Thanks to the ever so lovely Louisa Allen, I now know what the mystery object is -- a soda siphon. The picture she sent shows it complete with wire mesh.
My youngest is very grateful and my daughter feels vindicated. I told you that it couldn't be a lamp, she crowed.
I refused to speculate why it was buried in the bank. The people who built this house were bankers, not chemists. Before that, the area was part of a farm.
Now to see if my new way of work can continue today as everyone else is back at work or at school.