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State Candelabra receive specialist cleaning

The Historic Furniture and Decorative Arts Collection is home to 5 stunning silver candelabra. There are two matching pairs, and one large and unique candelabrum (the singular form of the plural candelabra). These objects, part of the State Silver, recently received specialist cleaning. Silver conservator Donna Stevens and the HFDA team made some interesting discoveries throughout the two-week process. 

Dismantling the largest candelabrum

We started with the largest candelabrum which was deconstructed into 21 individual pieces. A hot air gun was used to melt any congealed wax, and this was removed using kitchen towel. The individual parts were then cleaned using silver cloth, silver polish wadding and chalk rubber. The metal was degreased using acetone on a cotton wool swab. The candelabrum was then carefully reassembled.

Conservator Donna said ‘the biggest challenge was the sheer size of the candelabrum, which sits at 1.25 meters tall, and the logistics of deconstructing and reconstructing it safely.’

Image showing two women, one in the foreground facing away from the camera, and one in the background taking apart a candelabra. The woman in the foreground has grey hair and is wearing a green shirt and blue gloves. She is looking at and reading underneath a silver candelabra. The woman in the backround has blonde hair and is wearing a black top and a purple mask. She is holding part of the silver candelabra,
Donna Stevens and Brittany Harbidge taking candelabrum POW 03073 apart © Emily Spary/Historic Furniture

Examining the details

The cleaning gave us the opportunity to get up close to each piece and highlighted some interesting features.

Each individual piece is hallmarked, which is standard practice with silver, but the hallmarks appeared in some ingenious places. We found marks on the lions’ tails, and the ribbons of the coat of arms. The hallmarks show that the candelabra were designed by Paul Storr. You can also see the ‘Duty Mark’ of the reigning sovereign William IV and the Lion Passant, the mark assuring the standard of the silver.

The construction of the candelabra is very clever. Each part is individually screwed into the base, and if visible, the screws are cleverly disguised. Several of the rosebuds in the floral wreath decoration below are actually screws. Each part is also marked with a number to show where it should be attached to the base.

Engravings by the makers Storr and Mortimer are concealed in the folds of the skirts of the figures of Britannia, Hibernia and Scotia. The inscription on all three reads: ‘No 60, Published as the act directs by Storr & Mortimer, 156 New Bond Street, London, Feby 15 1837’.

Back together again

The four smaller candelabra were less complicated. They each came apart into eight pieces, which were cleaned in the same way as the larger candelabrum. Each piece was also hallmarked and engraved with a combination of letters and numbers to show where each arm, nozzle and drip pan should slot into the base.

All five candelabra were reassembled, and are now back in use as part of the State Silver collection.

5 candelabrum arranged on a long thin table. The table is wooden with a long dark red runner. The room is ornately decorated with red carpet, red and gold curtains, large full length portraits of men in robes, and a highly decorative painted ceiling,
Candelabra POW 08511, 08512, 08513, 08514 and 03073 displayed in the state dining room © Emily Spary/Historic Furniture

To read more about the silver in Parliament’s Heritage Collections, visit our online exhibition.

August 5, 2021