25 March 2016 by Felicity
Restoring the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s new South End galleries, which open to visitors today, has been an incredibly exciting, and revealing, process!
In reversing many of the changes that were made to the Gallery in the 1960s, we’ve made some fantastic discoveries. We’ve found elaborate wallpaper hidden behind casing – even ‘secret doors’ which we’ve been able to reopen!
Perhaps one of the most exciting discoveries, though, relates to a very much overlooked rare chandelier.
Very observant visitors might remember that a chandelier hung above the staircase located in the vestibule at the very south end of the gallery. We knew very little about the chandelier, which had almost become ‘part of the furniture’.
The chandelier had to be carefully removed to allow us to carry out the restoration work, and so we enlisted the help of Terence Brotheridge, an expert who has been restoring chandeliers for more than 30 years.
Terence was amazed by what he saw. Probably manufactured in about 1760, it’s the oldest chandelier that he’s ever seen. The chandelier is believed to have been made by Thomas Betts, a glass manufacturer who is first recorded in Bloomsbury, London, in 1738.
Betts is described as a glass cutter who made and sold all sorts of cut glass. He is believed to have died in 1765. The use of rivets and brass hooks on this chandelier, as opposed to pins, is indicative of Betts and demonstrates the early thinking behind chandelier manufacture. Very few people were making chandeliers at this time.
Betts trained Jonathan Collett, who went on to produce the largest chandelier hanging at The Bath Assembly Rooms.
The chandelier is made from lead glass, which is the name given to glass made with the addition of lead oxide. The addition of lead oxide made the glass heavier and brighter. It was particularly suited to the process of cutting.
Once cut, the glass had sharp, bright, edges which produced spectrums of colour. English cut glass of this sort was far superior to any other.
This chandelier originally had 12 arms but over time the number has been reduced to 6. This may be because arms have been broken or the chandelier may have been adapted to suit a different size room.
We couldn’t think of anywhere better to redisplay this wonderful, beautifully restored chandelier than in our new 18th Century Room, where it looks absolutely spectacular! So, if you’re visiting the new galleries this Easter, don’t forget to look up!
You can take a closer look at the install in this short video:
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