A visit to 78 Derngate

Last week we decided we ought to take a few hours off work to do something cultural, so we went to Northampton. Northampton, I hear you say, surely London would have more to offer? Ah, but you see Northampton has a few little gems tucked away and it was one of these that we wanted to visit.

78 Derngate is entirely unique in England, being the only house outside of Scotland to have been designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

At first glance, it’s a fairly normal-looking early 1800s terrace house, distinguished mainly by its period front door. However, the property has been beautifully restored to how it was in 1916/17, after it’s owner, W. J. Bassett-Lowke, local architect Alexander Ellis Anderson and Mackintosh had got to work on it. Walking around the house is like stepping back in time and there are unmistakably Mackintosh elements throughout. The most dramatic designs typical of his work can be seen in the hall lounge and the guest room, although while these two rooms are stunning it might have been a bit hard on the eyes to have lived with the decor! The attention to detail of the restoration work is impressive and comparing the house as it is now with photos of it that were taken in 1916-18 shows just what a brilliant job has been done.

We were also really pleased to catch the current exhibition on show in the museum’s gallery, The Wacky World of Andy Hazell and his Tin Cities. Andy is an artist/sculptor/automatist (among other things) and this collection of his smaller-scale metal works was great fun.

If you’re ever in the Northampton area and have an interest in Art Deco design, Mackintosh, architecture or social history, 78 Derngate is worth a visit. We had a guided tour which took about an hour and there is a lovely cafe and small shop, as well as the gallery and the house itself. You can find out more at www.78derngate.org.uk.

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