A SUSSEX LIVERYMAN, DRACULA & THE TATE GALLERY – THE STORY OF AN EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY & ITS COLLECTION
DATE: Sunday 28 May
The McGaw Family Collection has a fascinating provenance, revealing a pioneering spirit, an important contribution to the agricultural and arts sectors, and an Australian connection.
The story of the Collection begins with tenant farmer Joseph McGaw (1828 – 1898). At 28 McGaw left England for Australia to make his fortune as a Merino sheep farmer. He was held in such high regard by Australian society, that in 1878 he was asked to stand for Parliament in New South Wales (an offer which he declined). Although Joseph returned to England in 1883 to send his children to University, he retained property in Australia and kept his links with the country.
As a sheep farmer and expert in the wool trade, Joseph (and his descendants) served as Liverymen for the Clothworkers’ Company of London. A City of London guild, the Clothworkers’ Company was established to oversee the practice of Clothworking (the finishing of woven woolen cloth). When production moved away from England, the Guild continued to carry out its charity work. In 1978 Joseph’s Grandson Alan McGaw was elected Master of the Clothworkers’ Company, a year long role that required him to represent the Company on ceremonial occasions. As Liverymen the McGaws were also able to retain the voting rights for the senior civic offices. The families’ involvement in this Company is reflected in the collection at auction. Featured are a Bone China Coffee Set bearing the Clothworkers’ Company Crest, and a 1935 Commemorative Box made for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and presented to Members of the Livery.
Joseph’s great Australian fortune was passed on to his son, Jack McGaw (1872-1952), a Cambridge University graduate with a keen interest in cricket. Jack built the astonishing St Leonard’s Forest Country Manor, where many of the items up for auction were once housed. Highlights include a hand-carved Edwardian Schoolroom Chair bearing son Alan McGaw’s initials, mice and lion figures, a sampling of leatherbound and antique Books from the extensive library, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian furniture, Silver and Glassware bearing the family crest, Paintings and Watercolours, items presented to the family, and curiosities with fascinating histories.
Between the wars, Jack transformed the gardens of the house into cricket grounds, where he hosted annual Country House Cricket Festivals. Famous cricketers, high ranking officials and students from exclusive Universities flocked to the McGaw manor for a chance to play. Jack was also a well-known watercolour artist and the first president of the Association of Sussex Artists. His works were shown at the Paris Salon and in London. The auction will feature a number of McGaw’s watercolours, along with others by his contemporaries.
In 1899 Jack married Pauline Tate, the granddaughter of Sir Henry Tate, founder of the Tate Gallery. Their son Alan McGaw (1908-1999) married Patricia Stoker, who was the great niece of Bram Stoker, author of deeply loved classic novel Dracula.
Alan McGaw served as a Royal Navy Commander in WWII from 1939-41 on the H.M.S Comorin, noted for having caught fire on 6 April 1941 and the subsequent rescue by a destroyer. The auction includes Pauline Tate’s Vanity Case with monogrammed accessories, and a pair of Binoculars famous in McGaw family lore as having been liberated from the Captain’s Cabin of a German U-Boat by Commander Alan McGaw in WWII.
The McGaw Collection is a capsule collection of quality and great historical significance, sure to delight the inquiring collector, the history lover and those who admire beautiful objects.