article posted 14 Jan 2016
Colin Brain MSc, CEng, MIMechE, DipEM
Colin and his late wife Sue started researching the history of British drinking glass more
than forty-five years ago. Much of their research has focussed on the second half of the
seventeenth century and has included studying: surviving pieces, archaeological finds,
historical documents, printed books, and results from glass analysis and practical experiment.
Throughout their research, Colin & Sue have had a great deal of help from others and
learnt a lot (particularly how much there is still to be learnt).
Colin is currently president of the Association for the History of Glass.
The Industrialisation of British Flint Glass 1682 - 1702
Private Researcher, 10 College Street, Salisbury, SP1 3AL
By 1682 glassmakers in the British Isles had developed a viable lead crystal (flint) glass.
This was widely admired around the world, but it was still an expensive, high-quality,
niche product. Its production was mainly confined to a handful of glasshouses in
London and Dublin. By 1696, only fourteen years later, there were nearly thirty
glasshouses making flint glass at a range of prices and qualities for growing domestic
and export markets.
Expansion at this rate and scale was probably unprecedented in the history of fine
glassmaking, yet the topic has received little attention in the past. This paper will
briefly review how this industrialisation was achieved and some of the key technical
and business developments that made it possible. These include: the development of
closed pots which allowed flint glass to be melted in coal-fired furnaces; and the
evolution of glass recipes which reduced raw-material costs.
This is the fourth in a series of chronological papers on glassmaking in the British Isles
during the second half of the seventeenth century; the other three having been presented
at SGT annual conferences and subsequently published in Glass Technology.