The National Trust guidebooks editors have just published a downloadable guide to the historic lighting at The Argory, Co Armagh. It was written by Maureen Dillon, the NT’s adviser on historic lighting, and curator Frances Bailey.
The Argory has a rare collection of Victorian and Edwardian light fittings. They date from when the house was built by Walter McGeough Bond in the 1820s and from a modernisation in about 1900.
In 1906 a small acetylene gas plant was installed in a special building near the house in order to provide up-to-date lighting. Acetylene gas is released by exposing calcium carbide to water.
This kind of gas provision was considered ideal for country houses, as it was cheap and needed little maintenace. Gas lighting was in use at The Argory until 1983.
The acetylene-powered light fittings included table lamps, with a tube supplying the gas from a pipe in the wall, reminiscent of a modern-day electric socket.
When the house was first built in the 1820s lighting was provided by Argand oil lamps. Many of the original light fittings were later converted to gas.