20thc British Glass
At the dawn of the century British
glassmakers, nationally numbered in tens of thousands,
could reflect on a period during which they and their
forebears had achieved a period of sustained
excellence that had endured for over a century.
Indeed, between c1770-1900, it is arguable that
Britain was home to the world’s greatest glass
technicians and craftsmen. A century later, in 2000,
their industry was virtually extinct, with perhaps as
many as just a few hundred exponents surviving.
Reflecting a trend widespread across British industry, a
combination of corporate short-termism, arrogant and
incompetent management, lacklustre design and bolshie staff
managed to run a once-thriving industry into the ground. An
endemic fear of
change by both management and labour
unions locked the industry into tired fashions and
laborious processes that reduced flexibility and
increased costs. Where Britain had historically
enjoyed substantial trade surpluses, these had
evaporated by the 1920s as imports flooded in to fill
the creative void. Indeed, the story of 20th century
British glass can be summarised in six words: riches
to ruins in four generations.
This new talk examines the sometimes glorious but often
lamentable story of what was and what might have been.