VIDEO: Only Fools and Horses chandelier episode - and a Norfolk hall shows how one should be cleaned
In a scene reminiscent of a classic sitcom sketch, the chandelier at Oxburgh Hall was cleaned today – with far less calamitous consequences.
'Brace yourself Rodney...'
That classic line was followed by one of the most iconic moments in TV sitcom history as Grandad sent the priceless Louis XIV chandelier smashing to the ground - leaving Del and Rodney watching in horror on their step ladders.
It is almost 30 years since the BBC Only Fools And Horses 'A Touch of Glass' episode was first screened.
But mention chandelier cleaning to anyone of a certain age and the antics of the Trotters at the home of Lord and Lady Ridgemere are the first thing they think of.
Thankfully, while Del Boy only claimed to be an expert chandelier cleaner, the team sprucing up this National Trust treasure at Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham, really do know what they are doing.
They need to clean each of the chandelier's 1,165 delicate droplets individually and, as if that wasn't daunting enough, a curious audience will be watching their every move under a new scheme.
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Visitors to the 15th century manor house can see conservation in action every Wednesday when they are invited to see a different item cleaned, from the chandelier this week to the books in the library, brass, glass and silverware.
House manager Liz Cooper said: 'Cleaning the chandelier is such a pleasure and I thought this year our visitors would like to see why and how we do it. It's a chance to get close to an object they pass on every visit, perhaps without realising just what goes into its care. People are very interested in how the house is cleaned and maintained.'
An expert team of eight conservationists and volunteers armed with cotton wool and mild detergent will clean the three-tier chandelier over the next couple of days.
With the scaffolding up, each individual strand has to be gently unhooked and placed in crates lined with bubble wrap and covered with tissue.
They are then passed down from the scaffold platform to the cleaning team waiting below, who wash, rinse and dry each piece in a conveyor belt like process.
The brass fitting also has to be gently brushed and its 19 bulbs replaced before the droplets are put back exactly where they came from.
'It's a labour of love,' said conservation assistant Unni van Dort. 'You have to be very thorough and patient. If we do a good job it'll look so much better and really sparkle. It's very satisfying. Visitors seem very interested in our cleaning and ask lots of questions.'
The chandelier, usually cleaned every couple of years, was purchased by Oxburgh in 1996 following a donation from Woolworths and dates back to the Victorian era.
While the scaffolding is up, the team have also taken the opportunity to carefully clean the curtain pelmets and the coving in the saloon using fine brushes.
Mrs van Dort and assistant housekeeper Sally Oxborough clean the house from top to bottom every day and its 70,000 visitors each year are quick notice if a cobweb is missed.
It is a time-consuming and sometimes nerve-wracking job, but one the conservationists tackle with real enthusiasm.
'Working here is wonderful - we have the chance the to get up close and personal with early and fragile objects,' Mrs van Dort said. 'My passion is antiques, so it's like I've died and gone to heaven. It's not like going to an office every day.'