Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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George Ravenscroft

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George Ravenscroft (1632-1683), merchant and glass manufacturer, introduced the manufacture of lead crystal glass in Britain.

c1632 Born at Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, son of James Ravenscroft, lawyer and merchant, and his wife Mary.

1643 Sent abroad clandestinely by his Roman Catholic parents.

By 1655 he was in Venice where he developed a trading and import business.

By 1666 Ravenscroft was resident in London, importing glass, lace, and currants from Venice, and re-exporting goods to northern Europe.

1670 or 1671 he married Hellen Appleby; they had three children.

His import business was increasingly threatened by English made glass.

1673 Ravenscroft established a glassworks at the Savoy, London, in conjunction with a Signor da Costa and other Italian glass makers.

1674 He claimed to have "attained to the art and manufacture of a particular sort of Cristaline Glasses resembling Rock Cristall", previously not made in England, for which he applied for a patent.

He contracted to deliver his entire output to the Glass Sellers' Company for three years.

The company agreed to his establishing a second glasshouse for one year at Henley-on-Thames, possibly in connection with attempts to resolve early technical problems. His glassware suffered from rapid formation of many fine cracks which made it grey and opaque.

1676 he certified that the surface problem had been resolved; it is thought he may have added (or increased the content of) lead in order to remedy the problem. Lead crystal proved to be the ideal medium for the sturdier, plainer designs of drinking glasses then becoming fashionable in England.

1678 he gave notice to the Glass Sellers' Company terminating their agreement

Although there is no further reference to his manufacturing drinking glasses, he continued to produce plate glass until at least 1680.

1682 A former employee, Hawley Bishopp, resumed production at the Savoy; within a decade lead crystal was widely made in England.

1683 He died on 7 June at Chipping Barnet, Herts

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