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


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!

Spotlight on: Light

We in the conservation business are continually fighting on a daily basis with what is known as the Nine Agents of Deterioration. I thought it would be good to have a series of ‘Spotlight’ blog posts in the coming months to share what the nine agents are, their effects, and what we can do to prevent them taking their toll on Nostell Priory and its collections. You might be surprised to discover that most of the Nine Agents are what you also fight against when doing your own housekeeping!

Agent No. 1 – LIGHT

Light (or radiation) is one of the most obvious enemies of historical objects – everyone has seen things which have faded which were bright and colorful when first made but are now a shadow of their former self. The damaging effects of light come from both ultraviolet (UV) and visible light, and cause disintegration, fading, darkening, and yellowing of the outer layer of organic materials and some coloured inorganic materials. These are usually irreversible changes. We measure visible light in ‘lux levels’, and there are limits for what we consider the maximum level of light that should fall on an object. It is 50 lux for highly light sensitive materials (such as paper, watercolours, wallpaper, carpets), and 200 lux for moderately light sensitive materials (such as oil paintings and stone).

At Nostell there are a number of things that we do to reduce the effects of light attacking our property and the collection inside. Every window has a UV film on, which completely blocks out any harmful UV light coming into the rooms.

We measure the light levels in rooms on a yearly basis. On the two photographs below, there are little squares of card with blue patches – these are called ‘blue wool dosimeters’. They contain pieces of a special grade blue wool, and are left out for one year in places where we especially want to monitor light damage. When the blue wool fades, the amount of fading is measured with a spectrophotometer by a specialist conservator. If the wool is fading too fast, we know to move the object in question, or further reduce the amount of light coming into the room.

Blue wool dosimeter on the billiard table

Blue wool dosimeter on the dado rail below one of the tapestries

We place the dosimeters at varying points of distance from windows – the top photo’s dosimeter is fairly close to a window, and so we would expect some moderate fading. This blue wool directly above, however, is at the far at end of the room away from the windows, and so should hopefully show almost no fading at all over one year

Double blinds are also used to control the light levels. The dark green ones are the ‘blackout blinds’, and are lifted when the house is open to visitors. The pale cream ones are the sun blinds, and they are adjusted throughout the day to compensate for the movement of the sun. This prevents direct sunlight from hitting objects. Ideally, the double blinds should allow less than two per cent of the light falling on them to go into a room.

We’ve also recently taken delivery a conservation frame which focuses on UV light. Half of the frames has a UV-resistant coating, and one half doesn’t. When the beads are moved across the frame, they remain white when under the UV film, but turn pinky red when exposed to UV light in the section of the frame which has no UV coating – a kind of ‘sunburn’, you might say. The photo below shows the effect of UV light on the beads. It’s hoped that by looking at this frame, visitors will understand about our fight against light.

UV bead conservation frame