The Chance Family

Smethwick celebrates restoration of JT Chance monument

On a wet and windy August 1st 2009 (while England and Australia were frustrated by the inclement weather at the 3rd test at nearby Edgbaston) , a ceremony was held at West Smethwick Park to rededicate the restored James Timmins Chance monument. The monument, erected in 1899 in recognition of James Chance’s gift of the park to the people of Smethwick, had for years suffered neglect and vandalism including the theft of the original bronze bust and plaque.

The Friends of West Smethwick Park lobbied the Sandwell council to restore the monument and finally funds were made available to repair the brick work and mosaics which make up this handsome Arts and Crafts style edifice. Sir Jeremy Chance donated a replica of the bust and plaque, which were unveiled by the Mayor of Sandwell Cllr Geoff Lewis.

Invited guests included members of the Friends of West Smethwick Park and several descendants of James Chance, including Sir Jeremy and Lady Chance, three of their children (Sebastian, Helena and Toby), Henry Chance, Katie Cave Brown Cave and William Beaufoy. Two recently “discovered” Chance’s also attended - Steven Chance and Susan Chance. Steven is the great great grandson of George Chance, James Chance’s brother, and recently moved to Smethwick where he discovered his ancestry and links to the glass-making family. You can download his family tree here.

The Smethwick Heritage Centre generously hosted a reception after the ceremony. Much excitement was generated among the lighthouse enthusiasts present when David Encill handed over an early 20th century Chance Brothers ships lamp to Sir Jeremy Chance, bought on eBay. It now sits outside Sir Jeremy’s front door at his home in Wales.


Lighthouses attempts to fill the gap in lighthouse history concerning the development of illumination technology during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The main characters are James Chance, who started the lighthouse department at the firm founded by his uncle Lucas Chance in 1822; and Sir David Brewster, a radical Scottish optical scientist whose entreaties to the British establishment to take the lighthouse question seriously from the 1820s were largely ignored until a Royal Commission more
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