Friday 20 April 2018

Only Fools and Horses: 'Del Boy moment' for stately home chandelier workmen

Marks & Spencer have recruited 'Del Boy' actor Sir David Jason to promote a food range
Marks & Spencer have recruited 'Del Boy' actor Sir David Jason to promote a food range

Workmen accidentally recreated a scene from Only Fools And Horses by dropping and damaging a stately home’s historic chandelier.

No one was laughing, however, when the council handymen were told that the crystal centrepiece that had crashed to the ground was an antique worth thousands of pounds.

The men had removed the chandelier from the ceiling of the 16th century house’s main hall to that they could change its light bulbs.

While winching it back into place, the contractors are understood to have dropped the antique, which hangs as the centre piece of Towneley Hall’s largest room.

The chandelier crashed the floor and several of the arms are believed to have broken, which meant it had to be taken away from the Hall in Burnley, Lancs, for repairs.

The incident mirrored the comedy plot of an Only Fools And Horses episode where Del and Rodney Trotter were hired to clean priceless chandeliers in a country mansion - and accidentally smashed one.

Simon Goff, head of Green Spaces and Amenities at Burnley Council, said: “During a routine bulb change on the chandelier in the Great Hall at Towneley, slight damage occurred and the chandelier has been removed for repair and cleaning.

“We will also take the opportunity to re-wire the chandelier and it will be returned as soon as possible. The care and conservation policy for the museum’s collections is followed at all times while carrying out routine work.”

Councillor Roger Frost, who is also a member of Burnley Civic Society, said: “It’s a great pity that this has happened. People recognise it as an integral part of the entrance hall to Towneley. I hope something can be done to repair the chandelier. It’s a really impressive piece.”

Set amid Lancashire parkland, Towneley Hall was bequeathed to the local council more than a century ago. It is now run as an art gallery and museum, its interior packed with ceramics, furniture and art.

The Only Fools and Horses episode, ‘Touch of Glass’, aired in December 1982 and achieved a series-topping 10 million viewers.

A Burnley Council spokesman confirmed that the cost of repairs to the chandelier was £2,960 but it was covered by insurance.

He said that council staff were carrying out routine cleaning at Towneley Hall when the damage to four crystal arms occurred.

The spokesman added: "Caring for all items in the museum, whether in the collections or on loan, is fundamental.

"This was an unfortunate accident that happened as the chandelier was being lowered to be cleaned. "

The spokesman rejected comparisons with BBC comedy episode, saying: "It was nothing like the Only Fools And Horses episode and any comparison is totally irrelevant and paints the wrong pictures.

"Towneley Hall houses a wide range of historic art and exhibitions, and chandeliers, and is well worth a visit."

The Towneleys were a prominent Catholic family and once owned extensive estates in and around Burnley, the West Riding of Yorkshire and County Durham. Towneley Hall not only contains the 15th-century Whalley Abbey vestments, but also has its own chapel - with a finely carved altarpiece made in Antwerp around 1525.

The hall was the home of the Towneley family for more than 500 years. The male line of the family died out in 1878 and in 1901 one of the daughters, Lady O'Hagan, sold the house together with 62 acres (250,000 m2) of land to Burnley Corporation.

The family left in March 1902, leaving behind a building almost completely empty except for a couple of tables and a few pictures in the chapel.

The park was opened to the public in June 1902, and in May 1903 the Great Hall and the south wing of the house were opened for a temporary art exhibition.

Today the museum houses a variety of displays, encompassing natural history, Egyptology, local history, textiles, decorative art and regional furniture, together with an art gallery.

The art gallery includes a large collection of paintings, focusing on romantic Victorian and pre-Raphaelite art, with some earlier paintings. Of note are the gallery's Waterhouse paintings (including the original 'Destiny'), works by Poynter and Zoffany, and the ovine-themed paintings of 'Frozen Mutton' Farquharson.

In July 2005 the Heritage Lottery Fund granted £2m to help fund a major programme of restoration of the Park that is still on-going.

A previous Heritage Lottery Fund helped to build a museum shop, lecture theatre and offices in the footprint of the old servants' quarters. This new building was opened in 2002.

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