‘New Ways’ [ No.508 Wellingborough Road, Northampton ] – the radically modern house commissioned by W.J Bassett-Lowke in 1925/26 from Peter Behrens was put on the market for sale in January 2019. The house was marketed by Northamptonshire agents Jackson-Stops. The advertised guide price was £875,000. [ Google Maps link ]
The arrival of the property to market generated much interest from those with local knowledge but also from a wider architecturally and design orientated group of commentators. As a privately owned dwelling it was previously known mainly from a few early photographs, ( most of them by W.J Bassett-Lowke ), published in print. New Ways has long been recognised as the first Modern house in England and is cited as the inspiration for many houses in this style that were built in the 1930s and beyond.
Availability of contemporary colour photographs, especially those of the interior allowed for a fresh understanding of features generally seen only in monochrome from the historic images. The modern photographs showed that protected features of the grade 2* (1952 listed) house remained. Comparison of the historic and contemporary images revealed the most significant internal changes understandably to be decor along with modernisation of the kitchen and bathrooms.
In respect of connections to 78 Derngate and Charles Rennie Mackintosh two features at New Ways are of particular interest since they contain elements designed by Mackintosh and taken from 78 Derngate when the Bassett-Lowkes moved to New Ways in June 1926. These are a radiator cover and a ceiling light.
The radiator cover in The Study is comprised of a painted wooden panelled box with an inset section of leaded stained and mirror glass ( the 2019 photograph shows apparently red glass but this is a reflection of the red carpet then in the room ). This panel is believed to be contemporaneous with the glasswork in Mackintosh’s Hall Lounge stairway screen at 78 Derngate. The scalloped shape of the glass elements in the grid of the panel are very similar to those seen in the semi-circular niche panel extant in the 78 Derngate screen. The latter features yellow and clear horizontal bands of scallops whilst the ‘New Ways’ panel has a checkerwork configuration of alternating scallops of mirror and yellow glass. The ‘New Ways’ panel contains 260 pieces of glass ( 20 rows, 13 columns ) whilst the ’78’ panel has 171 ( 19 rows, 9 columns ).
Photographic comparison of the two panels suggests that they might have been made around the same time. The yellow glass in the ’78’ panel is white on the reverse. It is not known yet whether the yellow glass in the ‘New Ways’ panel is similarly coloured; having this information would add to completeness of the records, as would detailed measurements of the glass elements of the ‘New Ways’ panel.
The very high quality and finish have lead to a working supposition that the maker of the glass in the 78 Derngate screen ( and by inference the ‘New Ways’ panel ) may have been E. W. Twining – a known associate of W.J Bassett-Lowke and a renowned glass artist. This however is not documented. The origins of the ‘New Ways’ panel lie in Mackintosh’s fireplace surround for the Hall Lounge at 78 Derngate. As of 2019 the surround features a semi-ovate profiled display niche at top left. Believed to date from the Mackintosh remodelling of 1916/17 this was painted matt black to match the rest of the decor – (and based on historic paint research of the original scheme) – during the restoration of 78 Derngate in 2003. Bassett-Lowke’s photographs of the room ( thought to date from around 1920 ) clearly show this niche is lined with a mirrored leaded glass panel. 13 columns are clearly visible, some rows are obscured by the vase of flowers.
It can be seen from the configuration of the panel in the fireplace that the effect of the mirrored segments, arranged to point in multiple directions, would be to create a dazzling spectacle ( not unlike a modern mirror ball ) consistent with the general style of the Mackintosh interior scheme. It is true to say that the restored scheme at 78 Derngate is deficient as realised through absence of this panel ( or a replica ) and also the missing fireplace book shelf structures ( removed since 1926 by persons unknown ) which are visible in the Bassett-Lowke photo.
The ceiling light, extant at New Ways again in The Study dates from Mackintosh’s original scheme for the Hall Lounge at 78 Derngate ( 1916-17 ). This elaborate chandelier was comprised originally of a square sculpted ceiling plate featuring a three dimensional checkerboard panel edged in oriental-inspired mouldings which echo the wave patterns featured in the curtain fabric used in the room. Suspended below on triangular-motif polished brass bars was a painted circular wooden ring upon which was mounted eight copper electric ‘candle sconces’ surrounding a central hanging illuminated globe with a copper dome over. This strong geometric design complimented Mackintosh’s 1916 scheme for the room. It echoed earlier lighting designs, particularly the chandeliers for The Room de Luxe of The Willow Tea Rooms and also lights at the Buchanan Street Tearooms, both for Miss Cranston, in Glasgow.
Some time around 1920 the Hall Lounge of 78 Derngate was redecorated to a second scheme, again with a contribution from Mackintosh in the form of a second wall stencil design. This new design featured a softer look with ‘French Gray’ walls to offset the vividly coloured new stencil. The ceiling light was also remodelled. The brass bars and suspended wooden ring were replaced with a square hanging wooden box edged with rectangular glazed cutouts surrounding a central domed glass bowl. This can be seen in a partial view of the redecorated room.
At New Ways Bassett-Lowke installed the remodelled ceiling light from 78 Derngate in his study. Much of the Mackintosh furniture from 78 Derngate appears in several photographs of the room. At one point after 1926 the chairs, settle and radiator cover appear to have been overpainted in a much lighter colour from their original black.
The ceiling light was examined and measured by craftsmen working on the restoration of 78 Derngate in 2003 in order for a replica of the ceiling board to be manufactured. This replica is now displayed at 78 Derngate in place of the original. The 2019 photograph showed that the light retained its c.1920 remodelled form. Basset-Lowke’s photograph of the remodelled light ( see above ) show that the glass bowl seen in the c.1920 installation at Derngate was replaced at New Ways by a flat glass panel. This certainly gives the light a more streamlined look in keeping with the owner’s sensibilities but may also have been an adaptation to increase available head height in a somewhat smaller space.
Also visible in the 2019 photograph is the pelmet above the window installed by Bassett-Lowke in 1926.
Sale of 2019 – marketing material
The following images and text are taken from the marketing material posted online by the agents.
- A unique, notable local home of national architectural and historical importance.
- Described by Ideal Homes Magazine at the time in 1926 as “the first modern house”.
- Situated in established mature gardens and a total plot approaching half an acre.
- The House incorporates some internal features designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
- Four reception rooms and five double bedrooms. Off road parking and garaging.
- A rare opportunity to acquire such an individual property in this highly desirable location of Northampton.
A notable property of architectural and historic importance, built in 1926 and Listed Grade II* situated next to Abington Park. Main hall, cloakroom, 4 reception rooms, kitchen/breakfast room, 5 bedrooms and 2 bath/shower rooms. Total plot of around 0.41 of an acre (0.16 ha).
DESCRIPTION New Ways, which is Listed Grade II*, dates from 1925/1926 and is to the design of the renowned industrial engineer Peter Behrens (1868-1940). It was built for Mr W J Bassett-Lowke of model railway fame, who had his factory in Northampton. It is thought that this house was the first property built in the UK in the German Expressionist style. The house incorporates some internal features designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and formerly in No 78 Derngate, Northampton, a house that he remodelled in 1916. New Ways was listed in 1952 as possibly the first Modernist home in Britain. To the ground floor an entrance porch with glass panelling provides access to an impressive reception hall. The main hall features a grand central staircase, a piscina water feature and full height ‘triangular’ window. Off the main hall is a study with a superb ceiling rose, sitting room with impressive stone fireplace with tile inset, adjacent stained glass lighting panels and a central Art Deco style lantern light. Double doors lead to an outside loggia. There is a separate dining room, with further double doors giving access to the loggia area. A secondary hallway provides access to a snug and kitchen/breakfast room comprising range of base and eye level units, integrated fridge and dishwasher. To the first floor there are five double bedrooms and two bath/shower rooms providing en suite facilities to both bedrooms one and two. Fitted washbasins can be found in bedrooms four and five. There is also a lower ground floor area currently comprising laundry room, cellar and stores and could provide potential for conversion to further formal living accommodation subject to planning.
OUTSIDE Double wrought iron gates provide access to a private driveway with off-road parking for a number of vehicles and in turn leads to a detached double garage. There is also a gated pedestrian access. The principal gardens are situated to the rear of the house and comprise raised terrace, ideal for outside entertaining and al fresco dining, with steps leading down to the main lawned garden. The gardens are well stocked with flower and shrub borders together with clipped hedging and a paved pathway leading to a further ‘sunken’ garden with adjacent outdoor swimming pool area. Within the gardens is a brick built garden store. The gardens and grounds form an attractive setting to New Ways and abut Abington Park.
LOCATION New Ways is located in what is widely regarded as one of Northampton’s most desirable locations. Situated around 1½ miles to the east of Northampton town centre. The area is well placed for communications with easy access to the M1 motorway (Junction 15) via the A45 dual carriageway. Trains to London Euston with journey times of around 1 hour are available from Northampton together with train services from Wellingborough to London St Pancras with journey times of around 50 minutes. Both state primary and secondary education are provided close by including the highly regarded Northampton School for Boys. Private schools include Wellingborough School, Northampton High School and Pitsford School.
Photographs and text: courtesy Jackson-Stops. 2019.