Changing the Light Bulbs

There are many lightbulbs inside Nostell Priory. How many is a good guess – at least two hundred at the last count! Nostell is a very old house, which means that the electricity system and electric fittings in some of our objects are also fairly old. As a result, we normally have to change at least five or six light bulbs every week… until now! (More on that later).

Below are a few of the different types of lamps, lights and fittings that we have to change the bulbs in at Nostell.

Lamp in the Library. This is an altar candlestick in the 17th century style which has been converted to electricity.

Chandelier in the Billiard Room (with one lightbulb not working!) It’s an English gilt-metal and cut-glass four-light chandelier, dating from the second quarter of the 19th century. You can also see a spotlight which focuses on a painting hanging on the opposite side of the room.

Standard up-lighter lamp, used to lighten up some dark areas on the visitor route.

Changing the lightbulbs allows to see up close some of the fixtures and fittings of the lights at Nostell. Here is a frosted glass ‘flambeau shade’ from a Regency chandelier in the Top Hall.

Constantly changing lightbulbs can take up a lot of time (and money!) To combat this, we’re installing special new heritage LED lightbulbs in every fitting. These are designed to last at least ten years, which will be a great help to the team. We’ve spent a lot of time recently replacing every bulb, and have taken some photographs showing the all-important switch over from normal to LED bulbs! 

Equipment ready! We did a lot of the changing of the bulbs in front of the public, so we could explain to them what we were doing.

We left our equipment out for people to have a look at, and put out an information sign so visitors could read about what was going on. Click on the image to get a closer look.

Left to right: ordinary bulb and LED heritage bulb.

Empty boxes and old lightbulbs! These will be recycled, and some will be kept as part of a new temporary exhibition.

Then we began the time-consuming process of changing the bulbs.

Starting off in the Top Hall

We have different LED bulbs for different light fittings. Frosted glass shades have 5 watt bulbs, clear glass shades will contain 4 watt bulbs, and candelabras and paper lamp shades will have 3 watt bulbs.

Not forgetting the candelabras!

The new LED bulbs are brighter than the old ones, and have so far proved very effective (meaning that we haven’t had to replace one yet). Here’s to the next ten years of not changing lightbulbs at Nostell!

Nostell’s House Team

Spotlight on: Dressing Tables

For this ‘spotlight’ post I decided to focus upon two items that are included in Nostell’s ‘open cabinet’ plan. A lot of the most interesting cabinets and cupboards at Nostell Priory can’t be open all of the time for visitors to see as they are too fragile, and would be at risk of damage if left open constantly (from such agents of deterioration as dust, wear and tear, light, humidity, and sadly theft). The ‘open cabinet’ system involves a set number of these really unusual pices of furniture which are opened on rotation for visitors to see.

I thought we’d have one spotlight item for the ladies, and another spotlight item for the gents – and both happen to be similar items! They are both dressing tables, the first is a lady’s dressing table and the second a distinctively masculine one. Both pieces were created by the famous furniture maker Thomas Chippendale.

Lady’s Dressing Table, in the State Dressing Room

It’s a George III green and gold lacquer lady’s dressing table, with a serpentine hinged and divided top. If the conservation team are in the room when visitors are in the State Dressing Room we often open the top to show them the inside…

…which looks like this! It’s a mahogany divided interior, resting on cabriole legs. As the cabinet would not be left open on a regular basis, the inside wasn’t painted and decorated like the outside of the table. There is a pin cushion in one of the compartments, and you can see Julie holding one of the original glass bottles, which may have contained perfume.

The mirror comes out to rest at an angle, so that hairstyles can be seen, jewellery admired, and general preening occur! This dressing table matches a set of chinoiserie furniture which is in the State Bedroom.

Gent’s Dressing Table, in the Crimson Bedroom

The gent’s table is a more sedate affair. It too is a George III mahogany dressing table, this time on reeded (not cabriole) legs. There is a concave-fronted cupboard below the top drawer. When the top drawer is opened we see…

…this! A fitted drawer with compartments and a green baize-lined shelf (possibly for writing). When the baize shelf is pushed back and the drawer compartments opened, the contents are revealed…

…and here they are! There are cut-throat razors, a shaving brush, two spherical pomade pots, two dainty glass bottles with silver covers, and (believe it or not), a tongue scraper!

A close up of the drawer, complete with an array of contents considered necessary to make a gentleman groomed and presentable to his peers.

As ever, if you have a wish to see a particular object/room/painting/style/thing to do with Nostell Priory on the spotlight blog posts (or indeed any of our Nostell Priory Conservation Blog posts) then send us an email or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

Ellie

Are you being served?

One of the most iconic rooms in any stately home/country manor is the dining room. Here in Nostell Priory we have two – the sumptuous State Dining Room and the charming Small Dining Room (which is still used occasionally). To help bring the property to life, we lay out the dining service on the table so that the whole spectacle of stately dining can be seen by visitors. Which means only one thing…it’s time to lay the table!

One of the continuously changing aspects inside Nostell is the main State Dining Room table. Recently, it’s been transformed into a sweet shop at Christmas, and has been a feast of bright colour for Easter. You’ll see a future table display being created step-by-step on this blog – but we won’t tell you what event it’s for just yet….

Sweetie shop with hand decorated gingerbread men

Colourful at Easter

Once these displays have been taken down we reset the table as though a banquet is about to be held. (I admit, it’s one of the really fun tasks that we enjoy doing!). Here’s some entertaining pictures of how we do it, beginning with the tablecloth:

Bare wood. Some people prefer seeing the wood rather than a tablecloth, but the tablecloth allows us to decorate the table with less fear about scratching the surface

Nostell’s state dining room table was probably made by Gillows of Lancaster, and dates from the early 19th century. It definitely wasn’t made for Nostell’s dining room, as when it is fully extended and all of the leaves are added, it’s longer than the whole room!

Bringing the tablecloth over…

And it’s on! Phew

Once the tablecloth has been smoothed and has no creases, we begin putting out the full dinner service, for all eight place settings. The mahogany dining chairs date approximately from the 1740s – which means that they predate a lot of the actual house! They have claw-and-ball feet, and records tell us that they have always been situated in this room.

Lots of knives, forks and spoons!

A multitude of glassware

Beautiful gilded creamics, and our rather regal centrepiece

I wonder what delicious food would have been put into all of the dishes – what would you put in, if you had the choice?

Concentration in Action

The centrpiece in the above and below pictures is a Victorian silver plated candelabra with a tricorn base with elaborate foliage and grape vine motifs, dated 1830-1870. It has six arms and a central basket, and brings a sense of height and elegance to the table, in addition to helping to centre the symmetry of the place settings. 

If you look carefully you’ll see circles of brown felt underneath the serving dish which Claire is about to put down. We use felt so that gilding or paint isn’t scratched off by the rough undersides of other ceramics, and so that accidental damage doesn’t occur. It also means that the table can be decorated with layers of ceramics, making it much more visually interesting.

Sparkling glassware really sets off the place settings, and we have glasses for red wine, white wine, and port too!

After an afternoon’s hard work we were finished, with a beautiful set dining table ready for visitors… a feast for the eyes, if not for the stomach!

The finished result…

Nostell Priory’s State Dining Room Table

Ellie