On the 28 April we went to the Isle of Man on the trail of the Bassett-Lowke furniture.
During the First World War Bassett-Lowke had a large amount of furniture made for 78 Derngate by the internees at Knockaloe Camp.
The Isle of Man was used as a base for Alien Civilian Internment camps in both WWI (1914-18) and again in WWII (1939-45) The camp at Knockaloe was originally intended to house 5,000 internees, by the end of the war some 24,500 were held there. It consisted of wooden huts, which covered 22 acres. It was split into 23 compounds divided between 4 camps each of which had its own hospital, theatre etc.
Although ordinary trade markets were closed, sales could be undertaken on an entirely sympathetic and personally arranged basis. We arrived at Douglas and straight away made for Greens Restaurant at the Railway Station in Douglas were we met Nigel Kermode a fellow Friend of 78. He made us very welcome and had arranged for us to view memorabilia on Knockaloe Camp at the Library in the Manx Museum in Douglas. Wendy, who works there, was very helpful and pleased at our delight at seeing photos that are so familiar to us at 78 but with details on their manufacture written by James T Baily. James, a Quaker Craftsman, was the Industrial Superintendent on the Island, and his personal papers of the time are very interesting. They include scrapbooks, photographs and ephemera. We were allowed to take copies of the photographs and his notes about the furniture manufacture that internees were engaged on in camp IV at Knockaloe. Charles Matt and his team of workers made our furniture. Prior to the camp being established Charles had previously been a foreman in charge of 80 men in a London Furniture Factory.
The notes also include details of the waterline models that were made at the camp and a copy of Bassett-Lowke’s waterline model catalogue was also amongst the memorabilia.
We knew that Bassett-Lowke travelled to the Isle of Man as some of his friends from London had been interned on the Island, also one of his shop assistants at the High Holborn shop was engaged to a German who was interned on the island. But now we know that he visited James Baily also. In the photos in the collection was the Wedding photograph of Bassett-Lowke and Florence sent with ‘Best Regards to James’. WJ also sent photos of the furniture in situ back to James.
In the book ‘Living with the Wire’, edited by Yvonne M Cresswell and published by the Manx National Heritage Trust there is a photograph of various pieces of furniture designed by Mackintosh. The heading reads:
“A major customer was WJ Bassett-Lowke whose new house in Northampton was designed by Mackintosh. The furniture was specifically designed for the house by the architect.”
It shows some of the Furniture for 78 and also furniture that was for Candida Cottage in Roade, Bassett-Lowke’s other residence.
Another book entitled ‘Craftsman and Quaker: The Story of James T Baily 1876-1957’ written by his son, Leslie Baily, is a very worthwhile read telling in detail the story of the camps at that time and his life. We drove up to the camp at Knockaloe. All that remains is the Farmhouse and the long drive to it that at the time was also a railway track to supply food etc to the camp. This has now gone.
The Isle of Man is well worth a visit either to visit the museum and see the photographs and other artefacts yourself or to see the beautiful countryside. There is so much to do and of course their steam trains and trams made it a magical journey.
We also went on the Bailey Scott trail. He lived on the Isle of Man for 12 years and has certainly left his mark. A list of houses that he designed is available from the museum. One we could not find was the Majestic Hotel, which unfortunately burnt down but we did manage to get a copy of a photograph of the building from the Museum. Unfortunately we ran out of time to look for houses designed by Archibald Knox another remarkable architect, but maybe next time.
First published in June 2006 in The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 41.
Author: Chris Sherlock
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer