This post is not going to detail the history of the Upper Rooms and their significance to Jane Austen -that is for another post, another day.
But I thought you might like to see details of its position in Bath, and some of its contents.
This section of the same map shows the Upper Rooms: they are situated just off the Circus and between Alfred and Bennet Streets.
This is a modern aerial photograph of the same area, showing you the rather stunning detail of that section of Bath from the air…
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and how it has managed to preserve its 18th century building plan. The Upper Rooms were built to serve this section of Bath:
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They are still in existence and are administered by the National Trust.
The chandeliers in the Ball Room of the Upper Assembly Rooms were made by the master glass maker, William Parker. They cost £500. He used Whitefriars crystal from the Whitefriars glass works in London. This art was very much the province of the specialised worker in the 18th century As Maxine Berg in her rather fabulous book, Luxury and Pleasure in the 18th Century, remarks:
By the mid-eighteenth century London glass makers and cutters supplied chandelier glass to England and many parts o Europe. Cut glass used where candlelight or sunlight would release the light from its facets was a new British achievement, difficult for other Europeans to imitate. The light-refractive qualities of flint glass made it ideal for cnadlelight….Cut glass conveyed luxury refinement; it was a London not a provincial product. These new cut glass products were not made in the glasshouse but in glass-selling and glass-cutting establishments mainly in London… The famous glass cutters were William Parker of Fleet Street (1762-1818)
Every two years the chandeliers have to be restored and cleaned. This recently took place during this summer to the five chandeliers in the Ball Room and I thought you might like to see some of the photographs of the process:
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During the two week restoration the 5 chandeliers were dismantled, cleaned and relamped and supporting cables and wiring was also replaced.
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The five chandeliers have hung in the Ball Room since 1771 when the Assembly Rooms opened.
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Brotheridge Chandeliers are the firm that undertakes this tricky task…
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..which needs steady hands and nerves of steel.
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This is a close-up of the cleaning of a bobeche,a dish of crystal which was intended to catch the drips of molten wax from the lit candles, thereby preventing damaging drips on the revellers below….
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During the Second World War the chandeliers were removed from the building: this was fortuitous as the building was damaged by bombs and they were not returned to the restored building until the early 1960s.
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Go here for a link to the Brotheridge Chandeliers website,which shows more photographs of the process, and also gives details of the other fantastic chandeliers from our era in their care together with a good history of lead crystal
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I have always admired these confections :seeing the process of cleaning and rehanging makes my admiration for them and the people that care for them increase.