Rennie Mackintosh Project Puts Town On Map
A NINE-year project to save and restore a masterpiece designed by innovative artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh has been completed; placing Northampton firmly on the cultural map.
National press, businessmen and supporters piled into the grand opening of 78 Derngate House and Galleries yesterday to see the final fruition of a £2.5 million project.
A modest Georgian terrace, 78 Derngate was remodelled by Mackintosh in 1917 who was commissioned by owner and train model maker Wenman Bassett-Lowke.
The project, Mackintosh's final commission and the only house he designed outside Scotland, first opened to the public three years ago, with a museum in next door 80 Derngate. But it had limited opening hours, restricted numbers and operated for eight months a year.
Now, almost a decade after work started, the property is to be open year-round, with the addition of 82 Derngate, which has provided space for a gift shop, restaurant, educational area, galleries and atrium.
Les Patterson, the secretary of the 78 Derngate Northampton Trust, said: "It has been a long haul, but we have had lots of support.
"If you had said we would spend £2.5 million in 10 years, I wouldn't have believed it. Our bid was rejected the first time because we included 82 Derngate; it was seen as a step too far. Now it is the last piece of the puzzle."
One of the crucial parts of the new space is a gallery with a rolling schedule of exhibits.
There is an exhibition of paintings by Thurston Laidlaw Shoosmith and his sister, Fanny Violet, in the gallery space, an established water-colourist and member of the family firm of solicitors. Thurston Shoosmith lived at 82 Derngate in 1921, giving the property another piece of history.
Alongside these works are contemporary sculptures by Rebecca Newnham.
Mr Patterson said: "We have had a lot of encouragement from the Arts Council for a pilot project to have regional and national exhibitions. We want it to be nationally renowned and it needs some cutting edge contemporary artists and that is what we are going to build up over the next two years.