Captain Wade’s going home!

Out doing my Mayor of Bath’s Honorary guiding today (Tuesday) and a chance to show some visitors to the city the wonders of the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms.

We were not able to get right in because the amazing 18th century London-made cut-glass chandeliers were being lowered – one by one – so experts from Brotheridge Chandeliers of Skelmersdale could start carrying out their twice-yearly cleaning and maintenance routines.

Two of the chandeliers in the ballroom lowered for cleaning.
Two of the chandeliers in the ballroom lowered for cleaning.

Originally the chandeliers carried  the so-called ‘eleven-hour candles- which gave a seven hour burn for a ball and left four hours for a concert! These are not the originals in place when the Rooms opened in 1771. Those were made by a Mr Jonathan Collett who quoted £400 for supplying five cut-glass chandeliers for the ballroom.

However a month after the building opened, and while Thomas Gainsborough was dancing below, one of the arms of a chandelier broke away and crashed to the ground narrowly missing the artist! What could be salvaged from the set was made up into a single chandelier, which now hangs in the Octagon.

New chandeliers for the ballroom were then supplied by William Parker of Fleet Street in London who had already supplied the light fittings for the Tea Room.

Captain William Wade - Master of Ceremonies 1769-1777. Panted by Thomas Gainsborough
Captain William Wade – Master of Ceremonies 1769-1777. Panted by Thomas Gainsborough

Something else that always had pride of place was a portrait of Captain William Wade who was Master of Ceremonies in Bath at the time the Upper Assembly Rooms opened. He held office from 1769 to 1777 and was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1771.

The portrait was taken away for restoration and has since been hanging at the Victoria Art Gallery near Pulteney Bridge. Now l am told it is about to make the journey home and should be back on the wall at the Assembly Rooms in March!