Additions and alterations to 78 Derngate, Northampton

M333 Additions and alterations to 78 Derngate, Northampton

Address: 78, Derngate, Northampton NN1 1UH
Date: 1916–17
Client: Wenman J. Bassett-Lowke
Authorship: Authorship category 3 (Office with Mackintosh) (Office with Mackintosh)

78 Derngate is an early 19th-century four-storey brick terraced house in central Northampton. In 1916–17 it was altered externally and internally for W. J. Bassett-Lowke. More than 20 years later, Bassett-Lowke described to the architectural historian Thomas Howarth how he came to commission Mackintosh to work on the house, but factual inconsistencies in his recollections make it difficult to be sure of the facts and the sequence of events. 1 Mackintosh was certainly responsible for the most striking interiors and furniture, but what involvement he had in the structural changes to the house is far from clear; some collaboration with Bassett-Lowke over the final configuration of the interiors is possible. 2

Structural alterations

The structural changes comprise a single-storey bay window at the front and a four-storey bay overlooking the back garden, along with the reorientation of the staircase and changes to the internal layout of the first floor. 3 The most striking of these alterations is the startlingly plain rear bay. It is faced with smooth, light-coloured render, and it incorporates two balconies, one at the top on the flat roof, the other a deep, covered balcony opening off the first-floor bedroom.

Colour photograph of basement plan before remodelling, 'Ideal Home', August 1920, p. 53Colour photograph of basement plan after remodelling, 'Ideal Home', August 1920, p. 53Colour photograph of ground-floor plan before remodelling, 'Ideal Home', August 1920, p. 54Colour photograph of ground-floor plan after remodelling, 'Ideal Home', August 1920, p. 54Colour photograph of first-floor plan before remodelling, 'Ideal Home', September 1920, p. 94Colour photograph of first-floor plan after remodelling, 'Ideal Home', September 1920, p. 94

An important but puzzling piece of archival evidence for the authorship of these alterations is a drawing by Northampton-based Scottish architect Alexander Ellis Anderson, who had previously worked for the family businesses of both Bassett-Lowke and his future wife, Florence Jane Jones. 4 It was submitted for planning approval to the Northampton County Borough engineer and surveyor on behalf of Bassett-Lowke on 1 June 1916. 5 78 was not the first house in Derngate to be extended in this way: in 1912, local architect Thomas Keighley Cobb, a friend of Basset-Lowke, had designed comparable additions to the front and rear of 70, 6 and Anderson and his client no doubt took account of Cobb's work. 7 Anderson's drawing shows new bays to the street and garden, a reorientation of the stairs and a new layout of part of the first floor. The details, however, do not match the building work that was actually carried out: on Anderson's drawing, for instance, the garden bay is only two storeys high, with no balcony, and the stairs follow a dog-leg plan. Two drawings by Mackintosh for the front door survive, one of which –a striking design in black with panels of yellow and clear glass – was executed. 8

Colour photograph of plans and sections for proposed alterations, by A. E. Anderson, 1916

There is insufficient evidence to say how Anderson's initial design developed into the rather different alterations that were eventually built. The revised plans may not have required the approval of the Borough engineer and surveyor; at any rate, no further drawings appear to have survived. Gavin Stamp has pointed out that the severe, rectilinear character of the garden elevation is comparable to Josef Hoffmann's Purkersdorf Sanatorium of 1904 and Adolf Loos' Scheu house of 1912 in Vienna, and it is likely the executed design emerged as a result of Bassett-Lowke's preference for contemporary German and Austrian design. 9 He had admired progressive German design and technology since at least 1900, when he visited the Expositition Universelle in Paris, and he subsequently redecorated his office with geometric Jugendstil stencilling. His model engineering business also had close links with German suppliers. 10

More than 20 years after the transformation of 78 Derngate, Bassett-Lowke rejected the idea that Mackintosh had any involvement in the structural changes to the building. He wrote to Howarth that 'the structional alterations to No 78 Derngate were in progress when I first met Mr. Mackintosh and the back veranda, facing South, was my own idea ...' 11 While Bassett-Lowke may have been choosing to edit out Mackintosh's role in the architectural work, he could well have specified the alterations himself. Both privately and professionally, he was interested in design, and in the early 1890s, before joining his father's engineering business as an apprentice, he had spent around 18 months training in an architect's office in Northampton. 12 Mackintosh may have made some contribution to the development of the design, but there is no documentary evidence for this. 13

B/W photograph of Derngate looking N.W., c. 1914B/W photograph of 78 Derngate street elevation before 1916–17 additionB/W photograph of 78 Derngate, street elevation following completion of addition, with Mrs Bassett-LowkeB/W photograph of 78 Derngate, garden elevation before 1916–17 additionB/W photograph of 78 Derngate, garden elevation following completion of addition, with Mrs Bassett-Lowke

Reception

In 1918 an article on 78 Derngate titled 'New Insides for Old Houses' appeared in the obscure Berger's Mercury, published by a paint manufacturer. 14 'Written and illustrated from material supplied by the owner', it includes 'before' and 'after' floor plans, and numerous photographs of the finished house, and it seems to have been loosely intended to promote the use of Berger's products as well as publicising Bassett-Lowke as a man of modern ideas. 15 The article commends the economical transformation of 'an old cramped and more or less uninhabitable dwelling' into a 'charming and up-to-date modern house', achieved with 'a minimum of building', and it describes the result as 'almost a house of the future'. 16 Much of the article is concerned with interior decoration, but the additional space created by the structural alterations is also mentioned, including the 'Continental type of balcony or covered verandah ... open on two sides ... [which] commands a magnificent view over the valley of the Nene, offering a most desirable venue for light wartime breakfasts and suppers in the summer time'. 17 Mackintosh's responsibility for parts of the interior is acknowledged – 'The whole scheme of furniture and decorations for the hall and guests' bedroom was the work of Mr C. R. Mackintosh, an artist-architect of Chelsea, who in pre-war days practised in Glasgow and was responsible for the charming and unique tea-rooms of Miss Cranston in various parts of that city' 18 – but he is not described as the architect of the additions.

In 1920 a two-part article 'Now & Then. A Transformation' was published in Ideal Home. 19 Apparently written by the journal's editor, it is closely based on the article in Berger's Mercury, but this time there is no reference to Mackintosh at all. The omission may reflect Bassett-Lowke's desire for professional publicity in this more widely-read publication. 20 The modern and labour-saving equipment and fittings in the kitchen and bathroom, and the 'distinctly futuristic' decoration of the lounge-hall and 'daring' guest bedroom are emphasised. 21

A report on the condition of 78 Derngate was produced as part of the Mackintosh Buildings Survey, led by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and carried out between 2015 and 2016. 22

Notes:

1: Bassett-Lowke wrote in 1939 that after purchasing the house, 'during a holiday in Cornwall I met a friend from Glasgow who held forth to me on the merits of the artist architect Chas. Rennie Mackintosh'. W. J. Bassett-Lowke, 'Brief Outline', typescript, 22 August 1939, p. 1, photocopy of typescript, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow. In 1944, Bassett-Lowke stated that the holiday had been in 'Ravenglass in Cumberland in 1916'. University of Toronto, Robarts Library: Thomas Howarth Collection, letter from W. J. Bassett-Lowke to Thomas Howarth, 3 July 1944, B2000–0002/030 (13).

2: For the interior decoration and furniture, see: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 267–85; Perilla Kinchin, 'Mackintosh's bedrooms for Bassett-Lowke', Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 82, Spring 2002, pp. 3–6.

3: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, p. 268; Perilla Kinchin, 78 Derngate Northampton, guidebook, Northampton: 78 Derngate Trust, 2005; 2nd edn 2010, p. 11; Alan Crawford, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, London: Thames & Hudson, 1995, p. 174.

4: Anderson had designed a warehouse for Joseph Tom Lowke in Kingswell Street, Northampton in 1903 (Northampton Borough building plans J163, 10 November 1903) and an addition to Crockett & Jones shoe factory in Magee Street, Northampton in 1893. Northamptonshire Record Office: Name catalogue, 'Alexander Anderson, 1866–1935', compiled by Victor Hatley, July 1989.

5: Northamptonshire Record Office: Northampton Borough building plans 1913 – November 1916, F250, 78 Derngate, 1 June 1916; submitted to the Highway Committee on 20 June 1916; approved 3 July 1916.

6: Northamptonshire Record Office: Northampton Borough building plans 1911 – October 1913, Z152, 70 Waterloo or Derngate, 24 September 1912. Discovered by former curator of 78 Derngate, Sylvia Pinches before the opening of the house in 2003. In June 1916, soon after the submission of his drawing for Bassett-Lowke, Anderson, Cobb's neighbour and friend, submitted for approval plans for his own house at 72 Derngate which included a three-storey flat-roofed bay to the garden and the reorientation of the stairs to run across the house. Whether these alterations and additions influenced the design for Bassett-Lowke's house or were directly inspired by it is not known. Northamptonshire Record Office: Northampton Borough building plans 1913–November 1916, F259, 72 Derngate, 27 June 1916.

7: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, p. 268; Perilla Kinchin, 78 Derngate Northampton, guidebook, Northampton: 78 Derngate Trust, 2005; 2nd edn 2010, p. 11; Alan Crawford, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, London: Thames & Hudson, 1995, p. 174. Compare for instance the projecting stone balcony on the N. elevation of the Glasgow School of Art; projecting metal structures on his design for buildings in an arcaded street; the design for artists' studios in Chelsea.

8: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: GLAHA 41670, GLAHA 41671.

9: Stamp also suggests George Walton's White House at Shiplake, Oxfordshire (1908) as a possible influence on the garden bay with its 'smooth painted surface that gives the impression of modernity' and a covered balcony, though with railing. Gavin Stamp, 'The London Years', in Wendy Kaplan, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, New York and London: Abbeville Press, 1996, p. 211–12.

10: Perilla Kinchin, 78 Derngate Northampton, guidebook, Northampton: 78 Derngate Trust, 2005; 2nd edn 2010, pp.6–8.

11: University of Toronto, Robarts Library: Thomas Howarth Collection, letters from W. J. Bassett-Lowke to Thomas Howarth, 12 and 16 March 1946, B2000–0002, box 30, file 13. Howarth chose to omit this comment from his discussion of Derngate in his book on Mackintosh, perhaps because of the inconsistencies in Bassett-Lowke's recollections in later life but more likely because the involvement of the client in the design did not fit with the argument he was presenting. Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd edn, 1977, pp. 199.

12: Janet Bassett-Lowke, Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke, Chester: RailRomances, 1999, pp. 31, 54; Perilla Kinchin, 78 Derngate Northampton, guidebook, Northampton: 78 Derngate Trust, 2005; 2nd edn 2010, pp.6–8.

13: Gavin Stamp, 'The London Years', in Wendy Kaplan, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, New York and London: Abbeville Press, 1996, pp. 211–12.

14: 'New Insides for Old Houses', Berger's Mercury, May–June 1918, pp. 17–23.

15: 'New Insides for Old Houses', Berger's Mercury, May–June 1918, pp. 18, 19, 23; Perilla Kinchin, 78 Derngate Northampton, guidebook, Northampton: 78 Derngate Trust, 2005; 2nd edn 2010, p. 12.

16: 'New Insides for Old Houses', Berger's Mercury, May–June 1918, p. 17.

17: 'New Insides for Old Houses', Berger's Mercury, May–June 1918, p. 19.

18: 'New Insides for Old Houses', Berger's Mercury, May–June 1918, p. 23.

19: 'Now & Then. A Transformation', Ideal Home, August 1920, pp. 53–5; September 1920, pp. 92–5.

20: Gavin Stamp, 'The London Years', in Wendy Kaplan, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, New York and London: Abbeville Press, 1996, p. 208; Perilla Kinchin, 78 Derngate Northampton, guidebook, Northampton: 78 Derngate Trust, 2005, 2nd edn 2010, p. 12.

21: 'Now & Then. A Transformation', Ideal Home, August 1920, pp. 53, 55; September 1920, p. 93.

22: A copy of the report (MBS49) is held by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Mackintosh Queen's Cross, 870 Garscube Road, Glasgow G20 7EL. The Mackintosh Buildings Survey was funded by The Monument Trust.