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Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke was born two days after Christmas in 1877. The son of a boilermaker and a Northampton resident his whole life, he founded the Bassett-Lowke company in the last years of the 19th century, and began building scale model railways and other motorised metal toys. He was influenced by the great German toymakers like Bing (whom he supported when Bing fled the Nazis in 1932) and Carette, with whom he struck up strong business partnerships and lifelong friendships.
His company produced trains of all gauges – from the massive 15-inch gauge live steam models down to the comparatively-diminutive 00 gauge, and most gauges in-between. Bassett-Lowke was active throughout both World Wars, leading the British model-building industry in quality and innovation.
The company’s decline began in the late 1950s, having evolved to building far smaller OO gauge models, when nearly identical items could be found elsewhere at lower cost. Interest in technical toys was also on the wain as the atomic age fuelled the imagination, and in 1964 the company sold its shops, including the famous 112 High Holborn in London, and promptly ceased trading.
112 High Holborn, March 2017