Sussex heritage: Anthony Capo Bianco - champion of the arts, heritage and business

Rupert Toovey and Anthony Capo Bianco playing trains.
Rupert Toovey and Anthony Capo Bianco playing trains.
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It is my experience that the people in society to whom we owe the most are those who give of their time and expertise for the benefit of others, working tirelessly with a real quality of philanthropy, seeking neither applause nor recognition.

Amongst this number is my friend the engineer, designer, entrepreneur and patron Anthony Capo Bianco.

The Grand Saloon balcony � The Reform Club, London.

The Grand Saloon balcony � The Reform Club, London.

Anthony lives with his wife, Stella, in the heart of the West Sussex countryside. They generously support charities and organisations across the county and beyond.

Anthony approaches his interests with huge enthusiasm and determination. He is a man who celebrates our nation’s history. He does not want us to be consigned to the past, though, and embraces innovation and technology.

With support from English Heritage, Anthony has been at the forefront of a four-and-a-half-year conservation project at The Reform Club in London, which is entering its final phase.

The Reform Club will be known to many for its appearance as the backdrop to the fencing sequence in the 2002 James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’.

It is, however, the influence and vision of The Reform Club’s members since the 19th century which has so often blessed our nation. Members have included the former Prime Ministers William Gladstone, Sir Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George, as well as literary figures like H.G. Wells and Sussex writer Hilaire Belloc.

Today, the club still inspires important debate, bringing together figures of international standing from the worlds of politics, science and commerce to discuss the issues of our time.

The Reform Club was designed by Sir Charles Barry and built between 1837 and 1841. Central to the building and this project is the conservation of the Grand Saloon and Library, two of the most important historic interiors in the whole of London.

“New meets old in this project,” Anthony Capo Bianco explains. “The groundbreaking contemporary lighting is extraordinary; it respects the environment by being super-efficient and conserves the objects that it illuminates.”

An active member of The Reform Club for many years, Anthony has given his time and expertise to the conservation project without charge. His innovative work is attracting attention from the curators and conservators of some of the country’s most important cultural icons.

Anthony and I share a passion not only for history and architecture but also for toy steam trains. It is through Anthony’s enthusiasm that Toovey’s and our collectors’ toys department became involved with Brighton Toy and Model Museum. Anthony has been a keen supporter of the museum for many years.

“The exhibits are world-class,” he enthuses, “and there are no comparable collections on display anywhere.”

Brighton Toy Museum has been the first outside London to benefit from Anthony’s extraordinary lighting designs. With quiet pride he says: “The lighting is simply the eyes through which to enjoy the glory of the Reform Club and the exhibits at Brighton Toy Museum.”

The official launch of the new lighting display at Brighton Toy Museum will be on 8th October between 4pm and 6pm. Entry to the launch is by ticket only and to celebrate the occasion a limited number of complimentary tickets are being made available to readers of this column.

To claim your free ticket, telephone Tigger at the museum on 01273 749494. The museum premises in the arches beneath Brighton Station hold thousands of rare objects in which to delight, including numerous Meccano pieces. Amongst these is a rare Meccano toy oil can, which was generously donated to the museum by Bob Farren, chairman of the Cowfold Village History Society, at a reception I held for the museum earlier this year.

Anthony and I are certain that our nation’s heritage provides much of the common narrative which binds the people of these islands together. We are also emphatic about the need to promote the positive economic effects that our county’s museums and art galleries have on the broader Sussex economy. That the economic value of Brighton Toy Museum is being acknowledged by Brighton City Council, Network Rail and Southern Rail is to be celebrated. Anthony’s talent and generosity of spirit should also be applauded.

There are so many wonderful things to see at Brighton Toy Museum and Anthony has reinvigorated the displays with great success. You won’t fail to notice where new meets old!

The museum is open Mondays to Fridays 10am to 5pm and Saturdays 11am to 5pm. To find out more, go to www.brightontoymuseum.co.uk.

Rupert Toovey is a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington - www.tooveys.com - and a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Chichester.