Spanning the rich history and traditions of glass and glassmaking in the region.
Malcolm Dick reflects on the contents of this issue
Key moments in the history of glassmaking
The Nature of Glass and Glossary of Glassmaking Terms
Glass and glassmaking terms explained
Glassmaking: The Growth of an Industry
The ancient skill of glassmaking came to the West Midlands centuries ago, drawn by the availability of raw materials. It flourished, thanks to the efforts of inventors and industrialists, designers and patrons, skilled craftsmen and child labourers. By the nineteenth century a myriad of products, from domestic glassware to fine chandeliers and lenses for lighthouses were being distributed around the world from small domestic workshops and large manufactories; and the Black Country, particularly Stourbridge, had become synonymous with glassmaking. Doreen Hopwood charts this fascinating history. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
A Family Affair: The Origins of the Stour Valley Glass Industry
The story of the glass industry in the West Midlands begins in the sixteenth century, with the arrival of families fleeing persecution in France. Their arrival coincided with changes in legislation which made the Stour Valley an ideal location. John Hemingway, Archaeological Officer of Dudley Metropolitan Borough explores some of the families who pioneered the industry. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Stourbridge Glass: A Cut Above the Rest
Charles R Hajdamach
Glass has been made continuously in the Stourbridge area for over 400 years and today it remains the only region in the British Isles to maintain production on a sizeable scale. In the seventeenth century products included window glass, bottles and phials; the next century saw the introduction of more elegant drinking glasses, decanters and tableware; but the nineteenth century established Stourbridge craftsmen as world leaders in glassmaking of all kinds and the area was esteemed alongside the great European centres of Venice and Bohemia (the present Czech Republic). A leading authority on English glass, Charles R Hajdamach reviews some of the finest work. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Preserved in Stone: The Fragile Monuments of Glassmakers
Memorials to some of the people who made Stourbridge the global centre of glassmaking can be found in local churchyards. Many of these poignant and fragile monuments are falling into decay so visit them soon. Here is a guide to some of these monuments by Nick Baker. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
The Stourbridge School of Art: Design Education for Artisans
Founded in 1851, the Stourbridge School of Art was among numerous provincial design schools operating within the Government Department of Practical Art and its successor, the Department of
Science and Art. Nurtured by the willingness of Government to fund educational endeavours and to encourage improved design of British goods, such schools were charged with providing instruction in art and design to ‘artisans’ employed by local manufacturers. James Measell tells the story of this important school and its role in the growth of the industry. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
The Stourbridge Glass Industry: Then and Now
Stourbridge Crystal was renowned the world over in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Changes in taste and fashion, as well as shifting patterns of global manufacturing, led to a steady down-sizing of the Stourbridge industry in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and the loss of many of the iconic names associated with glass. But all is not lost. Innovation, artistry and industry can still be found in the area, as freelance author Graham Fisher describes. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Places to Visit
Libraries, museums and other places of interest
Fiona Tait and David Encill
Amazing musical instruments and ingenious floral containers
Chance Brothers: Lighting the World
As the raised carriaqeways of the M5 cross Smethwick it is impossible to ignore an impressive, now larqely empty, seven-storey warehouse. Built in 1847, this, along with its surrounding long slate-roofed brick buildings, nearby chapel and schoolroom, belonged to Chance Brothers. At its peak the company was the biggest manufacturer of glass in Britain. It employed 3,500 people and exported a wide variety of products, including its famed lighthouse lenses, around the world. Toby Chance describes how his family’s name became synonymous with high quality optical lenses worldwide. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Chance Brothers’ Impact on Domestic Glassware
Chance Brothers of Smethwick was a prolific producer of glass and glass-related products in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its decision not to manufacture the newly-introduced, heat resistant ‘Pyrex’ under licence in 1921 may well have been a commercial mistake, but much of
Chance Brothers own domestic glassware is prized by collectors today. Researcher David Encill describes this often forgotten output. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Hidden Underground: Birmingham’s Glass Industry
Birmingham’s glass industry has left very few visible remains and is under-appreciated in comparison with that of nearby Stourbridge and Dudley. Yet nineteenth-century illustrations of the Aston Flint Glassworks in Bagot Street hint at the size and importance of this often forgotten part of Birmingham’s industrial past. Recently, archaeological excavations have helped to improve the understanding of this once-thriving industry. Planning Archaeologist Michael Hodder digs below Birmingham’s streets and building sites to reveal a thriving industry. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Family and Faith: Stained Glass Windows in Medieval Parish Churches
The parish church was at the centre of spiritual, social and political life in the communities of medieval England. In the western midlands the rare fragments of stained glass that remain provide fascinating glimpses of the inter-relationships of church, patrons and donors. Historian John Hunt translates the stories and people told in some of the region’s most beautiful windows. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Hardman & Co: Pugin’s Glasspainters
From Shanghai to San Francisco, the name of John Hardman was synonymous with excellence in the design and manufacture of stained glass. Encouraged by his friend Augustus Pugin – the pioneer of Gothic revival architecture – Hardman established new standards of craftsmanship which were maintained by his company for decades after his death. Hardman and Company’s windows can be seen in churches, cathedrals and buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Authority on AWN Pugin, Michael Fisher, reveals the man who produced some of the most beautiful stained glass made in the West Midlands. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Francis Eginton: Designer and Glasspainter
In 1784, Francis Eginton embarked on his fourth, and ultimately most successful, career as a creator of painted glass windows. Having previously been a partner of Matthew Boulton and
John Fothergill, and chief designer at the Soho Manufactory in Handsworth, near Birmingham, Eginton was able to exploit his contacts to become the most celebrated and productive glass painter of his generation. As Martin Ellis of Birmingham Museums Trust shows, some of these excellent windows can still be seen. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Henry Payne: Stained Glass Work at Birmingham School of Art
Locally-born Henry Payne was a skilled designer and maker of stained glass windows, who joined the staff of Birmingham School of Art in 1890, where as an influential teacher he contributed significantly to the heritage of stained glassmaking in the West Midlands. Roy Albutt, a well-known writer on stained glass, reviews Payne’s contribution to the glass making heritage of the region. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
Florence Camm and the Camm Studio of Smethwick
In the nineteenth century the Arts and Crafts Movement led a renaissance in stained glass production. In the West Midlands, the Camm family business flourished and acquired global status. The firm’s windows are widely remembered because of the work of their creative designer, Florence Camm. Camm is also featured in a film with the author of this article, Sally Hoban, an art and design historian. Available to subscribers only, subscribe today.
The Great Hall Window: University of Birmingham
In medieval church style, but reflecting secular and academic life