Bassett-Lowke was a toy company, based in the Northampton, England founded by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke in 1898 or 1899 that specialized in model railways, model boats and ships, and construction sets. Bassett-Lowke initially started as a mail-order catalog business and primarily remained so, although it sometimes designed and even manufactured some of its own items.
Bassett-Lowke were primarily a sale organisation, contracting out the manufacture of models and parts to other manufacturers, such as Twining Models, and Wintringham's also of Northampton. They did, however, keep the manufacture of shipmodels for display purposes in-house.
Their first 15-inch gauge steam locomotive, test run on the Eaton Hall Railway in 1905 was Little Giant. Unlike other engines on the line it was a replica of main-line locos, being built for a new public miniature railway at Blackpool. It was a quarter scale 4-4-2 Atlantic tender engine, though not an exact copy of any particular prototype. This engine still exists in private ownership.
In 1914, Bassett-Lowke produced only the second Pacific 4-6-2 (of any size) to be built in Britain. This was the John Anthony, built for a private miniature railway at Staughton Manor. It was never delivered, but after storage at Eaton Hall during World War I, it was sold to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and renamed Colossus. It was scrapped in 1927. Previously the Ravenglass and Eskdale had purchased another Bassett Lowke Atlantic, the Sans Pareil.
In the 1920s, Bassett-Lowke introduced OO gauge products as well. The company would also provide a complete custom-build railway service for those with necessary funds; one such layout survives in modified format at Bekonscot Model Village in England.
Bassett-Lowke's decline starting in the late 1950s can be blamed on at least two factors: Sometimes people would browse the firm's free catalog and then buy similar or nearly identical items elsewhere at a lower price, but also consumer interest in technical toys in general began to decline in the late 1950s and even more so in the 1960s. Bassett-Lowke's fall was mirrored by two of its U.S. counterparts, the A. C. Gilbert Company and Lionel Corporation.
However, the 1960s were also to bring their problems, and in 1964 the company ceased its retail sales and sold its shops, including the famous one at High Holborn in London, to Beatties. The original Bassett-Lowke went out of business in 1965.
In 1966 the company was acquired by Messrs Riley and Derry, and in the late 1980s by Nigel Turner, a Northampton businessman.
In 1993 the name was revived for a while with short-run white metal models. These included a Burrell Type Traction Engine, Clayton Undertype Steam Wagon, Burrell Type Steam Roller, and London 'B' Type bus.
The brand name was in 1996 acquired by Corgi, which has now linked it with live steam O gauge locomotives.
Because of the premium nature of Bassett-Lowke's toys, they tended to be well preserved, and many examples survive today. They are highly collectible.