The Story of the British Museum, £8.99
Design for illuminating the front gate of Montagu House
London, England, AD 1809
Celebrations on the Golden Jubilee of King George III
The reign of King George III began on 25 October 1760, thus 25 October 1809 was the beginning of his Golden Jubilee year. The Principal Librarian of The British Museum gave orders that the whole front gate of Montagu House (the former home of The British Museum) was to be illuminated that evening. This unsigned drawing shows what the illuminations probably looked like.
The drawing shows the front gate of Montagu House, which stood roughly where the Main Gate of The British Museum stands today. Dozens of small lights have been mounted on red-painted boards which are fastened to the gateway. They are probably oil-lamps, which shed a very faint light compared with gas or electric lamps. They pick out the shape of the arch above the door, and columns on either side of it. Above the door, more lights pick out the letters 'GR' and a crown above them.
Twenty years earlier, on 24 April 1789, the Trustees of The British Museum had ordered that the front of Montagu House was to be illuminated that evening to celebrate George III's recovery from his first attack of madness. The design was to be 'GR and a Crown composed of Lamps'. If indeed these same lamps were re-used in 1809 the measure did not save the Museum much money. The bill for the Golden Jubilee illuminations from the lamplighters, Messrs. Lucas, came to nearly £57, and carpenters and painters also had to be paid.