History-makers pay off at Worthing auction

A STORRINGTON woman has spoke of her delight after an autograph album she gave to her father in the 1930s fetched £1,200 at auction in Worthing.

Joyce Thompsett, 87, and her sister Chris gave their father, captain William Baker, the autograph book as a present and from then on he kept it onboard the ferries he captained.

Over time he filled the pages with 38 famous signatures from the 20th Century, including Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain and Rudyard Kipling.

Joyce only expected the VIP book to make 100 at the auction at Gorringes Auction House, in High Street, last Wednesday. But when it went under the hammer with much interest from the UK and overseas, it sold for 1,200.

Joyce, who grew up in Folkestone with her father and family, said she sold the book because she wanted to give the money to her grandchildren.

She said: "I'm very happy it has sold for so much. I never expected it to fetch that much.

"I wasn't sure which of my children to pass it down to, and I didn't want it to sit in a in a drawer. It's nice to think of it going to a good home, someone who will appreciate it.

"I am sad to see it go though. It has a lot of sentimental value."

The signatures were collected by captain Baker during his time onboard cross-channel ferries between England and France in the 1930s.

Captain Baker would ask VIPs on board the ferries for their autographs. Famous figures, including Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth Bownes-Lyon, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, were happy to provide their signatures for the captain's special autograph book.

Players from the Arsenal Football Club from the 1930s also agreed to sign the book.

The album was estimated to sell for between 400 and 600. The winning bidder was a UK private collector, who won the auction with a commission bid.

Francesca Collin, from Gorringes, described the album as a "delightful item with a lovely story behind it. A real piece of social history".

The SS Barritz under captain Baker's command played a significant role in World War II as the last ship to evacuate people from the Channel Isles. The ship also assisted with the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk in 1940, for which captain Baker is mentioned in Dispatches.

The SS Barritz was torpedoed and destroyed in the war, but captain Baker survived and retired from service in 1945.

Click here to see a video of the auction.