In October, 2002, the Royal Theatre, Northampton, presented the Trust with a copy of a photograph of George Bernard Shaw, Margaret Bondfield (prospective parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party) and W.J. Bassett-Lowke on the doorstep of 78 Derngate.
This photograph had been reproduced in the programme of a 1972 production of Shaw’s Arms and the Man at the Repertory Theatre. Nobody knows where the original one is (one can hazard a guess that it came from Tom Osborne Robinson), but it was obviously taken at the time of the 1922 General Election.
A similarly posed picture of GBS with Mr. and Mrs. Bassett-Lowke appeared in the Northampton lndependent on 18 November 1922, though GBS was not wearing a mac, as he was in the picture with Bondfield. However, on the opposite page in the newspaper, in the weekly ‘Who is it?’ competition, appeared a picture of GBS (in his mac) with Margaret Bonfield and ‘Betty’, the horse from Anderton’s Dairy in Kingswell Street. The answer appeared in the following weeks paper, under the caption ‘An intelligent trio’!
Shaw also stayed with the Bassett-Lowkes during the General Election in December 1918, when he came to support the Labour candidate, Mr.Halls. On neither occasion was there a reference to his being asked about how he slept in the stripy bedroom. Indeed, Dr. Jane Preston, Mrs.Bassett-Lowke’s great niece, assures us that she was told by her ‘Aunt Jane’ that it was she who had said to him that she hoped he would sleep well, as the room was rather bright to which he replied that he always slept with his eyes shut. It is tantalising not to know whether this exchange took place in 1918 or in 1922.
First published in December 2002 in The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 21.
Author: Dr Sylvia Pinches
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer