|Christine Sanderson with her latest book|
As a young man, he, along with H.F.R. Franklin and help from W.J’s father, set up the company Bassett-Lowke Ltd. To begin with they were a model engineering supplies company, but they went on to become one of the country’s largest suppliers of model railways, garden railways, model ships and exhibition models which became famous the world over.
The company was heavily involved in model making during the First and Second World Wars. Owing to their skill and expertise the company was the perfect choice to be deployed in invaluable model making for the Ministry of Defence. During the First World War, models ranged from waterline ships for recognition purposes to machine guns allowing new recruits to learn how to assemble and operate them without needing the real thing, so urgently needed at the front line.
In the Second World War many more models were produced for instructional purposes and the larger ones enabled the military to plan D-Day in secrecy. All of this and more was produced by Bassett-Lowke Ltd.
The firsthouse Mr Bassett-Lowke and his wife owned was 78 Derngate in Northampton, today a GradeII* 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. A visit to the house reveals so much about both of these forward-thinking men.
I was fortunate enough to enjoy a conducted tour around 78 Derngate with Christine Sanderson. Christine has been involved with this house since 2000 and is an expert and enthusiast on W.J. Bassett-Lowke.
The first book in the series Bassett-Lowke Art concentrated on the art work that Bassett-Lowke Ltd used to produced the many catalogues and advertisements for the company over the years. They used many accomplished artists and these are featured in the book.
This second book, Bassett-Lowke War Work. covers the extent and importance of the work undertaken by the artisans of Bassett-Lowke Ltd and their associated companies Winteringham Ltd and E W Twining Ltd. The work, undertaken mostly with the utmost secrecy, bearing in mind the shortage of materials, makes for an incredible story. For example, the reader will find out where the wood was sourced for the thousands of model ships produced and what was the secret in the coffin at Bath?
Regarding writing the book, and gathering information, Christine said: "I have been very lucky to have been loaned a lot of ephemera from the Bassett-Lowke Society and various other sources. It took a lot of research and time to find the information, but as it was completed during lockdown it was, of course, a very quiet time which gave me the opportunity to concentrate on the book."
Christine is hoping that the book will appeal to those interested in model making, the War and of course Bassett-Lowke Ltd. With 100 pages and over 80 colourful images, showing the work achieved together with advertisements and catalogues produced during the wartime years, this A5 sized book is packed with original information from articles produced by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke.
Plus, she has another two books in the pipeline, Bassett-Lowke Advertising and Stationery. Christine added, "Whether they will get published remains to be seen, depending on whether the finances for printing can be obtained. But at least the information is gathered together and can be kept in the 78 Derngate archives for future reference. This is really what my books are about, to save the information so it will not be lost."
Printing was generously funded by ‘The Friends of 78 Derngate’ enabling all proceeds from the book to go directly to 78 Derngate. Priced at £9.99 +pp it is now available to buy at 78 Derngate or via the website.Likewise, the first book in the series Bassett-Lowke Art - The Making of an Identity is also available, at a cost of £7.50 +pp.