"To make much better glass ..."
AHG - SGT Joint Study Day
The North East Glass Industry
Its Rise and Demise
Why did the Glass Industry in "the land of the three rivers" (Tyne , Wear and Tees) go from
supplying local demand in the late 1700s, grow rapidly in the mid 1800s and collapse
just as rapidly around the turn of the century? What did they do next?
The North East produced the full gamut of glass ware :
- Black bottles for beer
- Decorative and domestic ware
- Crown and cylinder glass for windows
Despite punitive taxation the industry grew on the back of the insatiable demand for coal.
This in turn drove developments in land transport, materials, infra structure and shipping.
- 1845 - Southshields, Cookson et al produce more plate glass than any where else in England.
- 1862 - 4.2 million bottles produced on Tyneside and Wearside - probably the largest output of bottles in the world at the time.
- 1865 - James Hartley's works in Sunderland produce one third of sheet glass used in England.
- "Largest glass works in the world"
The industry peaked between 1870 and 1880.
So why did it decline?
By 1900 due to competition from home and abroad,
failure to invest in latest technology,
difficulty in implementing the latest working practices :
- Plate glass was dead,
- Sheet glass was reduced to a skeleton
- Bottles were reduce to home demand
- Only the pressed glass companies were healthy
The First World War highlighted a desperate need for optical glass and laboratory ware
and between 1920 and 1939 North east firms responded, one branching out into
borosilicate glasses, "Pyrex" domestic and laboratory ware and others into more
Vestiges still survive, there is still one maker of fused silica still operating in the
North East and Sunderland University, based in the National Glass Centre boasts a
world class "Glass Art Course".