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24 September 2014

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You are in: Wear > History > Glass > Glassmaking on Wearside

Thomas Becket in stained glass

Thomas Becket in stained glass

Glassmaking on Wearside

Glassmaking dates back to AD674 when Saint Benedict Biscop sent to France and Rome for craftsmen to make stained glass windows for the new monastery at Monkwearmouth.

Glass facts

Glass is transparent to light

Transparency is a fixed electronic state

homogeneity contributes to transparency

Objects made of glass

drinking glasses

bowls and bottles are often made of glass

as are light bulbs


cathode ray tubes

and windows

Flasks, test tubes, lenses and other laboratory equipment

For high temperature applications, quartz glass is used

Glass is created naturally from volcanic lava, lightning strikes, or meteorite impacts

Sunderland Glass museum

Sunderland museum... reflects the glass industry

The modern glassmaking industry on Wearside began 300 years ago, in the 1690s, when the first glasshouses opened at Ayres Quay, Deptford.

Most of the glass was used to make windows and bottles, but some ornamental glass and tableware was also manufactured.

The main development was in the 18th century because of large amounts of cheap coal and high quality sand imported from the Baltic.

So there were the two key raw materials on Wearside together with excellent shipping links for export of finished glass; and ballast cargoes of sand on the return legs.

The most spectacular example of the fact that craftsmen on the Wear could hold their own against the best glassmakers is in the Londonderry glass service, made for local landowners the Marquis and Marchioness of Londonderry.

Glass blowing

The Londonderry glass service was blown into life

There are more than 200 pieces in the service, each one individually blown from molten glass to get the basic shape, and then cut and engraved with the family's coat of arms.

The Wear glassmaking industry reached its height of production in the mid-19th century when the introduction of a new technique called pressing made mass production possible.

Before this, glassmaking was highly labour intensive, and each piece had to be individually blown into shape.

The new technique involved pressing molten glass into a mould and meant that glassware could be sold relatively cheaply and came within the range of ordinary people.

There were two main pressed glass firms in Sunderland – Turnbull's Cornhill Flint Glassworks at Southwick, open from 1865 to 1953, when the loss of a large order for Woolworth's led to closure, and the Wear Flint Glass Works, known from 1921 as James A. Jobling and Co Ltd.

During the 1930s, Jobling's made a range of pressed glass in the fashionable art deco style and after World War II its Pyrex ware became a huge hit with housewives.

last updated: 11/03/2008 at 14:37
created: 04/02/2008

You are in: Wear > History > Glass > Glassmaking on Wearside

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