Category:Waterline ship models (Bassett-Lowke)

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In general, a "waterline" ship model is one in which the model stops abruptly at the waterline, so that the model can be placed on a flat surface, and show the same view that would normally be had while it was floating. However, for some years the term was synonymous with Bassett-Lowke Ltd., and their range of 1:1200 (one inch to 100 feet) models, which were useful not just for play but also to the Admiralty for use in military ship-recognition training.

Edward W. Hobbs

Although Bassett-Lowke is supposed to have sold some small metal cast models in the very early days of the company, their waterline ship models range is generally considered to have started with the appointment of Edward Hobbs to the London shop in 1908.

Hobbs was a marine architect, and as manager of the Holborn shop was given a great deal of leeway to source new products to sell. Since Bassett-Lowke in Northampton already had model steam engines pretty much covered, Hobbs concentrated on commissioning ship and boat models locally from makers in and around London, and this seems to have included the commissioning of B-L's first proper range of 100-feet-to-the-inch (1:1200) waterline models.

Details of B-L's sourcing are often hard to come by - the Derek Head book mentions the company contracted to produce the "WL" models as " ... controlled by two gentlemen, a Mr. Denton and a Mr. Checker, who originally came from Czechoslovakia."


Another clue to the makers of the Waterline Ships range is the (apparently accidental) inclusion of the letters "BMC" in one of the Bassett-Lowke catalogues. "BMC" apparently originally stood for "Brittannia Model Company", which was probably a sneaky reference to the name of the country's main cast lead toymaker, Britains. However, it seems that BMC had to quickly stop using the name, as another cast lead manufacturer had already had a similar idea and registered the name "Brittannia" for their range, which left BMC a company whose initials now didn't really stand for anything. It seems that BMC's owner may have had a Brighton address and BMC may have gone by the name "Brighton Model Company" for a while, before abandoning the initials altogether and renaming the business. The renamed company seems to have been called "Soldarma", but different sources seem to give at least three different potential spellings and variations on the name.


During the 1950s, Bassett-Lowke Ltd. began increasingly rationalising their ranges and stocking "competing" companies' products (and sometimes dropping their own product lines when someone else was making a more popular version that they could sell). Bassett-Lowke's own Waterline Ships range disappeared, and were replaced in the B-L catalogues with the 1:1200 Minic Ships range.

See also:

Further reading

  • Derek Head, Bassett-Lowke Waterline Ship Models (Golden Age Editions, 1996) ISBN 1872727727

Media in category ‘Waterline ship models (Bassett-Lowke)’

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