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North Essex treasure trove of horse artefacts from bygone era goes up for sale

PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 August 2018

One of the artefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse - a bow fronted Brome by E & H Vezey of Bath - which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLE

One of the artefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse - a bow fronted Brome by E & H Vezey of Bath - which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLE

Clarke & Simpson

A treasure trove of horse artefacts and vehicles from a bygone age, which have been collected by an Essex father and son over many years, are set to go under hammer.

Artefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLEArtefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLE

Ted Wilson and son, Christopher, who lived at a converted pub, the Old Wheatsheaf at Toppesfield, near Halstead, built up a remarkable collection of equine paraphernalia over decades, with Christopher travelling widely to pick up new objects of interest.

Christopher, the last in the direct family line, survived his father but died in January this year.

Now his lifetime’s collection of horse-drawn carts and carriages, implements, harnesses and bygones are to be sold by auction by Clarke & Simpson on Saturday, September 1, at 10.30am.

The Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse, a private family museum, opened for a while in the 1970s, but after it closed, Christopher continued to collect, explained auctioneer James Durrant.

Some heavy horse equipment from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLESome heavy horse equipment from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLE

The large private collection, including more than 30 heavy horse vehicles, was “a very interesting one”, he said, and had already attracted a wide spectrum of interest.

The sale, on behalf of the executors of the late Christopher Wilson, will be held on site at his former home near Halstead.

“This is a very diverse sale, encompassing rural bygones, large amounts of harness, what is believed to be one of the finest collections of horse brasses to come to the market in recent times, and a diverse range of horse drawn vehicles and carriages,” said James.

“Christopher Wilson was well known within the heavy horse world. He was a regular face at the Reading Horse Sales - they had a big carriage sale down there.”

Some artefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLESome artefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLE

The collection was started by ‘Ted’ Wilson, who was also Halstead’s town crier. Following the closure of the museum, Christopher, an accomplished wheelwright, continued to carry out restoration work on the number of the vehicles, focusing on the wheels.

The Wilsons’ brasses collection, some suggest, is one of the biggest and best collections to come to market in recent times, said James,

and the sale is “quite diverse”, with heavy and light horse items.

It will begin with various wagon and carriage spares, including ironwork, timbers and axles, followed by a range of horse drawn implements including wooden beam ploughs, harrows and expanding hoes, and a Cook of Lincoln two-furrow plough.

A four wheel bakers van - one of the artefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLEA four wheel bakers van - one of the artefacts from the Toppesfield Museum of the Working Horse which will go on sale through Clarke & Simpson Picture: TOM COLE

The sale also includes a large number of wheels for wagons and carriages, many of which have had restoration work carried out, including a pair from a timber drug that are more than 6ft in diameter.

The auction will moved inside, into the museum building, with a range of bygones and tools, and the mainly heavy horse harness and large range of horse brasses, martingales and harness decoration, including a number of sets of cart saddles, breaching, collars and bridles. There are two unusual quick-release metal collars, which were understood to have been used by the fire service.

The sale will end on a high when the horse drawn vehicles – 36 in total and varying from those requiring total restoration to a charabanc which has been completely restored and appears to be in good roadworthy condition - go under the hammer.

They include several harvest wagons and tumbrels from local homes and manufacturers, a dealer’s cart, pony spring cart, rally carts, landau, continental sociable, baker’s van, delivery van and butcher’s cart. There is also a bow-fronted brome by Vezey of Bath with an ornate interior and a Peters’ of London private omnibus suitable for a pair or team.

“It’s a fantastic collection. We’ve already had a lot of interest from all over the country and we have got people registered online from as far afield as America,” said James.

There had also been inquiries from continental Europe, he said.

“It’s unusual to have a collection or a sale like this where it’s all one person’s collection,” he said. “This is all one family’s collection. That’s a big draw. On some of the wagons there’s some good provenance on there.”

Some of the wagons were locally-made and used on local farms, he said. Others, such as one from Newquay, was attracting interest from that part of the country, he added. There was also interest from those who continue to show heavy horses, he said.

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