Friday, 22 January 2010

Talking Chances

Yesterday I gave a talk here at CHAS for the Friends of CHAS and members of the public all about Chances and the project. I had spent the week preparing for and promoting the talk and the collection in the press and we had two visits from the Express and Star resulting in two articles (the second is due to be published soon). It was very bizarre to see my face in paper but anything that brings awareness to the collection is great.

As I said at the end of the talk, the most enjoyable aspect of the job so far is to hear the stories and experiences of people who used to work for the company or grew up in the area and have fond memories of the glass works. After the talk, one gentleman told me that he used to work for the firm that supplied Chances with the coal delivered on the nearby canal. Another lady told me about a sweetshop that the Chances used to own and the very strong smell around the site of the glass works that she can still subconsciously smell sometimes when she is walking round the Spon Lane area.

This week I also received a very lovely letter from a lady who used to live by the glass works. She said that she remembered the visit of the King and Queen very well and actually manged to get a very good view of them when she was 7 years old with the other children from her school. Her grandfather worked on the furnaces and his three sons also worked for the company, one of whom lived in the Chances gatehouse. I also received an email from Alan Dean. Four generations of his family worked at Chances starting with his great grandfather who worked there from 1859 to around 1919 and was awarded a long service medal; followed by his grandfather William Timmins, his uncle Roland Timmins and his cousin Anthony Timmins. There is a picture of Alan's great grandfather's medal below (please note the engraving of the tiny lighthouse at the top of the medal).

Thank you so much to everybody who managed to attend the talk yesterday. For those of you who could not make it, please find a link to the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied the talk below.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Shedding some light on lighthouses

It's a brand New Year and I am happy to be back cataloguing the lighthouse records. The Chance Brothers Lighthouse Works was set up in 1851 after James Timmins Chance displayed the first Chance Brothers' lens design for lighthouse manufacture at the Great Exhibition. James' work in the field of optics and dioptrics, previously associated exclusively with France, gained the company international recognition and placed Britain at the forefront of lighthouse design and engineering. By 1951, when the Lighthouse Works celebrated its centenary, the company had supplied more than 2,400 lighthouse lenses and hundreds of complete lighthouse structures to nearly 80 countries around the world.

Hyper-radial single flashing light

Chance lighthouse exhibition stand

There is a huge amount of interest in Chance's lighthouse records and we have a large backlog of enquiries about specific lighthouses, which is why these records are the next on my list to catalogue after the employment records. The lighthouse records are made up of financial ledgers and journals; reference material including articles and books about lighthouse manufacture; and the operational and administrative records including registers of drawings and correspondence between James Timmins Chance and various customers and engineers regarding the sale and installation of specific lights. The most voluminous and arguably most interestering records, however, are the sales and marketing records including order books, catalogues, price lists and exhibition material. There are many large books with photographs and illustrations of the lights and apparatus produced and there is a very complete record of lighthouse customer orders from 1850s to 1930s.

Marketing catalogues, plans and illustartion books

I have just started to catalogue and re-package the marketing records and I hope to have all of these records catalogued within the next few weeks so that we can start to answer enquiries and provide visitors with a draft catalogue.