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British Industrial History

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The Glass Trade of the North

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From the Newcastle Courant, 9 April 1880

"The extinction of some branches of the glass trade, the falling off of others, and the general decay of all branches of the trade on the Tyne, are lessons to all who fancy that an established trade of any kind is safe from the attacks of time. In "The Industrial Resources of the Tyne, Wear and Tees"[1] some striking facts are recorded bearing on this subject.

"There were in the early part of this century, six large crown glass manufacturing entities, which produced annually upwards of 7,000,000 feet of window glass. At the Forth Banks there was a very extensive plate glass works, and there were other flourishing manufactories where, besides ordinary window glass, sheet glass was produced. Now there is not one place on the Tyne where either sheet glass or window glass is produced, so that, in the words of Mr Swinburne, "In the birthplace of the art in England, there is now not a foot of window glass manufactured."

"Admiral Sir Robert Mansell, in 1616, erected the first glass works in Newcastle but they were closed in the middle of the present century. Flint glass works are mentioned in the Council books of Newcastle as far back as 1710; and it is thought they were also started by Sir Robert Mansell. Four bottle manufactories are mentioned in the Newcastle Council books in 1737; and it is known that in the old seat of the bottle trade, the Close Gate, the works were of much greater antiquity. Plate glass of small dimensions was actually made at South Shields before the works at Lancashire were commenced in 1771. There is still extant a record of the daily manufacture of plate glass at South Shields in 1750; but the trade after reaching a great pitch of prosperity, afterwards declined, and is now by no means so flourishing as in former times. On the Wear, as well as on the Tyne and the Tees, has considerably diminished.

"Messrs Hartley of Sunderland still carry on a large trade in rolled plate glass; and there are also window glass manufactories producing large quantities for home and foreign use; but the bottle trade has almost forsaken the Tyne, although it is still in operation on the banks of the Wear and the Tees.

"During the year 1862 there were 47 bottle-houses at work on the banks of the Tyne, Wear and Tees. The number has been greatly reduced throughout the North; and on the right and left banks of the Tyne I have often paused in a ramble to survey, with a melancholy feeling, the crumbling cones which mark the site of once flourishing manufactories....."

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Sources of Information

  1. Presumably: "Industrial Resources of the District of the three Northern rivers, the Tyne, Wear and Tees, including the reports on the local manufactures", by Baron William George Armstrong, read before the British Association, 1863