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Long Gallery Chandeliers
By Curator Blogger // Mon 8th April 2024
curator, long gallery, restoration
The team from Wilkinson dismantling one of the chandeliers
When the doors of Castle Howard close for the winter, it might seem as though all has gone to sleep, a period of calm after the festivities of Christmas. However, this could not be further from the truth, and the ‘closed season’ is in fact one of the busiest times of year for the teams who care for the House. This is when we can safely complete projects without visitors around, as well as the annual deep clean of the interiors and collection.
View of the Long Gallery by John Jackson, c. 1811
One of our major projects this winter has focused on the two enormous gilt-brass chandeliers in the Long Gallery. Although originally designed to hold candles, the pair had since been converted to electricity and were now due for rewiring. Working with specialist restorers Wilkinson Ltd, in January both chandeliers were carefully dismantled and packed off to their workshop. This was the first time in decades that the chandeliers had come down from their lofty positions overlooking the gallery, and possibly even the first time that they have left the building since they were created over 200 years ago.

With the chandeliers rebuilt in the Wilkinson workshop, for the first time we had the opportunity to look at them up close and side-by-side. We discovered that while, at first glance, the pair might look exactly the same, there are in fact some surprising differences between them. Some of these variations are subtle, the slightly different design details hardly noticeable given that the chandeliers usually live more than thirty metres apart. A more fundamental, but less visible difference is the way each chandelier fits together; and not only that, but one is marginally bigger and heavier than the other. All of this suggests that the chandeliers were almost certainly made at different points and possibly by different hands, an intriguing discovery that challenges the long-held assumption that these are identical objects, made at the same time.

This prompted us to revisit the history of the chandeliers. Firstly, we know that they were part of Charles Heathcote Tatham’s neoclassical decoration of the Long Gallery, completed for the 5th Earl of Carlisle in the first decade of the 19th century. Tatham always planned for there to be a pair of chandeliers, as two can be seen in his designs for the space. Indeed, a view of the Long Gallery painted after the decoration was finished, shows two proudly on display. The accounts don’t provide any clues, as large but unspecified amounts were paid to Tatham over a number of years.
Design for the Long Gallery chandeliers, by C.H. Tatham
The answer lies perhaps in how the decoration of the gallery was carried out. From Tatham’s drawings we know that only the south end of the Long Gallery was completed exactly as he intended. A design matching the Long Gallery chandeliers was included in his book ‘Designs for Ornamental Plate’, with the title ‘a chandelier executed in gold metal for the New Gallery, finished at Castle Howard in the Year 1802’. This wording suggests that just one chandelier was made that year, which would presumably have been the one in the south end. Work continued in the Long Gallery later that decade, even if not strictly following Tatham’s designs, and we
must assume that the second chandelier was produced at some point for the north end.

The reasoning behind this phased approach remains something of a mystery, as do the circumstances surrounding the production of the chandeliers and why the second one is not just a straightforward copy of the first. Perhaps the archives might, in time, reveal more clues. Ultimately this discovery only enhances our appreciation of these impressive objects, as integral features of this enormous room. Next time you visit, remember to look up, and see if you can spot some of the differences for yourself.