Glass - Back to the Future!

Presenting Author:
Stephen Pollock-Hill
<[email protected]>

article posted 14 April 2016

Stephen Pollock-Hill Presented as a babe in arms to employees, by a proud father who had lost two previous children under two weeks old, Stephen started work in the packing department sixty years ago, aged seven and worked every school holiday to earn pocket money, until in 1966 he signed on at eighteen as the youngest employee.
Now the oldest in the company, he has climbed the silica covered pole to the top of the oldest established family firm which can trace its origins back to 1612 and Vauxhall.
This paper is the culmination of many years research by him and professional archivists, and like a stick of Blackpool rock is a slice through the travails and successes of The British Glass Industry

Glass manufacturer for 60 years,owning & running Nazeing Glass Works Ltd since 1990

Past President British Glass 2010
Chairman: The Glass Manufacturers Education Trusts for thirty five years
SGT member 1979-1993, son of a FSGT
Former Chair of the Science Museum Glass Gallery 1978-1999.

“Shiver my Timbers, and Daylight Robbery”, or Traditional v Modern- might this be the reason for the first major decline in British Traditional Glassmaking?

Stephen Pollock-Hill
Nazeing Glass Works Ltd

I recently visited a small and little known village in North West France, just outside Cherbourg called la Glacerie. A small suburb with less than 150 inhabitant next to a large commercial sea port of 115,000 inhabitants, which itself has been suffering from the competition of The Channel Tunnel and recent ferry improvements between Portsmouth, Weymouth and Caen,
Yet 230 years ago, this tiny suburb gave employment to over 1,000 people!

La Glacerie- literally the “flat glass/ mirror place” holds an important role in French history. For it was here that the mirrors in the “Hall of Mirrors” at the Palace of Versailles were made. In 1665, Louis XIV’s Finance Minister Jean- Baptiste Colbert established by letters patent the public enterprise Manufacture Royale de Glaces et de Miroirs in October 1665, and persuaded many Venetian glassmaking families to come and work in this factory as the French Government insisted that all the supplies were of French origin- French trade Protection- Little changes until the EU was established!

Illustration 1- La Galerie des Glaces- Chateau de Versailles

But not only did it rise to be one of the largest glass making operations in Western Europe between 1690 and 1780, but it also virtually destroyed British flat glassmaking for two hundred years, until Pilkington Glass, in St Helens, started to re-conquer the market around the 1840’s.

So what caused this decline?

This paper to be presented for the first time, reveals what is thought to be new and original research into the origin of “plate glass” as a phrase, The earliest origins of flat glass at raven head that became Pilkingtons, creating the St Gobain/ Pilks NSG rivalry nearly 170 years ago .
Hitherto undiscovered papers including a House of Commons enquiry in 1773 and was the window tax , the origin of “daylight robbery” Also, the wisdom of James Christie auctioneer in his early days, the wiliness of Sir Robert Mansell, Admiral at 24, head of the Royal Navy and who owned 16 glass factories at one time, but seems a mere footnote in glass history today.
The author touches on the invention of lead crystal, and the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers, the “gentilleshommes verriers”, and the collapse of the supremacy of Stourbridge, as a glass making centre, between 1980 and 2003, which had created Irish Crystal.
Could a sheet of flat glass be sold today for £15,000 ?