Made in UK (2016-19)

Made in UK is a body of work resulting from extensive research across Scotland, England and the Isle of Man, focusing on the lesser known connection between renowned architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and a community of German civilians who were interned in Knockaloe Camp, Isle of Man between 1914-19.

Historical background

The Hunterian Art Gallery “Mackintosh House” permanent display in Glasgow, features a reconstruction of 78 Derngate’s guest bedroom, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Hunterian acquired most of the room’s furnishings in 1975.

Left: A reconstruction of the 78 Derngate Guest bedroom- as displayed at The Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow. Image taken from C.R Mackintosh- The Chelsea Years, Hunterian Art Gallery, 1994 (p.28).
Right: The guest bedroom dress table stool as it appears in Roger Billcliffe’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh, The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings & Interior Designs, Guildford: Lutterworth Press 1979 (p.27).

The visitor information describing 78 Derngate Guest Bedroom furniture, briefly mentions Knockaloe internment camp as the location where the guest bedroom furniture was built.

The 78 Derngate information label. The part concerning Knockaloe Camp is highlighted.

In search of additional information about this unusual connection, linking Charles Rennie Mackintosh design to interned German civilian craftsmen who executed the work, I travelled to The Isle of Man to learn more about the 78 Derngate furniture commission.

In 1916, Northampton businessman Wenman Joseph Bassett Lowke had
commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh, then residing in England, to redesign the
interior of his newly acquired home as well as to produce drawings for custom designed furniture for the house. The majority of the furniture designed by Mackintosh for the house at 78 Derngate street, Northampton, was built by German civilian internees interned at Knockaloe camp, Isle of man as they were considered “Enemy Aliens”.

The first page from the Aliens Restriction Act, 1914.
A birds’ eye view of Knockaloe Internment Camp, Isle of Man. The camp operated between 1914-19, and by the end of the war it housed up to 23,000 men between the ages 17-55.
Knockaloe Camp Cabinet-Making workshop, where the furniture for78 Derngate was built.

Made in UK- Visual Work

The visual body of work stemming from my research of the furniture commission revolved around a particular object in the Hunterian collection; a dress table stool.

Dress table stool designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and built by Knockaloe Internees in 1916-17.

I made two wooden replicas of the stool before casting a 1:1 scale bronze cast of it. Although the wooden models were not a period replica, using the same methods and tools used by the men interned at Knockaloe, I wanted to put myself through the process, making a point of the physical time it took to make one chair, and reflecting on the long stretches of time the men in the camp spent waiting for news about their uncertain futures.

Spy Fever, 2017. A 1:1 scale bronze cast of the guest bedroom’s dress table stool. Photo by Jeanne Tullen

The manually operated automaton depicts a Knockaloe carpenter working on the same dress table stool, in a smaller scale.

Charles Matt’s Mallet, 2017. Charles Matt’s Mallet: Charles Matt was the foreman of the cabinet-making workshop at Knockaloe Camp, together with his brother. Photo by Jeanne Tullen

The wall work was stencilled using a traditional stencilling method typical of the WW1 period. The design is the 1st layer of a 9-layer Mackintosh stencil, designed in 1920 from the same house the stool was designed for in 1916/17, which in my opinion eerily resembles barbed wire.

Oh Knockaloe, 2017. The 1st layer of a 9-layer Mackintosh designed for 78 Derngate in 1920, (original design is shown in the bottom left image). The title origins from a satirical poem under the same name, describing life conditions at the Camp and written by a Knockaloe internee who used the pseudonym “Old Sepp”. Photo by Jeanne Tullen.
Made in UK, 2017. Installation view from the GSA MFA Degree Show exhibited at the Glue Factory, Glasgow
Photo by Jeanne Tullen
Made in UK, 2017. Installation view, Glue Factory Glasgow 2017. Photo by Jeanne Tullen.

The work travels to 78 Derngate, February-April 2018.

The team at 78 Derngate Museum were very supportive throughout my research period. Following the display of the work in Glasgow in June 2017, I was invited to exhibit the works Spy Fever and Charles Matt’s Mallet in Bassett-Lowke’s former study room on the Museum’s second floor. The work was exhibited at 78 Derngate between 1st February- 21st April, 2018.

Made In UK exhibition at Bassett-Lowke’s study, 78 Derngate Museum, Northampton. Photo: David Walsh

Installing ‘Spy Fever’ on the Isle of Man, August 2018

Spy Fever installed in Knockaloe Farm, August 2018. Photo by Johnny Barrington.

In April 2017, while completing the work on the bronze sculpture, I wrote to the Isle of Man Government who owns Knockaloe Farm, and asked for permission to permanently install the sculpture on the historical site of Knockaloe Camp. The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) were supportive of the idea, and in August 2017 I have received a grant from the Isle of Man Arts Council, to cover the costs of shipping and installing the sculpture on the island.

Spy Fever, Knockaloe Farm 2018. Photo by Johnny Barrington.

On August 28th, 2018, with the generous support of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), the Isle of Man Arts Council, and The Knockaloe Foundation, the sculpture was finally installed at Knockaloe Farm, Isle of Man. The farm housed the former Knockaloe Internment Camp between 1914-1919, and is the original location in which the chair was built in 1916/17.

The surrounding garden is still to be developed and maintained by The Knockaloe Foundation, and will be unveiled to the public when the Knockaloe Visitor Centre, Database and Digital Archive of WW1 Internment formally opens to the public in March 2019.

Spy Fever, Knockaloe Farm 2018. Photo by Johnny Barrington.

My motivation in creating the sculpture and installing it on the Isle of Man, was to put faces and names to the interned craftsmen, commemorate their legacy, creating a tangible place for learning and reflecting on the story of the camp and the lives of the people who lived in it, and promote a message of unity rather than division.

Spy Fever, Knockaloe Farm 2018. Photo by Johnny Barrington.

The Garden of Barbed Wire and Spy Fever unveiled at the launch conference of the Centre for WW1 Internment, March 2019

I was generously invited by the Knockaloe Charity to speak at the launch conference of The Centre for WW1 Internment, alongside fascinating speakers and descendents of men who were either interned at Knockaloe or worked there as guards. Spy Fever was officially unveiled in the presence of conference speakers, family members, and also a manx cat and Loaghtan sheep. The Beautiful museum and database will open to the wide public in May 2019.

The inscription on the translates to “for how much longer?”
referring to the ongoing uncertainty of the prisoners at the camp about the duration of their stay at Knockaloe.