An interesting and rare toy turned up in the saleroom recently. A plain old brown cardboard box that, at first glance, did not seem likely to cause any great excitement. The box was opened to reveal a tin omnibus pulled by a pair of wooden horses. Despite careful packing, the horses and figures had suffered over the years with detached and missing limbs.
Not immediately recognisable, with none of the usual maker’s marks, a label on the lid of the box provided a clue to the toy's history. It had been posted in 1901 by a French lady in Manchester to a young Miss Wright in Biggleswade. One can imagine her joy at receiving this present, perhaps for her birthday? Intriguingly the box was inscribed ‘Not to be opened’! It would have been an immaculate and brightly painted representation of a modern omnibus of the time.
The handwritten date showed that this toy was earlier than the many later lithographed toys made by the German and British companies in the early 20th century. A higher degree of craftsmanship was involved in making this, including the carving of the horses and the driver and the painting of the tin body and coach lined wheels.
Distler, Carette, Bing and Gunthermann were all German toy makers of the time and it could be attributed to any of these. These companies would have exported their wares to the UK, but they would have been an expensive luxury! The painted destinations on the sides refer to wealthy areas of London, including Chelsea and Sloane Street. This perhaps was to target residents of those areas, although the locations of the sender and recipient do not back up this theory!
It will be entered for our next Country House Sale on 27 June, with an estimate of £600-800.
Our Design sale on 4-5 May includes a group of Arts & Crafts items from the estate of the design writer and biographer Fiona MacCarthy OBE (1940-2020). Married to the Sheffield-based silversmith and designer David Mellor (1930-2009), who she first met when conducting an interview in 1967, MacCarthy’s background as a journalist for House and Garden and the Guardian helped to lay the foundations for seminal works on C R Ashbee, the Omega Workshops, William Morris, Eric Gill, and Stanley Spencer.
Sworders Design department is delighted to be offering a selection of some of the Gabbertas Studio’s most iconic designs, some of which are extremely rare versions of designs or prototypes made by the hand of Mark Gabbertas himself | DESIGN WEDNESDAY 5 MAY 2021
Following Covid's cancellation of the Festival in 2020, the charming Georgian market town of Holt in Norfolk is delighted to be resuming its role as host of East Anglia’s celebration of creativity, Holt Festival, this summer, and Sworders couldn't be prouder to be sponsoring not one, but two art prizes this year.