‘Enemy intern’ cabinet-makers on the Isle of Man made this rare wash stand to designs by the celebrated Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Mackintosh designed the piece as part of a bedroom set for a Mr Ling, a businessman from Guildford. It was made in 1917 at the Knockaloe Internment Camp, where German and other ‘enemy interns’ were held during the First World War. Many of the interns were highly skilled craftsmen and the quality of the workmanship is superb.

Mackintosh trained as an architect in Glasgow and is most famous for the buildings, furniture and interiors he designed in the city, including the Glasgow School of Art. By 1917 he was living in England and working on commissions for private individuals.

This wash stand displays the pared-down geometric forms and ornament of Mackintosh’s later work. Unlike a great deal of his furniture, it is not painted. The polished-mahogany body is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and aluminium, with handles in Erinoid, an early form of plastic.

Only four bedroom sets were made in this style, with just three wash stands surviving. This example is now on display at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, in the permanent Design for Living gallery, which explores the history of western design between 1851 and 1951.


Mr Ling, Guildford, The Fine Art Society, London, Roger Bilcliffe Fine Art, Glasgow, Donald and Eleanor Taffner, Private Collection Fine Art Society, London

Back to top