Art and Antiques Discovered and Sold in the Heart of Sussex

Juan Manuel Blanes’s Gaucho on Horseback in a Uruguayan Prairie Landscape, oil on canvas, circa 1875-1878

As the New Year and auction season begins I have been reflecting on some of the remarkable art and collections I discovered and sold at Toovey’s here in the heart of Sussex in 2023.

It was the late W Leslie Weller, MBE, DL, who first pioneered a regional centre of specialism and auctioneering with Sotheby’s in Sussex. He was a great inspiration, patron and encouragement to me over the years. I was honoured to sell his renowned Sussex library and collection as a single-owner auction. Sotheby’s auction house in Sussex closed more than twenty years ago. But Leslie was pleased that his vision of a regional auction house with specialists in the major collecting disciplines, here in the heart of Sussex, was alive and well at Toovey’s. Today we continue to attract local, national and international collectors and dealers to our specialist auctions as he did.

Last year at Toovey’s a major work by Uruguay’s most important painter Juan Manuel Blanes (1830-1901) of a Gaucho broke the world record for his paintings at auction selling for £1.15 million.

Juan Manuel Blanes was renowned for painting grand history paintings and portraits as well as scenes and events that shaped Uruguay’s national identity during the years of conflict that resulted in independence from Spain.

Toovey’s picture specialist Tim Williams’s research revealed the painting’s remarkable provenance and enabled him to promoted the picture to an international audience of collectors resulting in the world record price.

English Country House Taste is layered and eclectic always reflecting the taste and interests of the collector and often a patchwork quilt of stories and interests. It is unpretentious, layered and evolving.

An interior from the Donald Church and Michael Godfrey Collections

The beautiful collections of the artist and interior decorator, Donald Church, and the connoisseur, Michael Godfrey represented the best of English Country House taste and were the subject of a series of specialist sales at Toovey’s. Michael and Donald shared a great friendship.

Donald Church had a remarkable career working with many of the leading interior decorators of the post-war period including the hugely influential John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler.

Michael Godfrey’s collection, too, was informed by exceptional taste and included fine Georgian furniture and Works of Art, 18th century Worcester porcelain, paintings and prints.

The prices reflected the quality of their collections and showed the strength of demand for the finest traditional pieces with good provenance.

I am looking forward to 2024, it looks set to be another exciting year at Toovey’s!

Christmas Charity Fundraiser Celebrates the Work of St John Ambulance

County President Giles York with Cadets and volunteers from St John Ambulance Sussex

A Christmas charity fund raising party, organised by Toovey’s on behalf of St John Ambulance at their Washington auction rooms, raised some £5500 and donations are still being received. Money was being raised for a new community support vehicle to enable the volunteers to provide first aid and welfare at events across Sussex. With some £39,000 now raised they are more than halfway towards their target of £75,000.

The St John Ambulance Cadets were out in force on the night and were celebrated by all who came. Speaking to them on the evening I was reminded how proud these impressive young people are of their association with St John Ambulance and the remarkable first aid training they receive.

Since its beginnings in 1877 the organisation has sought to save lives and support the communities it serves. The St John Ambulance service and the Jerusalem Eye Hospital charities operate under the auspices of the British royal order of chivalry, The Order of St John.

St John Ambulance provides first aid training not only to its volunteers but also to businesses and other organisations. It is humbling to reflect that it is older than the NHS who it works with as well as other healthcare partners. When Covid-19 broke out St John Ambulance worked with the NHS providing care and vaccination support.

St John Ambulance offer healthcare support to the homeless and vulnerably housed communities in Brighton and Hastings through drop-in clinics at static locations and their mobile treatment centres. They also support and celebrate organ donors’ families.

Rupert Toovey conducting the fundraising auction at Toovey’s for St John Ambulance, Sussex

Alongside these more recent developments St John Ambulance continues to be dedicated to the teaching and practice of medical first aid and the provision of ambulance services through volunteer units rooted in their local communities. The ambulances and community support vehicles are fitted out with up to date equipment so that the volunteers can provide care wherever they are and wherever people are in need.

As a former chaplain to St John Ambulance here in Sussex it was my privilege to witness their extraordinary contribution to our communities across the county.

The gifts of service to others is richly apparent in the work of the volunteers and staff at St John Ambulance here in Sussex. There is much to celebrate in their work and they need our support. If you would like to contribute to their much needed community support vehicle go to

The Enduring Appeal of Silver

A George III silver teapot of compressed circular form made by Robert Garrard I and hallmarked in London in 1808

Over the centuries the artistry and workmanship of silver objects has delighted connoisseurs and collectors and today it is still highly valued and fashionable.

Nevertheless, I still visit so many people across our county who have been persuaded that silver objects are only worth the value of the silver from which they are made, which is heartbreaking, and very often could not be further from the truth. The high price of silver certainly has to be taken into consideration but the maker, date, quality of design, manufacture, condition, and the rarity of the piece have a significant impact on values too. It really is weight plus artistry.

Take for example the George III teapot and pair of George III candlesticks which sold recently in Toovey’s specialist silver auctions for more than three times their scrap value.

The George III silver teapot had a beautifully conceived putto finial. The body, spout, handle and foot were profusely cast, engraved and chased with scrolling flower and leaf sprays, and with a wonderful mask to the handle. It was hallmarked in London in 1808 and made by the celebrated silversmith Robert Garrard I. In 1802 he had taken over the firm founded by George Wickes in 1722. The firm would remain in the family until 1946 specialising in elaborate domestic silver and fine jewellery. The name Garrard remained synonymous with pieces of the finest quality. The company was appointed as Crown Jewellers by Queen Victoria in 1843, a position it held until 2007. The teapot sold for £900.

A pair of early George III cast silver candlesticks by Richard Morson & Benjamin Stephenson, hallmarked in London in 1772

The pair of early George III cast silver candlesticks were made by Richard Morson & Benjamin Stephenson whose partnership was founded in 1762 and lasted until 1774. They were known for producing candlesticks and chambersticks. This pair of candlesticks were made in 1772. The elegant hexagonal shell and gadrooned edges to the feet, beneath wrythen stems and detachable nozzles, displays a real artistry and quality of craftsmanship. They realised £1600.

The market at auction for silver objects is particularly strong at the moment with people looking to buy teapots and services, candlesticks, canteens of cutlery, as well as finely worked and novelty pieces even when they are of later date.

So before you consign your silver to be melted down please ask the unbiased opinion of Toovey’s silver specialist and Director, Tom Rowsell, or you risk throwing the baby out with the bath water!

Celebrating 40 Years as an Auctioneer and Valuer

Toovey’s Toy specialist, Auctioneer and Valuer, Chris Gale

Chris Gale is celebrating his 40th anniversary as an auctioneer and valuer.

40 years in a profession is cause for celebration and the depth of expertise that time, experience and wisdom brings is apparent in all that Chris does.

He is one of the people I most respect in our profession.

I first met Chris Gale in Horsham, some 39 years ago when we were both starting out and working at Horsham Auction Galleries in the Carfax.

Chris says “Even in those days you wanted your own saleroom, or to be a Vicar.”

The friendship that was born in those days has endured and we have worked together continuously over all these years.

A hugely respected valuer and auctioneer. He maintains an unwavering care for the interest of our clients and the highest professional standards.

Throughout his career Chris has focused his exceptional eye on all the major collecting disciplines. He says “We forget that nothing was ever made in isolation. A Georgian cabinet was made to have a Georgian painting and a pair of candlesticks to accompany it.” But alongside his extraordinary breadth of knowledge Chris is one of the most highly respected toy specialists in the country. Over the years several millions of pounds worth of toys have been sold under his gavel.

An array of toys at Toovey’s

Chris comments “Dinky, Corgi, Matchbox, model trains, dolls, teddy bears, and tinplate toys are still celebrated by collectors and those recapturing their childhoods. Often objects speak of happy times in our lives. When I grew up, the youngest of six, the few toys we had were precious. As a boy my Dad took me to the Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset and bought me a Dinky Toys, 155mm tank which I’ve never forgotten. Dads Hornby, Dublo OO gauge model railway was to be admired but not touched in those days. These days, it’s too busy in the toy department to play with them – but they’re still to be admired!”

I ask Chris what he loves most about his job. He replies “The thing I love most about my job is the team at Tooveys – it’s like a family, it is family. There is something special in helping people as they acquire or sell their collections. The trust they place in you and how appreciative they are once the things have been sold. I still look forward to every day and the future. Even after 40 years, you never stop learning in this business.”

As I thank Chris his face breaks into a smile and he sets out to take the auction.