78 Derngate Archive

Queen Elizabeth – a model made by Bassett-Lowke Ltd

5 Jan
David Walsh
Bassett-Lowke Ltd., Model of Queen Elizabeth, 1947–48, white mahogany, gunmetal, and brass. Gift of Cunard Line Ltd., 1970, M14220. © 2017 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola.

In 1947 Bassett-Lowke Ltd received a commission from The Cunard White Star Line to construct a scale model of the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ liner, then preparing for post-war service with her sister ship ‘Queen Mary’ to provide a two-ship weekly service to New York. The model was destined for Cunard’s 5th Avenue New York City office. According to Bassett-Lowke Ltd literature [1] the model weighs 1 ton 7cwt, is 21’ 7” long, took one year to build – 6,900 man hours of work and is 1/48th full size. The hull was carved from a log of African white mahogany specially acquired from The Gold Coast and weighing more than six tons. Twenty coats of paint formed the final finish with each one sanded smooth prior to the next coat being added. The top coat was of protective varnish. Gunmetal and brass were used for detail components. The craftsmen who were to work on the model were taken to view the real liner whilst it was in port at Southampton.

In 1970 Cunard disposed of the model and it was acquired for the collection of The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem, Massachusetts. It has been displayed there since but also featured in the travelling exhibition, “Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style” which ran at PEM from May to October 2017. [2] The exhibition transferred to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London between February and June 2018 and then travelled to V&A Dundee to show between September 2018 and February 2019. This saw the Queen Elizabeth model return to Britain for the first time in 70 years since it departed for New York in 1948.

This video from PEM shows the model being moved for the exhibition there and contains fine close ups along with a clear impression of the sheer immensity of the model.

The ‘Queen Elizabeth’ model being made at Bassett-Lowke in Northampton c.1948. W.J. Bassett-Lowke can be seen second from left. 78 Derngate archive.
The ‘Queen Elizabeth’ model being made at Bassett-Lowke in Northampton c.1948. 78 Derngate archive.
Front cover of the commemorative 16-page booklet produced by Bassett-Lowke Ltd about large scale model of “Queen Elizabeth”. The booklet features multiple black and white photographs showing the construction of the model and its final transportation to Cunard Headquarters.


1. “Bassett-Lowke Exhibition Models”, The Brighton Toy Museum, Article. Retrieved 5-1-19.
2. Press release about Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style exhibition, Peabody Essex Museum Link. Retrieved 5-1-19.