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Chapter 7: Viewing Attingham in a new light

This will be the final post on the history of lighting at Attingham. I hope that you have enjoyed learning about how the developments in technology impacted on those who lived or worked in the house. On Monday we had a visit from Maureen Dillon, the National Trust’s advisor on historic lighting and author of ‘Artificial Sunshine: A Social History of Lighting’ published in 2001.

Maureen has helped us to improve the historical accuracy of the lighting at Attingham since the Re-discovered Project began in 2006. One of the key rooms that we have been working on is the Dining Room which is laid for a grand evening meal in the 1830s. The ormolu candelabras on the Dining Room table were brought back to Attingham by William, 3rd Lord Berwick and we have lit them with artificial candles that flicker with air movement so that they appear more authentic. Our two electricians have worked hard over the years to develop these lights and they have proved to be popular with our visitors.

The Dining Room at Attingham Park, Shropshire showing the candelabras on the main table and the replica Argand lamps on the side tables.

The Dining Room at Attingham Park, Shropshire showing the candelabras on the main table and the replica Argand lamps on the side tables.

We also purchased some replica Argand lamps for the side tables as for special evenings in the house, extra lighting would hve been provided to pull out all the stops to impress the guests.

Replica Argand lamps in the Dining Room. Argand lamps revolutionised lighting fromt he end of the eighteenth century and would have been lit by spermaceti oil or colza oil.

Replica Argand lamps in the Dining Room. Argand lamps revolutionised lighting from the end of the eighteenth century and would have been lit by spermaceti oil or colza oil.

Over the last year we have been testing out new lamps in the fittings to reduce the energy consumption but still retain the historic look. The LED bulbs that are great at energy saving do not always give us the warm yellow glow that we are looking for and so the development work continues.

Trialing different LED lamps in the Dining Room to try and reduce our energy consumption whilst trying to achieve historical authenticity in terms of colour.

Trialing different LED lamps in the Dining Room to try and reduce our energy consumption whilst trying to achieve historical authenticity in terms of colour.

Replica Argand lamp with two different LED lamps without shades.

Replica Argand lamp with two different LED lamps without shades.

So the question is ‘How far should we go in order to achieve historical accuracy?’ should we aim to create the most authentic experience possible so that visitors to the house can experience what life was like 200 years ago? Or should we prioritise other issues such as energy efficiency and light levels to see paintings. What would you do if you were the one making these decisions? Here at Attingham we try and do a bit of both and consider all aspects and come up with a solution that satisfies a number of issues.

Over the next year we are going to try to improve the candles on the Picture Gallery chandelier and also look into installing a new light fitting in the Nash Staircase. The recent discovery of an 1833 inventory and an 1842 inventory will also guide us in our choices and will hopefully tell us more about lighting during the time of William, 3rd Lord Berwick.

William 3rd Lord Berwick inherited Attingham following the two bankruptcy sales of 1827 and 1829.

William 3rd Lord Berwick inherited Attingham following the two bankruptcy sales of 1827 and 1829.

Work has now been progressing with the Roof Project and so next week’s blog post will show you some wonderful pictures of the work that has been taking place and the cleaning work to the fishscale ceiling in the John Nash Staircase.

The partially scaffolded Nash Stairs. Picture by our Roof Project Photographer Richard Knisley-Marpole.

The partially scaffolded Nash Stairs.
Picture by our Roof Project Photographer Richard Knisley-Marpole.

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