Here is the second instalment of the history of lighting at Attingham. Our small exhibition on lighting will be on display on the First Floor until the end of May.
Chapter 2: A Gradual Descent into Darkness (1832-1861)
In 1832 Thomas, 2nd Lord Berwick died and his brother William inherited the title and became the 3rd Lord Berwick.
William had spent the previous 25 years as a diplomat in Italy and brought back to Attingham his stunning collection of ambassadorial silver which he got to keep as a perk of the job!
He also brought to Attingham some fine French objects such as ormolu candlesticks made by Thomire of Paris, an exceptionally fine goldsmith employed by Louis XVI and Napoleon.
William was faced with a house that had lost some of its contents due to the bankruptcy sales and so he began a programme of re-furnishing the interiors. William held the title for ten years and then it passed to the final brother, Richard, a clergyman who ‘swallowed more wine than any other man in the county’ and was also rather excessive in his spending.
Only six years later, Richard died and his son, another Richard, became the 5th Lord Berwick. He lived at Cronkhill, an Italian villa created by John Nash two miles from Attingham Hall.
Upon his death in 1861, an inventory was taken of the contents of the house. This inventory is important as it gives us an insight into Attingham following the bankruptcy sales. It is clear that in 1861 the house was equipped with few light fittings compared to the house in 1827. William, 3rd Lord Berwick furnished the house in a sumptuous fashion and so it would follow that the light fittings would have been equally as sumptuous. However, the lack of quality fittings, apart from his silver candlesticks and candelabra, indicates that they were sold or moved elsewhere after his death.
We believe that six white marble candlesticks mounted in brass were purchased by William and two remain in our collection today.
It would appear from the inventory that he also introduced the 12 light chandelier that hangs in the Sultana Room today. The original chandelier having been moved to the Drawing Room after the bankruptcy sale (see last week’s post).
This new chandelier is actually a gasolier and before making its way to Attingham, would have been lit by gas. Although gas lighting was first installed in Britain in 1812, it was often not taken on by many country houses as a separate gas works had to be constructed. Attingham was never lit by gas and this chandelier was later converted to be lit by electricity.
Yet, despite these few fittings, the house must have descended into gloom following the death of William, 3rd Lord Berwick in 1842. Look out for the next post to discover how the house was lit during the time of the 6th Lord Berwick.