Don Buttress sheds light on the Whitworth Hall

Our thanks for the next article must go to The Revd Eric Ogden who saw a reference to the church of the Saviour, Bolton in an issue of The Little Piecer and wrote as follows: –

I enclose for you copies of two pages from Manchester University’s ‘Communication’ for May 1973 which describes the restoration of the chandeliers from the church for use in the Whitworth Hall. Donald Buttress, who was responsible for saving and restoring them, is also pictured. He left the University to go into private practice and later became Surveyor of the Fabric at Westminster Abbey.

The Whitworth Hall has recently been undergoing a process of cleaning, restoration and refurbishment. The overall responsibility for the scheme has been in the hands of Mr Jack Butterworth, the Buildings Officer, with Mr Fred Gartside organising the day to day running of the scheme.

We decided to focus on one aspect of the scheme, the lighting, to show the sort of care for detail that goes into a job like this.

Chandeliers bought from an old church in Bolton (The Saviours, Deane Road) have been restored and rewired in the electrical workshops of the University under the direction of Mr Norman Wilkins, the electrical Engineer. General technical advice on the design and the supporting lighting was given by Dr James Bell and Mr don Buttress (Architecture) and by Messrs Thorn Lighting. The photographs were taken by Mr Geoff Wheeler.

When the Whitworth Hall was first opened the artificial lighting was similar to that in Manchester Town Hall. The illustration shows wrought iron fittings of much the same type, originally designed for fish tail gas

burners and later converted to electricity with small lamps and glass shades. These chandeliers were removed in the nineteen-thirties and pendant floodlight fittings, of tinted glass, introduced.

As part of the recent cleaning programme it was decided to refurbish and relight the Hall. By a fortunate chance a magnificent set of chandeliers became available from the redundant Church of the Saviour, Bolton and were purchased by the University. Designed by Paley and Austin of Lancaster, in 1882, they accord perfectly in style with their new home, having a discernible touch of the ‘fin de siecle’ and a decorative exuberance found in both Spanish and English late gothic.

The lighting of the roof (until now hardly seen in artificial light at all) has been achieved by the placing of many small floodlight sources, located and baffled as far as possible to avoid glare, supplemented by lengths of fluorescent tubes at low level to light the oak dado. Modelling results from deliberately uneven or unidirectional illumination, for example, across the organ case from east to west. Workaday lighting, for such functions as examinations, is provided by several high intensity sources right up in the roof. Selective switching enables the quantity and quality of illumination to be changed for a variety of purposes and social functions.

The wrought iron chandeliers presented a problem and from the first it was accepted that they would not be used to provide the main lighting but only to ‘furnish’ the space with multiple low intensity sources. The ironwork was shot blasted, repaired and painted matt black so as to be seen in silhouette against the cream stonework. The old electric arms were removed and a new termination devised at each angle using three 12-volt car bulbs within iron loops taking up the springing lines of the original scrolls.

The clustered electric connections are housed in a short length of square metal tube. This direct exposure of electric light sources seemed to be more honest than an artificial antique candle effect using shade or the like. Dimmers allow the brightness of the lamps to be adjusted to match the general level of illumination, and the clear glass bulbs ensure that when unlit a stark white ball effect is avoided.

Whilst it may have been better to hang the fittings rather lower down, certainly it would have given more dignity, the present height was decided upon mainly by sight lines from the galleries. It is hoped that the new system of lighting can eventually be extended along the lower corridor and through the grand staircase to the