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Penny Hydraulics introduce world class mechanical handling at Swansea Guildhall

Penny Hydraulics introduce world class mechanical handling at Swansea Guildhall


​Penny Hydraulics lighting winch division has completed a large mechanical handling project at the Swansea Guildhall complex to mechanically lift and lower 16 antique chandeliers.

Swansea Guildhall was opened on 23 October 1934 and has since proved to be functional as well as an architectural marvel. The innovative design and features of the Guildhall were widely copied in other municipal buildings during the two decades following its completion. As the civic centre, it has functioned as the focal point of local government and justice and is one of the principal centres of social and cultural life in Swansea.

The Guildhall has undergone several alterations and extensions over the years, but has retained its original character as an example of 'a classical approach to modernism' and is now regarded as a historic building in its own right, and one of which the people of Swansea are justifiably proud.

Forming part of the Swansea Guildhall complex, the Brangwyn Hall is a concert and events venue famous for hosting stars such as Sir Tom Jones, Dame Shirley Bassey and Katherine Jenkins, as well as being the graduation ceremony venue for students graduating from Swansea University and the University of Wales.

As part of a schedule of ongoing maintenance of the historic buildings, the Guildhall complex has recently undergone major refurbishment. Improvements to lighting within the buildings formed a major part of the works: the Brangwyn Hall alone houses 37 antique luminaires, all of which had to be removed, dismantled, logged and stored prior to the interior construction works commencing.

Penny Hydraulics lighting winch division, Raising & Lowering Systems, were contacted to inspect and refurbish a number of historic winch systems used to lift and lower chandeliers within the complex. The first 4 systems were housed in the roof void of the main council chamber, with a further 4 in the Guildhall main entrance hall. The winch systems were installed many years ago, to make the luminaires more accessible for cleaning and maintenance.

Chandelier winching systems incorporate the use of Contact Suspension Units which combine innovative design with robust construction and simple, reliable operation. When the light is in its raised and operating position the Contact Suspension Unit automatically makes the electrical circuits and engages a “mechanical lock”, consequently relieving the winch, pulleys and wire rope from tension. Unlocking the unit to lower the light for maintenance automatically breaks the electrical circuits therefore no live cables are lowered with the fitting.

The system is operated by a remote self-sustaining hand winch which is connected to the Contact Suspension Unit by a steel wire rope. Pulleys are supplied to carry the wire rope along the desired rope runs. One man sited at the winch position can easily and quickly lower the light for cleaning and maintenance without the need for ladders or scaffolding.

The refurbishment works included inspection of the systems, the replacement of Contact Suspension Units, re-roping of the systems and weight testing in accordance with Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).

In addition to the refurbishment works on the historic systems, the project also included the specification, supply and installation of 8 new electric winch systems in the Brangwyn Hall to raise and lower chandeliers weighing 400kg each. Different to the systems that were refurbished, the new systems were specified with a motorised winch, eliminating the need for manual winching and automating the process for quicker and easier operation.

All components were installed and hidden in the roof voids, meaning no working elements were visible within the rooms themselves. Thanks to easy-to-use controls, one person operation is possible at the touch of the button from anywhere within the room, so that the lighting can safely and easily be lowered to ground level for maintenance very quickly. The systems comply with best practice guidelines, by eliminating the need to work from height and ensuring that the suspended chandeliers have two means of support.

“Chandeliers need to be cleaned and maintained regularly,” said Ed Penny, General Manager of Penny Hydraulics Lighting Winch Division. “The Swansea Guildhall complex is incredibly well used and it’s simply not feasible to hire specialist access equipment, or scaffolding and shut down the venue for a day at a time to gain access to the chandeliers. Our new lighting winch systems allow these essential tasks to be carried out quickly and safely at ground level, with no expensive access equipment required and with minimal disruption to the running of the facilities.”

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