The Chandelier has the inscription: "EX DONO JACOBI MINGAY ARMIGERI DOMINO REGI E CONSILIARIIS. ANNO DOMINI 1791." However, contrary to expectation, the chandelier does not date from 1791, nor was St John the Baptist's church the recipient of the gift.
The date of manufacture may be conjectured by reference to chandeliers at Uffington, Lincs (1685), Egerton, Kent (1699). Totnes. Devon (1701), and Walpole St Peter, Norfolk (1702). The suspension-ring at St John's is like those at Egerton, Totnes and Walpole St Peter, whilst the flower ornaments between the upper branches are like those at Uffington. The tier of scrolls is repeated at Totnes and Walpole St Peter, and the two sections above the globe are repeated at Egerton and Walpole St Peter.
The St John chandelier may, therefore, be supposed to date from about 1700. The maker was possibly Robert Rowland of London, or his son of the same name. The chandelier is in good condition apart from the absence of a finial. From the height of the corresponding empty space it may be deduced that the finial was a dove, identical with those at Totnes and Walpole St Peter.
The original recipient of the gift of this chandelier was St Peter's, Thetford. A memorandum in the handwriting of James Masters, one of the wardens, records that 'the Brass Chandelier was bought second hand of the Church wardens of …in Norfolk' and that it was put up as part of a restoration which culminated in the re-opening of the church on 19 February, 1854. The payment for the chandelier was £10 8s, of which £2 was met by subscriptions. The payment for carriage was 3s. 6d. The name of the church in Norfolk was never added, as though Masters did not know it, or was not permitted to reveal it. A history of Thetford does, however, name the church, and quotes the chandelier's inscription.
James Mingay, the donor, was a bencher of the Inner Temple, and, in 1791, was living in Bedford Row, Holborn. The original setting of the chandelier has not been identified, but would still have been a church. Circumstances that caused a large chandelier, dating from about 1700, to be redundant in 1791 and made Mingay aware of its availability are clues that strongly point in the direction of one of the more important London churches. Because the chandelier was not inscribed originally it was probably paid for out of the rate.
Even since 1854 the
chandelier has had a chequered history. In 1879 it was moved again, and this
time to St John's School on the opposite side of the street. On 17 April the
vestry resolved tha the offer of the School Committee to purchase the
chandelier for £5 be accepted. On 9 April 1885 the decision was reversed,
and it was resolved that the chandelier be purchased back from the School
Managers for £5. The churchwardens for 1885-6 duly paid that sum. There is
photographic evidence showing the chandelier still in position in 1942.
After a period of being stored in the tower, the chandelier was restored at
his own expense, by Jack Schrier, metal-worker of 12 Magdalen Hill,
Winchester. It was re-hung in 1954. The chandelier is suspended, as it was
in 1942, from the single tie-beam of the nave.