Nailsea Glass and the Original Factory

The original Nailsea Glass factory is only 3 miles from us – as the crow flies – and the glass that came out of the Nailsea Glassworks has been a major influence on the art glass movement in this country and abroad.

Sadly, the original Factory is now buried under the car park of a Tescos Store and now Nailsea glass can be found everywhere but in Nailsea!

Here are some original pictures of the old ruins of the Nailsea Glass Factory. You can click on them to see a larger image.

Nailsea Glassworks

Nailsea Glass Factory

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures: Retired Professional Engineers Club Bristol
Lots more about Nailsea Glassworks by Andrew Smith here

Our new pieces of hand blown glass by Daniel Stepanek hark back to the early days of feathered – or combed – Nailsea Glass.

Much of Nailsea Glass was actually made from Crown window glass but the distinctive Nailsea Glass style we still know today was made with combed white lines.

Nailsea Glassworks Furnace

Nailsea Glass Heritage

Tescos have come in and built over the original factory site. Their argument is that a car park over the top will preserve the site for future excavation.

Considering how long it takes to get an archaeological dig arranged then this is probably the best of a series of bad options.

There is a statue at the beginning of the Tescos car park, but nothing else in the whole of Nailsea.

It is very sad that there are no other indicators to Nailsea’s famous heritage and that the glass history of the town has faded into oblivion.

My family have a glass cane made right here in Nailsea – and guess where it is displayed? Yes, that’s right, in a museum in Weston-Super-Mare!

All around us there are glass dumps that I used to dig as a child (managed to unearth a few Plague pits too!) but I never found any Nailsea pieces.

Nalisea Glassworks Map

There are still many sites to explore with the right permissions, but i think that most of the glass headed West to America.

There are some lovely pieces that come up now and again for sale and I am seriously thinking taking up collecting Nailsea Glass as well as Isle of Wight Glass

Sadly, it seems that the best place to buy Nailsea Glass is on the other side of the Atlantic!

 

+++Update+++

Thankfully, not all Nailsea Glass has disappeared across the Atlantic. Local Nailsea Glass collector Graham S. sent us this picture of his prized collection:

nailsea glass collection

++++Update+++++

Nailsea Glass works was built opposite the brewery owned by Charles Thatcher. The Thatcher family had brewed beer in Nailsea since 1721 and were probably related to the Thatchers who owned the breweries at Midsomer Norton.

Shortly after the glass works was constructed, the Thatchers converted part of the brewery to a pub which they called the Glassworkers Arms. It’s still there now called the Friendship Inn.

Nailsea Glass was made from the glass left over at the end of the day.

According to our reader Grahame Bell, whose wife is a direct descendant of Charles and Sarah Thatcher:

“Charles and Sarah Thatcher moved to Nailsea to start the brewery, which was then the Hunting lodge of the Earls of Berkeley. One Earl lost his inheritance – Berkeley Castle – which was given to the King by his elder brother because he married beneath him to a daughter of a Mayor of Bristol. However the father-in-Law (Mayor of Bristol) had given land in Nailsea to his daughter as dowry and that is how the hunting lodge came to be in The Earl’s possession . The Berkeley’s did not get the ancestral home and lands back until the death of Edward VI – Henry VIII’s son.”

Nailsea Glass: A (very) Brief History

John Robert Lucas

© Bristol Museum

The Glassworks were established by John Robert Lucas in 1788 and the cones of the glass factory were to dominate the Nailsea skyline for 50 years.

The company started trading as ‘Nailsea Crown Glass and Glass Bottle Manufacturers’.

The factory became the fourth-largest glass makers in the UK producing primarily glass bottles for the brewing industry. Lucas’s family were in the brewing business and had shares in a glass works in Limekiln Lane in Bristol.

The site in Naisea was chosen thanks to a ready supply of coal and there were plans to build a canal right into the heart of Nailsea which would have made the lucrative export market more viable. The glass could be taken by barge and then by ship to America, Ireland and other destinations.

The business, like other glass manufacturers, was hampered by punitive levies and excise duties, making profitability a constant struggle. When the coal ran out so did Nailsea Glass; the canal wasn’t built and the railway arrived, though some distance from the Glass Works.

After the Glassworks closed the Chance Brothers bought up the site, not to invest in it themselves but to ensure no one else came along and made the necessary investment.

Please send us more information on Nailsea Glass. The old records were destroyed in an air raid in World War II so please let us know any stories about the Glassworks passed down in your family. 

Thank you!

Anna & Barnaby Kirsen

 

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4 Responses to “Nailsea Glass and the Original Factory”

  1. jan October 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm #3446

    I stopped using Tesco years ago, hate them. Just heard on the news their profits are dow. Hurrah.!
    But what a lovely old building, it should have been converted to a museum.

    • Barnaby Kirsen October 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm #3448

      Jan, you are so right. Just think how many people would visit the Nailsea Glass Museum. The glass is famous around the World and all there is to show for it in Nailsea is one little statue, some dilapidated outbuildings and Tescos. What a way to treasure your town’s cultural heritage!

  2. Sue Taylor October 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm #3512

    Hi
    My 4 & 5 times great grandparents came from Nailsea and worked at the glassworks. Some of them then moved to the Midlands where they worked for Chance Glassworks in Smethwick.
    I came to Nailsea a couple of weeks ago to take photo’s of the cottages where they lived in the 1800′s
    (Noah’s Ark Cottages).. It seems such a shame there is not a museum there as this is something I would loved to have seen.

  3. David Britton December 12, 2014 at 10:42 am #71478

    Hi
    Back in about 1987 I believe, some of Nailsea Glassworks remains were unearthed near the High Street, I live near to this site and I have been interested in the glassworks and coal mining industry that existed in Nailsea since we moved here back in 1968, I took several photos of the glassworks remains that I can send by email if anyone would like to see them, I have posted them on Facebook ‘Nailsea then and now’ site as well.

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