The Town Hall is lighted by three magnificent crystal chandeliers bearing 14 gas jets, and imported from the famous house of Ossler and Co., Birmingham, at a cost of £230. (Cornwall Chronicle, Oct. 27 1866) a

When Hobart Town Hall was completed in 1866 it symbolized the hope of future greatness for the city. The interior was lavishly decorated, and the chandeliers were the crowing glory.

In 1899 the Gleaner’s Union had to pay compensation for damage to the main light. How on earth did this occur? The Union was an evangelistic Christian group so it’s unlikely they were swinging from the chandeliers!

Swinging from the chandeliers.

The incident led one of the aldermen to make the following statement; It was a question now whether it would not be just as well to have the Town Hall lighted by electricity. Those chandeliers looked very beautiful, but to the Corporation they were expensive toys. In the summer months especially, the lighting by electricity would be much cooler. (The Mercury, Jan. 10 1899)


And yes, a few years later they ripped them out. Initially the two end chandeliers were removed, and in 1913 the central one also came down. The reason given for this was that the metal had corroded badly, and that some of the crystals were falling off.

There was a disaster during removal when an apprentice was caught up in the rope being used to lower it. Unfortunately he panicked and cut the rope. The huge chandelier crashed to the floor into a zillion pieces.

The Chandeliers were replaced by electric lights.

The three chandeliers, including all the broken bits and loose crystals, were stored in the depths of the Town Hall.

Eventually sanity prevailed and the push came to restore the great hall to its former glory. Of course by then everyone had forgotten just how much damage the chandeliers had suffered;

Hobart’s Town Hall is throbbing with wonder over the discovery that the now celebrated chandeliers are merely a heap of broken fragments. Aldermen are baffled to explain how this has come about. The suggestion that decay from old-age is the cause is ruled out by most aldermen, also that the chandeliers were attacked by a germ of some sort, producing gradual disintegration.

The writer then lapsed into levity, so to speak;

I have formed a few theories myself and for the guidance of the City Council I offer them. Is it not possible that mice and rats have been at work during the years, secretly gnawing away the prisms! An eminent naturalist might be consulted on this. My favourite theory is, however, that once. during a discussion on some vital subject such as the correct colour of tram tickets of the number of knobs in a square yard of pavement, the aldermen lost their tempers, tore down the chandeliers, and pelted each other with the prisms. Research into the council archives might furnish complete evidence of this theory. (The Mercury, Mar, 24 1945)

At the same time the Mayor, Mr Soundy, complained about the time he had wasted trying to get to the bottom of the matter. He said he had searched six years of minutes without finding a single reference to the ruined chandeliers. Soundy resigned the following year to concentrate on State politics; presumably ‘chandelier gate’ had proved too stressful.


Naturally there were opposing views as to whether the chandeliers should be reinstated. Note G.C. of West Hobart’s assertion that the Town Hall was already too ornate and florid. 😎

Differing views on the Hobart Town Hall chandeliers.

Oh the dilemma! Every so often someone would insist that the pile of crystal drops and fragmented metal frames be restored to glory, but it was all too hard. ‘Let’s just sell it all off‘, was the call in 1963.

Fortunately this was a step too far for the Tasmanian Museum. They were granted permission to make up one composite light from the original three. It was on display at the Museum for nearly thirty years; a reminder of what had been done in the name of progress, but what really amounted to cultural vandalism.

Enter Hobart’s first female Lord Mayor, Doone Kennedy (1927-2014). She may have wearing robes rather than shining armour, but she was definitely the Town Hall’s ‘white knight’. Kennedy organized a fund raising campaign for the refurbishment of the poor old chandeliers.

Doone Kennedy, who saved the Town Hall chandeliers.

Original designs were obtained from Ossler & Co in Birmingham. The Museum’s composite model was reclaimed and off it went to a specialist company in Sydney, along with every other crystal drop and metal piece that could be found. In all, 9,000 old and new parts were put together to form three ‘new’ and perfect chandeliers.


In 1992 the Governor of Tasmania switched on the lights. After far too long, everything was just as it should be.

The restored chandeliers.


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