Boys, Toys and Automobiles in Sussex

A Kingsbury tinplate model of Sir Henry Segrave’s Golden Arrow land speed record car

Here in West Sussex, many of the thriving collectors’ fields are informed by childhood passions. The land speed record attempts were particularly evocative for those growing up between and just after the First and Second World Wars.

Toovey’s toys specialist Chris Gale and consultant Gordon Gardiner enjoy a Gunthermann tinplate model of Sir Malcom Campbell's Bluebird land speed record car at Toovey’s Christmas specialist auction of collectors’ toys on 3rd December

“I remember watching Donald Campbell demonstrating his Bluebird CN7 land speed record car at Goodwood motor racing circuit, Sussex, in July 1960,” recalls Toovey’s consultant toys specialist Gordon Gardiner with customary enthusiasm. Competition for the world land speed record was particularly strong during the inter-war years, as a select group of courageous gentlemen drivers pushed themselves and their cars to the edge of endurance. Among these drivers were men like Henry Segrave and Malcolm Campbell, Donald Campbell’s father. These successive attempts to become the fastest men on land were celebrated in a mood of patriotism and national pride. Their bravery and achievements inspired a generation of boys. Our interest in their triumphs continues to fuel our appetite for toys and paper collectables relating to the pursuit of speed.

A black and white photograph of Sir Henry Segrave in his 4 litre V12 Sunbeam land speed record car.

It is always great fun to stray into Toovey’s toys department. Our toys specialist Chris Gale is seen here with Gordon Gardiner enjoying a tinplate clockwork model of Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird land speed record car by the German firm Gunthermann. German tinplate toys and trains from this period were made to high standards and are much sought-after by today’s collectors. In view of Gunthermann’s reputation for quality, I ask Gordon why this one does not bear their name and is just marked ‘Foreign’, rather than ‘German’. He replies, “There was a resistance to buying German-made toys after the Great War, so they marked this one simply as foreign to avoid any stigma.” I comment on the condition of this car, which to my eye seems to be remarkably good for its date. Gordon responds, “Most toy land speed record cars were well used by their original owners, so they are often quite play-worn but this one is better than most.” I always warm to the term ‘play-worn’. In all our other specialist departments, problems of condition are often noted as faults, but in the toys department things are play-worn, a fond metaphor for the passage of time and wear. “Nevertheless,” Chris interjects, “it is this model’s rarity and the fact that it still has its original box, albeit torn and incomplete, which led to its remarkable hammer price of £1100 in our Christmas toy sale.”

Chris reminds me of the Kingsbury tinplate keyless-clockwork model land speed record car which his department sold for £650 a couple of years ago. He says, “This is a popular model of the Golden Arrow record-breaker which was driven by Henry Segrave in 1929.”

A menu for a banquet in honour of Sir Malcolm Campbell following his land speed record at Bonneville Flats in September 1935

Interest in land speed record-breakers is strong in other collectors’ areas as well. Take, for example, the menu for a banquet in honour of Sir Malcolm Campbell, ‘as a tribute to his achievement in setting up the New Land Speed Record of 301.129mph at Bonneville Flats, Utah, USA’. It is dated September 24th 1935 and has a bas-relief photograph cover depicting Sir Malcolm. The black and white photograph also illustrated here shows Sir Henry Segrave at the wheel of his 4 litre V12 Sunbeam, which broke the land speed record at 152.33mph in 1926. The card mount is signed in ink by Segrave and other key members of the record-breaking team. Both lots were sold in specialist paper collectables auctions, headed by Nicholas Toovey, for £100 and £300 respectively.

Returning to Toovey’s toys department, I am interested to know what it is about old toys which delight collectors. “Part of it is fulfilling childhood dreams,” says Chris, “but it is also about their interests – particular vehicles, for example, or a certain historical period.” He continues with a smile, “Toy collectors are really generous with their knowledge and their enthusiasm, which is contagious.” I agree. Collecting is often about the acquisition and sharing of knowledge but it is also about community and sharing interests with fellow enthusiasts. After all, lively minds make open hearts!

Chris Gale and Gordon Gardiner are already gearing up for their spring toy auction, which will be held on 25th March 2014. Nicholas Toovey’s next paper collectables auction will be on 22nd April 2014. All are delighted to share their specialist interests with you and offer advice. They can be contacted at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms at Washington.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 11th December 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Dalek is coming…

2D Adventures Daleks
Dalek artwork circa 1960 from the exhibition

Excitement is building amongst Whovians as the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who approaches. Fans of Doctor Who will know that in the stories it was the evil Davros who created the deadly Dalek race. However, it was in fact the writer, Terry Nation, who dreamt up the Daleks. But few will be aware that the man who gave the Daleks form was prop-designer and artist Raymond Cusick. Raymond Cusick lived in Horsham securing the town a place in the Doctor Who story. This important connection is being marked by an exhibition at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery of Doctor Who memorabilia including a Dalek! The exhibition, ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’, is the perfect half-term treat, entry is free and it runs until 1st January 2014.

We all know what a Dalek is but what sort of Doctor Who creature is a Whovian? In recent years a teenage generation have grouped themselves into fandoms. So if you can’t resist Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes you are a Sherlockian. But if the debate in your household is whether you are most looking forward to seeing Matt Smith, David Tennant or John Hurt as the Doctor, in the 50th Anniversary Special to be screened on 23rd November, then you are Whovians.

The exhibition is the inspiration of Horsham Museum Curator Jason Semmens who has been a fan of the show since he was three years old. “Doctor Who was the hero of a range of cartoon strips published in various comics and annuals from the mid-1960s onwards” Jason explains, “The artwork for the comics are much larger than the comic books and have real visual impact.” I ask him what his particular favourites are, he responds “The TV21 magazine Dalek cartoon strip from the 1960s is vibrant and fun and the weekly cartoon strips from 1980 with Tom Baker in them are also really good.”

For me the highlight of the exhibition is the Dalek shown here with Horsham District Council’s Head of Museums and Heritage, Jeremy Knight and Whovian, Emma Toovey. I still find them menacing. An episode of Doctor Who is guaranteed to make me jump out of my skin in fright. Laughing Emma says “You’re as frightening as the Doctor Who monsters when you do that Dad!” She has a point.

Jason Semmens’ favourite Doctors are Tom Baker and the earlier Patrick Troughton. Each generation will have their favourite Doctor but what unites us is our delight in the stories and our shared experience of hiding behind the sofa. For me the latest batch of Doctors have been exceptional with the alien quality of Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant’s emotion, passion and energy and Matt Smith’s compassion, courage, determination and humour, not to mention his Harris Tweed jacket and catch phrase “bowties are cool”, I could not agree with him more.

You don’t need a Tardis to travel back in time just a trip to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery as witnessed by Emma Toovey and K9 transported back to late Victorian Horsham’s P. Williams & Co pharmacy from West Street.

Many of us now come from generations where our shared memories are often caught up with TV and Film. The ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’ captures something of our own childhood stories brilliantly. Toys also reflect childhood memories. For example, model railways speak to a generation whose childhoods were defined by a passion for steam engines and an ambition to drive them. For the TV and Film generation toys as iconic as a James Bond 007 Corgi Aston Martin DB5, or a Corgi Batmobile, capture their imaginations in a similar way. Indeed Toovey’s toy sales are a boom market!

The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, according to published information, is the third most visited heritage attraction in Sussex. This is an extraordinary achievement which speaks of the importance all of us place on our common history and heritage. The economic impact of these visitors is profoundly important to Horsham and the broader Horsham District’s businesses and economy. Councillors like Jonathan Chowen understand this. Thanks to them The Horsham District Council continues its important involvement in supporting the museum, the hard work and dedication of its Curator, Jason Semmens and Head of Museums and Heritage, Jeremy Knight. All involved deserve to be applauded.

Be transported back in time this half term at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery and delight in ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’. Don’t miss that marvellous Dalek – entry is free! For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org or telephone the museum on 01403 254959.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 23rd October 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

A Life with Traction Engines

Neil Gough’s former Marshall and Burrell steam traction engines
Neil Gough’s former Marshall and Burrell steam traction engines

As soon as you start to talk about traction engines, Neil Gough’s eyes light up and his face breaks into a smile. His quiet enthusiasm is contagious. Neil discovered his passion for traction engines as a ten-year-old boy at the Parham Steam Rally, held at the foot of the Sussex Downs. I remember going and in those days there were rows of engines parading on the fields. It was at this event that a family friend, Peter Fagg, invited him onto his engine and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Neil is a highly respected engineer specialising in traction engine mechanics. His gifts are in demand among the select band of custodians who keep these extraordinary engines running across the British Isles and even as far afield as New Zealand.

From about ten years old, whenever he could, he travelled with Peter to steam rallies across the country, living in the van and helping to polish and maintain the engine. Neil bought his first engine in 1997 when he was 19 years old. “It was a Marshall, made in about 1925,” says Neil. “They were made in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. I paid £6,000 but it was in bits. After three years I had her running and it took another three years to paint her by hand.” Neil enjoyed the Marshall for many years and eventually sold her for £70,000, a testament to the quality of his work and the demand for these steam leviathans.

His latest engine and project is a McLaren road locomotive, circa 1912. The engineering works were located in Hunslet, Leeds, and run by the McLaren brothers, John and Henry. “This is the biggest road locomotive ever built,” Neil enthuses. “She’s top-notch but in poor condition. She’s had a chequered history and might have been a war department cancelled order – I’m still researching the engine’s history. She was exported to Australia and eventually blown up by scrap men. I’m planning to bring her back to her original state.” The engine was saved for preservation in 1978 and brought back to this country by Neil’s friend, Brian Hardy.

Neil Gough at work
Neil Gough at work in his busy engineering workshop

As we walk through the works, there are a number of clients’ engines being repaired. I am excited to discover the exacting tolerances Neil works to on engines of such enormous scale. “We work to a thousandth of an inch,” he says with quiet pride. The array of lathes and tools speak loudly of the calibre of this talented, modest engineer-enthusiast. To find gear-cutting, valve-facing, horizontal and vertical boring and so many other engineering skills under one roof is rare today. Everything is unique and handmade.

I ask Neil what is the thing he most likes about these traction engines and without hesitation he replies, “Driving them! It’s difficult and a skill. The challenge is that each engine has its own personality and quirks.”

A hand-built steam model pump engine by the late Ron Wheele
A hand-built steam model pump engine

If a traction engine is beyond your reach, perhaps you could consider a model steam pump engine, like the one illustrated. It will be offered for sale in Toovey’s specialist auction of collectors’ toys and models, together with a number of other model steam stationary engines, on Tuesday 9th July 2013. It was hand built by the late Ron Wheele, who carried out restoration work at Brighton Toy Museum and the Brighton Engineerium. This beautifully crafted model is estimated at £800-1,200.

Neil Gough is always delighted to share his passion for engines and engineering with enthusiasts. To find out more about Neil’s engineering services, contact him on 01903 891454 or go to his website www.steamrestorations.co.uk.

“The major steam rally for traction engines in Sussex is now held at Wiston,” says Neil. With more than thirty steam engines, vintage and classic vehicles and many exhibitors, this year’s Wiston Steam Rally will be held this coming weekend, on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th July. Who knows, you may discover that you share a passion for steam with Neil Gough! For more information go to www.sussexsteamrally.co.uk.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 3rd July 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Bing and Nuremberg Tinplate Toys

A Bing tinplate clockwork open top double deck bus
A Bing tinplate clockwork open top double deck bus to be offered at Toovey's on 9th July 2013

The tinplate toy’s development in the mid-19th century with it’s bold and bright colouring, tactile modelling and often superb detailing quickly replaced its wooden toy predecessors for obvious reasons. The rise in the tinplate toy was spearheaded by German manufacturers, such as Märklin, who set the high standards for the industry. Today, the city of Nuremberg is known around the world as a center for toy production and hosts the largest international toy fair. The renown of the city started with a firm called Bing.

The brothers Ignaz and Adolf Bing originally opened a distribution firm for household goods in 1866, quickly adding toys to their list of products and a manufacturing firm to their flourishing business. By 1871 the company was employing over 100 workers. The company continued to grow and at the 1882 State Exposition Bing had the largest range of wares of any exhibiting manufacturer and were already shipping to destinations around the globe. Expansion at the firm continued and when the company issued its 550 page catalogue and price list in 1912 it was the largest toy manufacturer in the world employing 2700 people. It was not until the First World War that the firm started to dwindle in popularity, the output was changed to manufacturing military goods and the company was so large it was now necessary to change to a stock company eventually splitting into several manufacturing facilities. Although splinters of the company remain today the heyday for the firm was certainly around the turn of the last century.

Two Bing tinplate station indicators
Two Bing tinplate 'next train to' station indicators to be offered at Toovey's

Toovey’s specialist auctions of Toys, Dolls and Games regularly include examples from this and other German toy manufacturers and the July auction is no different. Lot 3160 is a beautifully crafted early 20th century Bing tinplate clockwork open top double deck bus with external staircase. The 18cm long bus is beautifully lithographed with the London General Omnibus Company logo and advertisements for Pascall confectionery, Wright’s Coal Tar Soap and Dunlop. For collectors, condition is all important and the generally good condition of this bus is reflected in its £200-400 pre-sale estimate. Bing are probably best known for the creation of model railways and also included in Toovey’s toy auction is a pair of Bing tinplate ‘next train to’ station indicators. Each platform sign has a clock face and six changeable destination boards. The pair are a similar date to the double deck bus and are estimated at £80-120 due to a little playwear and minor rust spots.

Bing alone did not make Nuremberg the center for toy products. At one time it is believed there were more than fifty toy firms operating in the city, most of whose names have been lost or forgotten in the archives. That said, many Nuremberg-based names are still revered by collectors including Arnold Fleischmann and Lehmann, while children of today will know the modern day producers of Playmobil, Carrera and Trix, continuing the legacy of toy production in Nuremberg.

Schuco Curvo 1000
Schuco Curvo 1000 to be offered at Toovey's

Another name joining the Nuremberg toy producer’s hall of fame was a firm established in the pre-war years of the 20th century by Heinrich Müller and Heinrich Shreyer. Also creating tinplate toys, Schreyer & Co enjoyed great success until the First World War, but with reinvestment the company survived, rebranding to Schuco in 1921. Under this trade name the company would eventually gain international fame, despite the difficulty of the second world war. In 1962, an estimated one hundred million Schuco toys were sold. Because of their vast and varied output Schuco tinplate toys regularly appear in the toy sales at Toovey’s. The auction on Tuesday 9th July features a tinplate Schuco ‘Curvo 1000’ measuring 12.5cm in length. The mid-20th century racer on a motorcycle, Lot 3165, is offered with the remnants of its original box and the original instructions. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £100-150 which illustrates that collecting tinplate toys can still be relatively affordable when buying at auction, that is unless you amass a collection to rival that of the late publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes who was a well-known and avid collector. Tinplate toys were made throughout the 20th century with America and Japan becoming major producers too, flying the tinplate flag for Britain was Chad Valley among others. Many of the firms are still producing tinplate toys to be enjoyed by collectors now and in the future, but there is something inexplicably lovely about the vintage versions, like those waiting to be discovered at Toovey’s.

Chris Gale visits the Brighton Toy & Model Museum

Daddy Long Legs Electric Railway Model at Brighton Toy and Model Museum (on loan from Volks' Electric Railway Association)

On Saturday 2nd February, Toovey’s resident Toy, Doll and Game specialist, Chris Gale visited the Brighton Toy and Model Museum. Attending a talk given by Ian Gledhill about the Brighton inventor Magnus Volk (1851-1937).

It was Volk who established the first phone link in Brighton. He also installed the first electric light bulb and was responsible for the beginning of the city’s electrification.  One of his many inventions was the first electric railway in the world – Volk’s Railway which has been running along Brighton Seafront for 129 years. The other not less remarkable creation and probably the most recognisable was the Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Railway (Daddy Long Legs).

Chris said “Ian gave an enthusiastic and educational talk with photographs and a very rare short film of the Daddy Long Legs in action.”

Also on display at the museum, which Toovey’s sponsor, is a wonderful collection of toys and games including Hornby, Marklin, Bassett Lowke, Corgi Toys, Dinky Toys, dolls, and soft toys.  Chris now turns his attention to deadlining his forthcoming Specialist Sale of Toys on 27th February, in preparation for the auction on Tuesday 19th March.