Towel rail

Ref: 1707
  • Maker / Retailer

    The manufacture perhaps by McIntosh of Kirkcaldy (founded 1869), for Wylie & Lochhead (founded 1829)

  • Detail

    Oak, with silvered inlay and decoration

    87.5 x 76 x 24 cm

    Probably Scottish (perhaps Kirkcaldy ), circa 1900

  • Provenance

    […]; H. Blairman & Sons, 1990s; private collection

  • Notes

    The design of the present towel rail is reminiscent of work retailed by Wylie & Lochhead, Glasgow.  Ian Milne has suggested McIntosh as the possible manufacturer and has also drawn our attention to a related chair, marked for Wylie & Lochhead.

    The note below is taken from the website ‘Mackintosh Architecture Context, Making and Meaning’:

    Wylie & Lochhead was a household name in 19th-century Glasgow and beyond, for furnishings of artistic design and high quality craftsmanship. 1

    In 1883 the firm became a private limited company. By this time its business was extensive, with a wide range of departments including undertaking, cabinetmaking, furnishing, upholstering, paperhangings and paperstaining. It had showrooms throughout Glasgow, and branches in London and Manchester. By the 1890s its cabinetmaking business was the largest in Scotland, producing both avant-garde and traditional designs. The firm commissioned well known English and Continental designers and manufacturers such as Liberty’s, but also developed Scottish talent by keeping in touch with stylistic developments at the Glasgow School of Art and enlisting graduates such as Jessie M. King, who designed wallpapers and possibly furniture for them.

    At the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, the firm exhibited work that toned down the more extreme innovations of designers such as Mackintosh, Herbert McNair, and Margaret and Frances Macdonald – the Four – for a middle-class clientele. Its four rooms were each entrusted to a single designer – the dining room to John Ednie, the library and bedroom to George Logan, and the drawing room to EA Taylor. Some critics found it ‘unquestionably the most important furnishing display’ of the exhibition; others thought the costliness vulgar, and ‘not suggestive of the greatest comfort’. 2 


    1: Juliet Kinchin, ‘The Wylie and Lochhead Style’, Journal of the Decorative Arts Society, vol. 9, 1985, p. 4–16 is useful as a general source; see also House of Fraser Archives, held by the University of Glasgow.

    2: The Cabinet Maker and Art Furnisher, Aug 1901, p. 35; The Art Journal, 1901, p. 241.