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Forum Home > Blackcountry Factual History. > Black Country Glassmaking.

Alaska.
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The ancient art of making glass, goes back to about 3,600 B.C. We. in this region, have a history of glass making, from at least the early years of the 17th century. There was an adundance of fuel, Coal, and from the point of view of the early makers, a great deal of fine Fire-Clay, with which to make the retorts and furnaces. The fusing of all the materials, requires a high temperature, one which would of course, melt any Iron container. The most famous area, around the ancient town of Stourbridge, and the Parish of Oldswinford, included Wollaston, Wordsley, Kingswinford, Amblecote, Lye, Pedmore, and part of Hagley. Prior to the 1850s, there was a thriving center of production in Dudley as well, and further afield, in Smethwick. But it's the decorative side of glass production that made the area world famous. Stourbridge Glass, was the generic name applied to almost everything that came from the location, be it fancy vase's, or the finest cut glass decanters. There are several versions of each little towns glass history online, and a visit to the Links Page should be useful. The page for Stourbridge and Amblecote are of perticular note, and will give information both about the trade, a list of museums, and where you can still see glass made the old fashioned way. It's still the best glassware in the World.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Now while it's true to say, that some of the worlds finest crystal and cut glass came from this part of the region, by far the largest producer of glass in the Black Country, was a firm at the bottom of Spon Lane, Smethwick, Staffordshire. The works started out as the  Blown Glass Works, but was purchased in 1824, by the Chance Family, who, after running into a few financial problems, put it back on it's feet with the introduction of Cylinder Rolled Glass.  There were other improvements to the manufacture of Optical Glass, which led to better safety at sea, with the introduction of revolving Lighthouse Lense's. The company made all the glass IN 1851, for the Crystal Palace, the windows for the Houses of Parliament, the glass for the Clock Tower, that house's Big Ben, even the the windows of the White House, in America. The cylinder method enabled them to roll huge sheets of glass, making them not only the largest employer in the Black Country, but the largest Glass company in the Country. Chance Brothers, as it became known, continued, through the years, to improve methods of production, but also many specialist items, like the developement of the Cathode Ray Tube. Thanks to them, most of us older ones got to enjoy some of the best TV shows of the time. Childrens hour, Watch with mother, Animal magic, and, oh dear, I seem to have regressed a bit too far back in time, with the last one, " Muffin The Mule ".

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 18, 2013 at 4:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

A delve back in time, reveals that the art of Glassmaking was imported into the Country from the French region of  Lorraine. It's bit a bit of satisfaction to note that it was to Staffordshire, that they came. William Overton, the then Bishop of Lichfield, invited two families, Tyzack and Henzy, in 1580, to settle in the village of Eccleshall, near Stafford. They set up a Glass furnace in Bishops Wood, where they remained until about 1610. There may not have been enough of the materials required here, so they expanded outwards to Newcastle- under-Lyme, and then to Stourbridge, Worcestershire. In 1612, Paul Tyzack was well established in the area, and around 1624, the area was recognised as the centre for glass production. The mainly agricutural area around the Town was transformed. Clay and Coal were needed, and more glass making families arrived, giving the locals a choice of work previously not available. How much they were paid, and how they lived, hasn't had much coverage, except for the glassmaking factory owners that is. It would be a surprise, if they enjoyed a better standard of living than the rest of the Black Country workman though. Top of the pile would have been the " Servitors ", a term used to describe the leader of a small team, highly skilled at the job, who finished off the delicate task, amongst others, of completing the stems and foot of wine glass'es. Exactly as in the attached photographed, a skill that can still be seen by visiting the working Museums.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 25, 2013 at 11:36 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Not so well known is the tax, or Excise Duty, levied on the industry during the reign of George II, in 1746. It was easy to impose because all Glass was sold by weight. Window glass, still made at this time in the manner of ancient Rome, blown into a hollow sphere, slit and then laid out flat, or poured into a mould, producing a thick sheet with a customery " Bullseye " in the middle. It was of course, heavy, and the Tax increased the price by 300%. The glass makers, resorted to turning out products with elaberate cut designs and hollow stems to reduce the weight, called not surprisingly, " Excise Glass ". With the English trade now depressed, the Tax on glass made in Ireland, in 1780, was removed, which enabled the Irish trade to grow. This produced fury from the makers in the Black Country, and possible led to a stagnation of ideas, and slowed down the improvements in productions. Robert Peels Government, in 1845, finally got the message, and the Excise Duty was abolished. This was fortunate, as a new method of producing flat glass, the Cylinder Rolling method, had been developed by Chance Brothers, Smethwick, Staffordshire. Just in time for the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the marvel of the Victorian age, The Crystal Palace. There's not much in the way of records for this perticulat Tax, but there's no doubt, that had it still been in force when the Palace was designed, the cost would soon have seen the project cancelled.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 25, 2013 at 3:40 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

A brief snapshot of the areas Glassmakers in the mid 1800s will give folks a glimpse of how extensive the trade was. Al though there aren't any reliable figures for employment, it was a fairly labour intensive business. In Wordsley, there were the firms of Ensalls and Wainwrights, who both turned out plain and cut glass, as did the firm of Phillip Rufford at the Dial Glass House. There were four firms producing the standard Flint Glass, in competition I should add withe several firms in Birmingham. Michael and William Grazebrook, at Audnam, Benjamin Littlewood at the aptly named Holloway End, Wheeley's, in Brettall Lane, and Mills and Stevens in nearby Brierley Hill. Hill Hampton, down at Coalbourne Brook, and Westwood and Rider in Brierley Hill, churned out thousands of Black Bottles, as they had been doing for many years, and which today, the aerly ones at least, are prized collectors pieces. Cope Piddock, again at the Dial House, produced large quantities of Broad Glass, as well as the odd few Bottles. The area also produced some fine artists and engravers, non more so than the family firm of John Parish and Company, or the other members of this clan, Joseph and Thomas, who had premises in Brettall Lane, not far from Nebo Cox and Thomas Davis. Two other fine cutters of glass were Richard Dovey, and Benjamin Evens, who, together with rest, made Stourbridge Glass the envy of the world. As a child, I  remember,  no front room or parlour was complete, without a prized and valued specimen of the cut glass variety, sitting in its protective display cabinet.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 11, 2013 at 11:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Now I have mentioned somewhere, that Glass Making in Dudley was also producing large quantities for the market of the time. In 1845, there were listed, four large manufacturers in the Town. A firm more noted for the early Coal trade than for Glass, T.S.and I Badger, operated from a factory in Hall Street, Dudley. I presume this would have been Flint Glass, and as there is no mention of finished produst like cut glass onsite, it must have been contracted out. Another firm more associated with other goods, the production of Nails, Guest and Company, had a place at Tower Street Works, although I don't know how long they were in the glass trade. This is of course the same Guest who came up with the funds for Dudley Guest Hospital, after the buildings had failed as Alms Houses. Over in Holly Hall, a company headed by Enoch Page, was also busy churning out glass. There are no works or road mentioned, so if anyone knows, do let me know. The last one is Henry Smitheman, at least thats what it says, situated in Caddicks End, Dudley. Now I have never heard of this place before, so once again, could someone oblige me with an answer. There were no shortage of Glass Cutters, either, for near to to the Tower Street Works, Wood and Guest, and Thomas Irwin plied their trade. They weren't the only ones, up in Queens Cross there was J. Ashford, and Charles Pitt, and down in the Minories, the names of S.Thompson, J.Whitehouse, and R.Timmins would have been well known locally, as Glass cutters. Finally. in King Street, resided one James Wright, not far from the services of two excellent Glass Engravers, the brothers Herbert, Joseph in the High Street, and William in Mill Street. There are some fine examples of Dudley made Glass in the Museum, why not pay a visit and have a look.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 16, 2013 at 3:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

The Glass Tax, gave rise not only to a whole pile of complaints and loss of trade, but it also spawned a little industry. Most will be aware of the illicit trade in Wine, Spirits, and Tobacco, through the ancient art of Smuggling, but would you believe Glass was also involved.


In the early 1820s, Captain M'graw, of the sloop Industry, safely docked at the Scottish port of Ayr.  He had left Belfast, a few days before, and had no inkling of what would come to light  when the Excise Men checked his cargo. Part of his cargo consisted of Irish Glass, which had a much lower Tax level than English or Foreign products, and the Customs men were, as usual, very efficient collecting the dues. This time, they would get a bonus prize. One eagled eyed inspector, noticed that a woman passenger looked a bit awkward in her walk, so she was stopped, questioned, and with the assistance of female help, searched. Sewn, very carefully, into a quilted petticoat she was wearing, they found 13 wedges of Soap, on which no duty had been paid. Around her neck was what looked like a "scarfe ", but on closer inspection, was another quilted petticoat. Artfully concealed within, were no less than 100 wine glasses, again carefully sewn in. The petticoat had been further concealed, by the womans wearing of a large and voluminus cloak." An ingenious Method of Smuggling ", said the local newspaper, but not so good that it passed the Customs men of Ayr. George IV, better known from the days of his father as the Prince Regent, was a great spender of money, other peoples mind, never his own, and needed every penny of the tax revenue. Some years later, in 1830, with the crippling Glass tax still some 15 years away from repeal, a new process came into being. Benjamin Richardson, the works manager for the Glass making firm of Thomas Hawkes, Dudley, heard of the success of pressed glass products, and installed a machine in the factory. The products from it, were not an immediate hit, as the weight attracted high duty. Nonetheless, they persisted. By 1840, other Dudley Firms were also producing pressed glass, Bacchus and Green, Rice Harris, and Guests, items that today, can be seen in the collections of Dudley Museum. The repeal of the dreaded tax in 1845, was a boost, and the trade was a valuable one, right up until the 1870s, when competition from abroad, and the lack of investment by the Glass makers, pushed it into decline. It's an old story, and in most case's, the same old story, for you only have to look at areas where we were once World leaders, to get the message.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 25, 2014 at 3:04 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

There are times, while doing a bit of unrelated research, that an item comes to light, and while it won't add a lot to the history of a subject, will, nevertheless, add a few snippets to someones Family tree, and give an insight into working conditions. Trade Unions were fairly new in the 1850s, and to date, I havn't found the start date of The Glass Makers Union, in Wordsley. It was certainly before 1859, for thats when this little tale dates from.


M. W, Grazebrooks was a locally famous firm of " Iron bashers ", but they had started life as a Glass Making Company. Some of the skills needed, were compatable with both trades, even the molton glass was called " metal ". Moulders and Iron Puddlers had very few problems changing jobs, for both involved working with such materials. It isn't often either, that you get to find out where men actually workd, and in this case, all the names mentioned worked at Grazebrooks. Back then to the Union. There were those who were in it, ( they called themselves The White Rats ) and there were some who weren't, ( naturally they were called The Black Rats ) and rivalry and arguments were rife. The Black corner believed the Union would prevent them touting their skills from place to place, and thus lower their earnings. The White corner didn't like the idea of others coming into the area, and offering a skill at a much reduced rate, putting them out of work. Not much of this resulted in any violence, and the Police took little interest, prefering instead to issue a few warnings which seemed to work. Things down at Grazebrooks works in Audnam however, were about to turn nasty. ( Well, nastyish )


Samuel Husslebee, ( now there is an unusual name ) was by trade, a Blacksmith. He had learned the trade from his father, William Husslebee. a Quarry Bank born man who employed 5 men in the Wordsley Dock area, a great deal of work coming from making and repairing the tools needed in the Glass Industry. On the 3rd June, 1859, Samuel, ( In the White corner ) got into an argument with a fellow employee, Michael Eggity, ( in the Black corner ) an Irish born Glass cutter, in an Ambelcote pub. There was a bit of pushing and shoving, Benjamin Jewkes, who was with Eggity was insulted, and as everyone knows, you can only push an Irishman so far. Eggity proceeded to prove to Husselbee that black was better, by giving him two Black eyes, which Husselbee resented, and promptly had him summoned for assault. There was no disputing that Husselbee had been assaulted, for the Magistrate was heard to remark that the Black eyes were a pair of real beauties. Eggity was bound over to keep the peace. Now it was Husselbees turn, for Jewkes had summoned him for incitement to commit a Breach of the Peace, and Husselbee was duly bound over to keep the peace. I make that one round each for the White and Black corners. It was quiet for three days, then on the 6th June, William Hammond, ( White corner ) summond George Collins, ( Black corner ) for a seriously assault as they were leaving the works of Grazebrooks in Audnam. This was contested by Collins, he claiming, with some justification as it turned out, that he had been attacked by Hammond and two other men, ( both White corners ) There was again no dispute as to the injury, a Broken Jaw, which had been inflicted claimed Hammond, with a " Gutta Parcha Stick ".  For those unfamiliar with the term, Gutta Parcha is another name for India Rubber, a rather hard substance, used in the manufacture of what were known as " Life preservers ", i.e. a large rubber Cosh. Evidently, George Collins had some expertise with this implement, for he had put all three men out of circulation for a couple of weeks. The Magistrates however failed to send him to prison, merely fining him £5, including all the costs, split up as follows. George Collins was ordered to pay 20 shillings to William Hammond, 20 shillings to Mr Lamb, and a further 5 shillings to a Mr Southall. As I said, the attack may well have come from the white corner this time, one member of whom seems to have had a glass jaw, as it would be called in the Boxing game. Now to be fair, given the circumstances, I would have called round three a draw, for the trouble seemed to die down after this, unless of course you know something I don't.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 13, 2015 at 4:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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