78 Derngate was bought by Northampton High School for Girls in 1964. It was listed Grade II* in 1968. At first the house was let out as offices, then used as classrooms. There was growing concern in Northampton and in the Mackintosh world about the preservation of the building. This concern came to a peak in the early 1990s when the school decided to sell all the property it had acquired in Derngate. Local people united with members of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society
to campaign for its preservation, restoration and opening to the public.The Borough Council
was enabled to buy a 999-year lease on 78 and 80 Derngate through the generosity of Maggie Barwell in 1996. Two years later the 78 Derngate Northampton Trust was formed, with Keith Barwell as chairman. Support was forthcoming from a number of sources, including The Horne Foundation, the Phillips Trust, EB Nationwide, Servite Housing Association, Hobden Associates, Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire County Council. This match-funding enabled a bid to be put in for Heritage Lottery funding. A grant of £999,000 was approved in the autumn of 2001. The cost of the restoration of 78 and 80 Derngate was £1.4m.
The architects who drew up the plans for the bid and who have overseen all the work in 78 and 80 Derngate were John McAslan + Partners
, a firm of international reputation. The Mackintosh-designed interior and exterior of 78 was sensitively restored and reinstated to the original 1916 – 1919 scheme.
The whole of 80 was completely remodelled to create a new visitor centre and exhibition space. Linking the galleries is a new staircase that wraps around the 4-storey glass cabinet which holds a series of exhibits relating to both Mackintosh and Bassett-Lowke. It is accompanied by a wall-mounted exhibition relating to the original design of the house and to Bassett-Lowke’s business.
The main building contractors were William Anelay Ltd
. of York. This firm, established in 1749, specialises in restoration work, and has been given a Civic Award for its work on Blackwell
, the Arts and Crafts house in Cumbria. Other specialist contractors from around the country have brought their skills to bear.
Before any work could be done careful examination of the house itself and of related photographs and documents was undertaken.