How many National Trust staff does it take to change a light bulb?

One of the jobs that conservation assistants do on a regular basis is one that you also do at home. From the title of this blog post you can probably guess what the task is – that’s right, changing the light bulbs! I haven’t counted how many we have, but at least four or five bulbs fail every week and need changing (this could be due to the type of bulb used, a poor connection, or faulty wiring). After all, the electrics at Nostell are fairly old!
 
Many of the bulbs are in items which are easily reached, such as table lamps. Others, however, are in far more awkward places! It was these awkward bulbs that the conservation team were changing today. We had eight bulbs to change. All of the bulbs today were in the two lanterns which hang above the main staircases inside Nostell.
 
One of the lanterns is by the famous furniture maker Thomas Chippendale, and one is a very good replica.
 
The above picture is the Chippendale lantern. It is a George III gilt-bronze hanging lantern. It has a hexagonal body with narrow uprights cast with bullrushes and upspringing foliage surmounted by rococco urns and joined by arched and scrolled bands entwined with flower swags rising to a scrolled cresting. The scrolled base joined by husk swags to a tapering finial surmounted by a chimera. Although the lantern is not mentioned in Chippendale’s surviving accounts, it corresponds closely to one of his designs in his 1762 Cabinet Maker’s Director.
 
The other lantern is an excellent replica, made by Linford Bridgeman Limited in 1998, and is made of giltwood with a hexagonal body.
 
In this blog post we’re sharing with you the process of going and changing Nostell’s most awkward lightbulbs.
 
 
Team Harness!
For safety, we have to be attached to the building at all times.
Why is this, you may ask?
 
 
Because we are going on to the roof, and harnesses stop us from falling off. We will be climbing into the roof cavity in the ceiling.
 
 
Open Sesame!
 
 
Not only one person has to fit into the tiny roof space…
 
 
as in goes the second one!
 
 
We’re attached inside the roof space too, in case the floor below us falls in (it shouldn’t do, but just in case..)
 
 
 
Up in the roof spcae we’re getting ready to wind down the lantern so that it can be cleaned, and the bulbs can be changed.
 
 
The winch.
 
 
As the lantern is lowered, the conservation team gather below, mesmerised by the sight (and are ready to catch it if it falls!)
 
 
Two become three….
 
 
Angie anchors the lantern as it comes onto the stairs, and the signal is given to stop the lowering.
 
 
Changing the light bulbs.
 
 
We also take the opportunity to clean the lantern whilst it is down. This is done with pony hair brushes and low suction vacuum cleaners.
 
 
Steadying the lantern whilst it is cleaned.
 
 
A smiling Julie dusts the lantern. Who says we don’t have fun at work?
 
 
It’s a team effort to do it quickly yet thoroughly and carefully, as the lantern is in a vulnerable position when it is so low down.
 
 
From our position in the roof space, we can look down where the cable and chain goes to see the team cleaning the lantern far below us. Seeing things from a different angle, you might say!
 
 
The modern winch (from the replica lantern).
 
 
The old winch. Both are quite stiff and need a lot of strength to winch at a steady, slow speed to minimise swinging of the lanterns.
 
 
 Inside the tiny roof space.
 
We are finished! The signal is given that we can raise up the lantern. Once it was secured, the last task is to make sure that the hatch on the roof is locked up safely, which brings to an end a good morning’s work for the team.
 
That is, until the bulbs go and we have to do it all over again!
 
Ellie
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