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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Welcome non-fiction author Christine Sanderson.



Christine Sanderson at rear of 78 Derngate.
I'm delighted to welcome Christine Sanderson onto my blog today talking about her non-fiction book Bassett-Lowke Art. The Making of an Identity.

Many readers will be familiar with model train sets and model boats from childhood days and may recall that the leading figure in manufacturing these wonderful old models was Mr W.J. Bassett-Lowke.

As the son of an engineer, Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke was born in Northampton in 1877. He grew up with a love of model engineering and steam trains. His model trains and scaled ships became famous the world over.

The first house Bassett-Lowke owned was 78 Derngate in Northampton, today a Grade II* Listed Building and a popular tourist attraction in the town once noted for its shoe industry. However, the building isn’t famous just because of the man who owned it. It’s also renowned for being the only house in England remodelled by the famous Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Incidentally, this year marks the 150th anniversary of his birth. Sadly, he makes headline news today because of the devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art where so much of his work was displayed.




A visit to 78 Derngate reveals so much about both of these forward-thinking men. And I was fortunate enough to enjoy a conducted tour around 78 Derngate recently with Christine. She has been involved with this house since 2000 and is an expert and enthusiast on Mr Bassett-Lowke.

 As a member of the 78 Derngate committee, and a tour guide, there was no one more qualified than Christine to write this book. It features over 80 colour pages illustrating the work of those artists who were famous in the engineering and art world such as Henry Greenly, Cecil J. Allen, Edward McKnight Kauffer and of course Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Christine explained that it all started with her going on Northampton Radio, hoping to find people who worked for Bassett-Lowke. She explained, “Another renowned figure who worked with him at the time was skilled model maker E.W.Twining; and I was so pleased when his great-grandson’s wife contacted me. We met up and she showed me a Bassett-Lowke catalogue cover that Twining had designed. This started me wondering about all the other catalogues.”


Christine went on a year-long quest to source these rare catalogues and acquire the necessary copyright permissions to use them in her book. Christine said, “I was really lucky as everyone was so helpful and these people have been acknowledged at the end of the book. Only one museum insisted on payment for the rights to use their images – so we were very fortunate.


“The curator of 78 Derngate, Liz Jansson assisted with the editing and Friends of 78 Derngate paid for the publishing. All the proceeds from the book go straight to 78 to help with the upkeep of this wonderful property. The book is available exclusively from 78 Derngate’s shop and online. It’s a book that will appeal to lots of train people and graphic design people.”

Christine is already working on her second book which will be about the advertisements that Bassett-Lowke placed in hundreds of publications. Its title will be Bassett-Lowke Advertisements. The making of an Identity.
 



Pics of Christine and trains courtesy of Rob Tysall.



1 comment:

  1. Besides being a successful businessman, Bassett-Lowke was an enlightened patron. After commissioning CR Mackintosh to redesign the interior of 78 Derngate, he appointed German architect Peter Behrens, (a founding father of the European Modern Movement) to design New Ways, considered to be the first Modern house in the UK.

    Also, please see a short extract from my own forthcoming book New Ways: The Founding of Modernism:

    ... The Mounts Baths, Northampton

    Built in 1935-36, and designed by architects J C Prestwich and Sons, The Mounts Baths in Northampton owe much to the patronage of W J Bassett-Lowke, the well-known local manufacturer of model railways and Chairman of the committee overseeing the new Baths. He launched an architectural competition to design the new baths in 1931, which was won by J C Prestwich and Sons, whose founding partner, James Caldwell Prestwich (1852–1940), had experience in the design of municipal buildings. He came from Leigh in Lancashire.

    His design, a Modern Movement arched structure over the pool hall with a bold stepped façade facing the street, has an art deco style with its hot-room tiles of chessboard pattern in colours of black and ivory.

    The pool hall itself is dominated by a graceful series of eight parabolic arches with daylight coming from a triple tier clerestory made of steel framed windows, with each tier stepping down in size to suit the parabolic curve of the roof. The builders were A Glenn and Son, but the engineering for the scheme and in particular the vaulted hall was carried out by Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, a consultancy that had been established in 1922. The main pool hall measures 33.8m x 17.7m.

    Although in design principle the pool hall with its parabolic arches bears remarkable similarities to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) New Hall in London, there is a subtle difference between the two structures. The Mounts Baths structure has fully resolved parabolic portal frames which at their spring point are angled inwards by 10 degrees form the vertical. In this way all outward thrusts are taken to the ground....

    Nigel Dale

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