Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge draught by Cyril Farey – £26,000 at Anderson & Garland.

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His detailed pencil and watercolour perspective depictions of architectural and engineering landmarks in the first half of the century include commissions for Frank Lloyd Wright and Edwin Lutyens.

By 1924 he had partnered with architect Graham Dawbarn (1888-1954), later notable for designing BBC TV Centre in London. In that year they won in open competition the design for Raffles College in Singapore. Also dated 1924 was an original builder’s draught by the duo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which came up for sale at Newcastle upon Tyne auction house Anderson & Garland on March 29, estimated at £2000-4000.

It was produced for Dorman Long, the Middlesbrough steel firm founded in 1875 which was responsible not only for the Sydney bridge but also the harbour bridge in Auckland, river crossings across Africa and British projects such as London’s Lambeth Bridge, Middlesbrough’s Newport Bridge and, indeed, the Tyne Bridge connecting Newcastle and Gateshead (completed 1928). Sydney Harbour Bridge construction began in 1924 and took eight years. It remains the world’s largest steel arch bridge, totalling 1149 metres.

Cyril Farey and Graham Dawbarn signatures

The Cyril Farey and Graham Dawbarn signature box on the Sydney Harbour Bridge watercolour sold by Anderson & Garland for £26,000.

Signed and dated by both Farey and Dawbran, the 2ft 6in x 5ft 8in (77cm x 1.72m) watercolour also features a Royal Academy of Arts British Architecture Exhibition 1937 label verso, another titled Return to Messers Dorman Long, Terminal House, Grosvenor Gardens and framers’ labels for AR Skillen & Co, London, and James Boublet & Sons, Mortimer Street.

The painting had been hanging in the Darlington headquarters of Cleveland Bridge, a construction firm which merged with Dorman Long. The company collapsed last year. The watercolour had been spotted at the administration sale held a few months ago by a canny buyer from the north-east who paid just £700 for it and took it straightaway to Anderson & Garland.

After a battle between internet phone bidders in the latest sale, with British and Australian interest, the draught is now heading Down Under for £26,000 (plus 22% buyer’s premium).

A&G director Fred Wyrley-Birch said it had benefited from a “come hither” estimate, its “monumental” size, the Australian interest and even though it was not in the original frame, the labels had been carefully retained.

It is believed to be a world record for Farey, beating the £19,000 paid for a watercolour of the New Exchange Scheme in Nottingham featured in the exhibition of Modern British architecture of 1927, offered at Mellors & Kirk in March 2010 (later resold at Christie’s for a lower sum and bought by Nottingham City Council).

Tyne Bridge

Farey’s Tyne Bridge painting sold for £1850 in 2020 at the same saleroom.

In January 2020 Anderson & Garland sold a Farey watercolour of the Tyne Bridge, signed and dated 1928, for £1850. It came from a different source.