remarks dryly “Some things never change.” He tells me “The card was published in about 1924 by Albert Edward Halls in Steyning. The demand for postcards was so strong that publishers grew up everywhere. Steyning had at least five postcard publishers in the first half of the 20th century.”

I have observed over the years the sense of community amongst collectors who are passionate about a particular subject, Nick confirms that this is true of postcard collectors too. I ask him where postcard collectors gather in Sussex in between his specialist postcard auctions at Toovey’s. He replies that he often attends the Haywards Heath International Postcard Fair which is held on the first Saturday of the month at Clair Hall, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 3DN. Nicholas Toovey will be at the fair this coming Saturday 5th March 2016, between 10.30am and 4pm with catalogues for the Maurice Stevens Collection for sale.

The Maurice Stevens Collection will be offered for sale by auction at Toovey’s, Spring Gardens, Washington, West Sussex, RH20 3BS on Tuesday 22nd March 2016. The printed catalogue is available from our offices for £5 (£7 by post in the UK) or you can view the catalogue by clicking here.

If you would like more information on the Maurice Stevens auction or the Haywards Heath International Postcard Fair you can contact Nicholas Toovey by telephoning 01903 891955 or emailing auctions@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.

Order (dis)Order!

An early 19th Century study from the Painted Chamber by John Smith
An early 19th Century study from the Painted Chamber by John Smith

In scenes reminiscent of an important debate at the House of Commons the galleries were packed with people at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery for the opening of Order (dis)Order! The exhibition was opened by the Lord High Sherriff of West Sussex, Jonathan Lucas.

This colourful exhibition celebrates our nation’s Parliamentary history and Horsham, Steyning and Bramber’s role in it over some 720 years.

In a year which marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede it is extraordinary to reflect that it is also the 750th anniversary of the first English Parliament, called by Edward I (1272-1307) in 1275.

Left to right The Chairman of Horsham District Council, Cllr Brian O’ Connell with the Lord High Sherriff of West Sussex, Jonathan Lucas and Exhibition Curator, Jeremy Knight
Left to right The Chairman of Horsham District Council, Cllr Brian O’ Connell with the Lord High Sherriff of West Sussex, Jonathan Lucas and Exhibition Curator, Jeremy Knight

In 1295 Edward I summoned what was to become known as the ‘model Parliament’. The King invoked a Roman phrase when he proclaimed “What touches all, should be agreed by all”. Its representation of two knights from each county and two burgesses from each town was to provide the model for almost all future Parliaments until more modern times. Horsham Steyning and Bramber were all boroughs and could elect MPs.

Sir Peter and Lady Hordern with the Lord High Sherriff of West Sussex, Jonathan Lucas
Sir Peter and Lady Hordern with the Lord High Sherriff of West Sussex, Jonathan Lucas

The exhibition traces Parliament’s history from these earliest times to the present day. It explores many of the distinguished and ‘colourful’ characters who have brought great and important social and economic change to our nation, as well as those who have brought less noble intent and disrepute upon Parliament. Take for example Elyot Roger the MP for 1421. A chapman by trade, he was indicted for breaking into the house of John Dawtre, stealing plate and clothes and ‘ravishing’ the unfortunate Mrs Dawtre!

But the exhibition gives colour to more than these characters. My eye is taken by some exquisite watercolours of what appear to be medieval wall paintings. Jeremy Knight, curator of the exhibition, explains. “In 1801 Irish MPs joined the House of Commons. It had been meeting in St Stephen’s chapel which now needed to be radically altered and enlarged to accommodate this influx of additional MPs. As a temporary measure whilst work was underway they moved to the Painted Chamber. When the tapestries and Sir Christopher Wren’s carvings were taken down they revealed the fantastic medieval wall paintings recorded by John Smith. His hand coloured pictures are all that remain. The original wall paintings were destroyed as part of James Wyatt’s remodelling of the Palace in the early 1800s.” The public outcry to save the paintings is recorded in the press at the time. However, it is unlikely that they would have survived the fire at the Palace of Westminster in 1834 or German bombing during the Second World War. John Smith’s record is of great importance.

Those gathered for the opening included Horsham’s distinguished former MP and Deputy Lieutenant for West Sussex, Sir Peter Hordern. Lady Morse a, descendant of the three generations of the Hurst family, who were MPs for Horsham between 1812 and 1875, attended with her husband Sir Jeremy and were delighted to have contributed to this fascinating exhibition.

From Medieval times to Women’s Suffrage this exhibition provides a remarkable insight into the nation’s Parliamentary history and our county’s place in it. Order (dis)Order! runs at the Horsham District Council Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham until 7th March 2015. Entrance to the Museum and exhibition is free. For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org or telephone 01403 254959.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 21st January 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Identifying the unidentified

For many collectors, research can be a source of great joy or, when unfruitful, great frustration. Today, in this age of the internet, a powerful resource of knowledge is literally at our fingertips. Most of us will now ‘Google’ the answer to something, rather than refer to a book. This was not the case in the late 1980s, however, when Mr Savory, a postcard collector from Northants, purchased a group of five postcards from a local fair. Filed under ‘Sussex’ in the dealer’s stock, with a hearsay attribution of being Littlehampton, the collector secured them for their military interest but obviously wanted to find out more. His quest to discover the incident pictured lead him to write a plea for help to the editor of the West Sussex Gazette. On May 21st 1987 nearly half of a page was dedicated to four of the five postcards. Readers of the newspaper wrote in, some with their snippets of facts and some with their reminiscences of these events or similar events. It was discovered that, although they all related to the Battle of Britain, they did in fact illustrate two different events.

Junkers 88A down at Pagham postcard auction ©2015 Toovey's
A series of four Battle of Britain postcards

Four of the postcards record the fate of a German bomber which took off on a sortie to attack the London Docks on 9th September 1940. It was a Junkers 88A, works no .0333, coded 4D+AD, of Stab 111/KG30. For those not familiar with such terms, it was an aircraft of the Staff Flight of the 3rd Wing of Kampfgeschwader (Bomber Group) 30. It was piloted by Gruppe Kommandeur Major Hackbarth and his crew comprised Oberfeldwebel Manger, Unteroffizier Sawallisch and Gefreiter Petermann. The first two survived but the other two died in an attack almost certainly launched from Kenley, probably by 253 Squadron Hurricanes but possibly by Spitfires of 66 Squadron. It was subsequently force-landed off Pagham at 5.50pm and soon after that is the moment the postcards start to capture the event. Two of the postcards depict British soldiers guarding the aircraft; another shows an injured member of the crew on a stretcher and the final view is of soldiers removing a spoil of war, the swastika from the tail, as a memento. One of the letters from a reader of the newspaper claimed that the removed tail panel resembled one in the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, which had been used during the war as a scoreboard by a Hampshire Territorial searchlight troop. Another reader stated that, as a curious local schoolboy in Pagham, he was inside the plane and removed the factory serial plate from the cockpit (long since lost), which gave the release date from the factory as the previous day!

Postcard of Sgt. Cyril F. Babbage returning to shore at Bognor Auction ©2015 Toovey's
Postcard of Sgt. Cyril F. Babbage returning to shore

The fifth postcard was originally believed to be part of the same series but, in fact, illustrates a separate event from the Battle of Britain. It shows Sgt. Cyril F. Babbage returning to shore at Bognor on 26th August 1940. He had been piloting a Spitfire X4188 of 602 Squadron Westhampnett (Goodwood airfield). A contemporary account was published in an unidentified newspaper, the clipping of which was offered by someone responding to Mr Savory’s plea. It stated:

A thrilling air battle was witnessed over a South-East Coast town on Monday afternoon during an air raid alarm, when machine gun fire rattled overhead, and the thuds of bombs were heard exploding in the distance, punctuated by sharp cracks of anti-aircraft guns… As soon as our ground defences held their fire nothing could be heard except the sharp rat-tat of machine guns… One of our fighter pilots during the engagement baled out of his plane, and could be seen descending towards the sea. He pitched in the sea about half a mile off shore, where he was picked up by some fisherman. He was brought ashore with cheers ringing in his ears from several hundred persons who flocked to the sea-shore, although the all-clear had not sounded, thus incidentally, exposing themselves to extreme danger.

The pilot was rowed to shore by two fisherman from Littlehampton and the ‘L.I.’ registration code on the boat was perhaps the clue for the original dealer’s attribution. The fishermen, Messrs N. & A. Ide and a member of the Ragless family, recalled that Babbage was smiling cheerfully as he had shot a Messerschmitt prior to two others setting upon him over Selsey Bill. It was Hauptman Mayer of 1/JG 53 that finally put him out of action at 4.43pm; he was taken to Bognor hospital ‘slightly hurt’. One West Sussex Gazette reader said that he subsequently went back to his squadron and ‘had a very chequered career, being shot down, or damaged in action at least three more times, during the Battle of Britain.’

Perhaps today Mr Savory would have typed in ‘crashed German plane on the Sussex coast’ or similar into a search engine and, after visiting swathes of results, found out all the information he needed. He would not, though, have found all the fascinating reminiscences that were relayed by readers of the West Sussex Gazette, among them an anecdote of a lady who dived into a stinging nettle patch fearful of a chasing plane, only to see the R.A.F. roundels pass overhead! It was this research that brought the postcards to life for Mr Savory and why these postcards gave him so much pleasure.

Having enjoyed the postcards ever since, Mr Savory has decided to sell the postcards at Toovey’s forthcoming auction of Paper Collectables on 24th February 2015, encouraged by the fantastic results achieved for Sussex postcards in these specialist auctions. The group of four photographic postcards of the German bomber at Pagham carry a pre-sale estimate of £70-100 and the single photographic postcard of Babbage’s return at Bognor will be offered separately at £30-50. In addition to Postcards, Toovey’s sales of Paper Collectables also include Stamps, Cigarette Cards, Autographs, Photographs and Ephemera.

Mr Turner at Petworth

Mr. Turner – Timothy Spall, as J.M.W. Turner, paints in the Old Library © Simon Mein, Thin Man Films.
Mr. Turner – Timothy Spall, as J.M.W. Turner, paints in the Old Library © Simon Mein, Thin Man Films.

Mike Leigh’s textural depiction of the life and work of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) in his award-winning film Mr. Turner has been brought to life in an exhibition at Petworth House. This fascinating show runs until 11th March 2015. It brings together rarely seen works by J.M.W. Turner with props, costumes and paintings from the film by the actor Timothy Spall.

Andrew Loukes, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at Petworth House, is clearly excited by Mr. Turner – an exhibition, which he has co-curated with Dr Jacqueline Riding. Andrew enthuses: “Mike Leigh’s work on Mr. Turner at Petworth is arguably the most significant cultural moment at the ‘house of art’ since Turner himself was a frequent guest here in the 1820s and 30s.” The third Earl of Egremont was amongst the most important English patrons of art in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The film Mr. Turner has provided the opportunity to re-examine the important role that Petworth and the third Earl played in Turner’s later work.

As we walk up the Old Library staircase in conversation, I remark on one of my favourite scenes in the film, in which Turner stands painting at his easel in this library with three ladies, bathed in light from the arched window. As we reach the landing, we are greeted by the very same scene and light. Andrew smiles and explains, “Mike Leigh wanted to recreate some of Turner’s iconic pictures. Turner painted several sketches of this room.”

J.M.W. Turner – The Old Library © Tate, London, 2014
J.M.W. Turner – The Old Library © Tate, London, 2014

The Old Library is often called ‘Turner’s Studio’. This particular scene is taken from Turner’s luminous gouache of 1827, titled The Old Library: The Artist and his Admirers. Here three ladies watch as the artist paints. Turner’s delight is obvious in his depiction of light, colour and movement. It provides the viewer with a remarkable impression of a particular moment in time. The sketch is one of a number produced by Turner in the autumn of 1827. Painted for his own pleasure, they illustrate life behind the scenes at Petworth House.

Timothy Spall studied under London artist Tim Wright for two years as part of his preparation for the role of Turner. His vigorous performance in the film convincingly reflects something of the practical physicality of creating art and it is surprising to see the level of accomplishment in his paintings and drawings first hand. Spall depicts J.M.W. Turner as an artist consumed by his art, confident, eccentric, prosperous, forthright, both detached and tender in his personal relationships.

Like the film, the exhibition offers a revealing and very personal insight into the character of this great artist. Andrew reverentially shows me Turner’s leather watercolour pouch, which is one of the objects on display. Although worn, it shines, displaying the patina of years of use and handling by the artist himself.

As Andrew and I continue around the exhibition into the Carved Room with its Turners, Grinling Gibbons carvings and costumes from the film, it becomes apparent that I am in the company of a man whose depth of understanding and love of the collections he curates at Petworth House have rooted him in this place in a very particular way. He remarks, “I am excited to be able to expand the exhibition offer at Petworth, based around the remarkable collections here.” Andrew Loukes’ quiet passion, vision and dedication are bringing life to this important house and its collections and he deserves our thanks.

Demand for tickets for Mr. Turner – an exhibition at Petworth House is expected to be high, so book your tickets early! For more information go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house and to book tickets telephone 0844 249 1895.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 14th January 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Frank Brangwyn at Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham

The interior of Christ’s Hospital School’s chapel with Frank Brangwyn’s panels
The interior of Christ’s Hospital School’s chapel with Frank Brangwyn’s panels

Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) was an important and influential artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He bought a house in South Street, Ditchling called The Jointure in 1918. It was to remain his Sussex country home. He and his wife, Lucy, divided their time between London and Sussex.

In Ditchling he was reacquainted with the artist Eric Gill who had moved there in 1907. Together with a group of fellow artists Gill founded the Roman Catholic Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic at Ditchling. Thanks to their work this Sussex village had become a centre for the Arts and Crafts movement. Whilst Brangwyn was sympathetic to the cause of the craftsman artist he strongly disagreed with many of the views and practices promoted by some members of the Guild.

As a child Frank Brangwyn displayed a precocious artistic talent. His father, William, ran a thriving ecclesiastical atelier in Bruges whose output was predominately sold through his Baker Street shop in London. Brangwyn was introduced to William Morris by the renowned designer and architect Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo. In 1882, at the age of fifteen, Brangwyn began to work in the Morris workshops. He brought some of the necessary skills from having worked with his father. The young artist showed a particular gift for transferring Morris’s designs onto squared up canvases, skills necessary for the manufacture of tapestries and woodblocks for wallpapers.

‘St Wilfred First Bishop of Selsey Teaching the South Saxon’s A.D. 687’
‘St Wilfred First Bishop of Selsey Teaching the South Saxon’s A.D. 687’

Brangwyn had begun work on the panels in the chapel at Christ’s Hospital School in 1912 though they were not completed until 1923. Christ’s Hospital School was re-sited from the City of London to its current location near Horsham between 1893and 1902. The architect Sir Aston Webb, with his partner Ingress Bell, designed the Tudor-Gothic revival buildings which are still central to the school’s character today. Sir Aston Webb had supported Frank Brangwyn putting him forward for large scale projects over many years. Webb was able to secure Brangwyn the commission to paint the school’s chapel. The subjects were devised by the headmaster, the Revd. Dr A. W. Upcott. The scheme follows a procession from the earliest stories of the Church to the conversion of Britain and the mission of the Church of England.

‘St Augustine at Ebbsfleet “Turn O Lord Thy Wrath From This People” ’
‘St Augustine at Ebbsfleet “Turn O Lord Thy Wrath From This People”’

The panels are painted in tempera which gives them their luminous quality. They follow in a long tradition of wall painting in Sussex which stretches back to Saxon times. I am therefore particularly struck by the panel depicting St Wilfrid (c.633-709) who converted the South Saxons to Christianity when he came to Selsey from Northumbria and Ripon. Here he is depicted standing teaching as the Saxon’s draw in their nets. It is said that the South Saxons fished only for eels and that it was St Wilfred who taught them how to catch fish. Their first catch numbered three hundred and the amazed people turned to God. As they were baptized the rain began to fall ending three years of drought and despair. In thanks King Ethelwalh gave Wilfred eighty-seven hides of land at Selsey. St Wilfrid built a monastery and Cathedral on the Selsey peninsular which was lost when a new Cathedral was built by the Normans at Chichester. The panels show the influence of the Renaissance. Brangwyn, had visited Assisi and Venice soon after his marriage to Lucy in 1896. But these decorative paintings also show the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Post-Impressionists and the strong, rich use of colour promoted by artist like Henri Matisse. The panels are united by the titled friezes with their rich blue grounds.

‘St Ambrose Training the Choir in His Church in Milan A.D. 687’
‘St Ambrose Training the Choir in His Church in Milan A.D. 687’

The panels are important not just as fine examples of Brangwyn’s work, but because they form part of a common narrative amongst modern British artists at the time who sought to reaffirm what it is to be British and to redeem our nation from the experience of the first industrialized world war. The panels are honest about the costs of standing up for righteousness with illustrations of Christian martyrs, many associated with Britain. But they are also hopeful in their vibrant Mediterranean palette, clearly depicting the triumph of good over evil.

Brangwyn articulated the view that work should be done meaningfully, to the highest standards, with humility and for the love of God rather than for gain or self-promotion. These aspirations still resonate with the school today. Christ’s Hospital is in many ways unique, offering an independent education of the highest calibre to children with academic potential, from all walks of life. It is a child’s ability and potential to benefit from a Christ’s Hospital education that determines their selection not their ability to pay. The Christian character of the Foundation and School has remained a constant in the life of Christ’s Hospital for over four and a half centuries. Christian values sustain the whole of Christ’s Hospital’s life, instilling care for the individual and tolerance whilst supplying a moral framework for the delivery of every aspect of education.

These values are at the heart of our nation and we should be grateful to all who make aspirational education and opportunity accessible to the broadest cohort of students from diverse social backgrounds. For more than a century Christ’s Hospital has added to the richness of the Horsham District by its example, outreach and patronage of the arts. It is rightly celebrated. Christ’s Hospital is a working school dedicated to preparing young people to flourish and contribute to our society. However, you can enjoy the remarkable Frank Brangwyn’s and some of the school’s artistic, architectural and historical treasures by joining one of the Verrio tours. Tours are available on Thursdays strictly by prior arrangement. For further information and to book a tour contact Lucia Brown on 01403 247407.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 3rd December 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.