Our fourth blog post on lighting will cover the introduction of electricity at Attingham.
Chapter 4: A New Dawn (1882-1897)
In 1882, the 6th Lord Berwick died and his nephew, Richard took on the title.
He was a keen yachtsman but he also spent time shooting at Attingham or in later years, when illness prevented him from walking, he chose to ride in his donkey cart.
We believe that electricity was first installed at Attingham in the 1880s or 1890s by Richard, 7th Lord Berwick and a generator producing an alternating current would have supplied the electricity. Two early brass ‘jelly mould’ light switches remain in our collection and they probably date from the 1890s.
The 1898 inventory, drawn up after the 7th Lord Berwick’s death, reveals that virtually all rooms had electric lighting. Maureen Dillon, an historic lighting specialist who created a report for us in 2007, commented that at the turn of the century electricity was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford and that the installation in a large house such as Attingham would have cost a great deal.
It was also unusual at the time for the domestic offices and servants’ bedrooms to be lit by electricity. Contemporary comments ranged from believing that electricity encouraged servants to read in their rooms and alter their lamps to make them more powerful, to reducing the risk of fire and also for the owner of the house to be able to switch off the lights when they themselves went to bed.
When Richard took on the title in 1882, the carbon filament lamp had recently become widely available. The lamp produced 16 c.p. and the filament glowed reddish-orange. As each carbon filament lamp only produced the equivalent of 25 watts, the light would have been very dim and so shading in the 1890s was not common and this also meant that the new technology was on display.
We believe that the current Picture Gallery chandelier was installed by the 7th Lord Berwick as it is listed in the 1898 inventory and not the previous list from 1861. It was lit with twelve electric lights in 1898 and can be seen in the image below:
We have taken this chandelier down as part of the roof project and our house team have been cleaning it to make it sparkle once again.
This chandelier will not go up again until 2015, so come and visit us to see it whilst it is down at eye level. The next post will explain the work of the 8th lord and Lady Berwick to restore the house in the 1920s.