Cleaning the chandelier at Hinton Ampner
We've been cleaning the chandelier in Hinton Ampner's Drawing Room. It's quite an intensive process, but giving it the care it deserves means we can preserve its beauty for many years to come.
Dating from the Regency period of 1811-1820, the chandelier in the Drawing Room is bigger than you might imagine. In fact, from top to tip it measures 5'6" in height, giving some clue as to the scale of the task. Perhaps more revealing is that it is made up of 4,282 individual components, each one made from English lead crystal.
What's English lead?
Englishman George Ravenscroft discovered the technique of adding lead oxide to glass in 1674. Adding lead makes the glass easier to work into intricate shapes, but it also increases what's known as its refractive index - for a chandelier, that makes it appear to sparkle much more brilliantly.
How do you clean it?
When it was originally installed it incorporated a lowering mechanism that allowed the candles to be replaced more easily. However, when the house was restored after the fire of 1960, this was not replaced as it had by then been converted to use electric light bulbs.
When it was re-wired, it was removed to a conservator's workshop where each piece was painstakingly cleaned and inspected. Since then, Hinton Ampner's house team use scaffolding to reach the chandelier and bring its component parts to the safety of ground level where they can be carefully cleaned by hand.
Each crystal or droplet is cleaned with distilled water and a mild detergent solution. Distilled water is used as it is free of impurities which could otherwise lead to clouding on each crystal's surface.
How often does it need cleaning?
Condition is the deciding factor, but the chandelier is usually cleaned every other year. The process is understandably quite intensive, and takes two to three weeks to complete. At the end of which, the chandelier is carefully reassembled, ready to fill the Drawing Room once again with its sparkling light.