Although all the other sales that used to be held at Sotheby’s Billingshurst have now moved to their Olympia rooms*, the one notable exception is their twice-yearly auctions of garden statuary and architectural items. These continue to be held in West Sussex where they can benefit from Billingshurst’s location for a stylish viewing in their country house grounds.
This month’s auction, which takes place on May 21 and 22, preceded by a four-day view, features the usual varied mix of large-scale outdoor statuary plus a good supply of terracotta together with more offbeat entries, including a large group of fossils and a small cache of revolving wooden summer houses.
Amongst the many properties on offer are two consignments of significant size. One is the 50 lots of statuary belonging to the late Sir John Gielgud, removed from the garden of his home, South Pavilion, Wotton Underwood. The other comprises 34 lots of stoneware garden and conservatory urns and statuary from Thomason of Cudworth.
Philip Thomason started his working life as a stone carver but in 1985 set up his firm specialising in the restoration and the recreation in limited editions of Coade stone and English terracotta. As a result of his restoration endeavours, Thomason became the first person to perfect the art of recreating their 18th century manufacturing process (Coade stone was remarkable for its high definition of detail and resistance to wear).
A move to concentrating on restoration and individual commissions has brought these pieces of Thomason’s stock into Sotheby’s. Pieces range from a 5ft 2in (1.57m) high recreation of the Medici lion and lifesize statues of Flora and Pomona to open scroll pots as originally produced by the Art Potters Guild at Compton. Pictured here is a Thomason piece of more naturalistic inspiration, a fountain fashioned in the form of a giant snail shell, 3ft 3in (1m) wide, set on a bed of stoneware ammonites. Plumbed for water, it is expected to make between £2000 and £3000.
* Sotheby’s Billingshurst also continues to operate as a regional office for valuations and auction advice.