Nailsea Glass

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!



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


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 Nailsea 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.


Here are some scans of old maps and photos taken by local photographer David Britton before the Tesco supermarket was built:

Nailsea Glassworks Overview

Nailsea Glassworks Map

Nailsea Glassworks Tesco Map

Nailsea Glass Factory Ruins

Nailsea Glass Excavations

Nailsea Glass works Remains

Nailsea Glass Outbuildings

Nailsea Glass Factory Remains

Nailsea Glass Remains

Old Nailsea Glassworks Building 1

© David Britton


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


31 thoughts on “Nailsea Glass and the Original Factory”

  1. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. Hi Sue

      Several generations of my family (name Knight) also lived at Noahs Ark and I also visited to see the cottages and took photos some years ago. They also moved to the West Bromwich/Smethwick area to work at Chances. I found it fascinating and the social history I learned enhanced my genealogy search enormously. Such a shame nothing has been retained of the glassworks in Nailsea.

      1. Hi Sue and Yvonne.
        It is a real shame there’s no museum in Nailsea. Maybe one day there will be, but I just don’t think there is enough interest here in the UK to make a museum viable. More people seem to collect Nailsea Glass in America than here, and prices for 19th Century originals are still very reasonable. Now’s the time to collect perhaps!

  3. 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.

  4. Dianne Hampson

    Hi, I think I may own a piece of Nailsea Glass it is in the shape of a flask, its clear with the distinctive white lines and I inherited it from my mother-in-law from Manchester. If you would like I can upload a photo so you can confirm.

    1. Barnaby Kirsen

      Hi Diane. Lovely! Please send it to me – barnaby(at) – and I can uplaod it for you.

  5. Graham Searle

    You may be interested to know that some glass is coming back to Nailsea. I have loaned my collection, all 70 pieces of it, (see above picture) to the Nailsea Masons for display at the Masonic Hall.

    Graham S

  6. I discovered in the spring that my family (warren) were from Nailsea and indeed were glass blowers in the Nailsea works. I had hoped to visit the area in the summer but had to postpone to next summer. I am interested in buying a piece of Nailsea glass – where is that best plce to buy any.

    1. Hi Marie
      Unfortunately they have built a big Tesco’s supermarket on top of most of the site, but there is a statue and a few other buildings to see.
      The best place to buy Nailsea Glass seems to be on Ebay but there is a lot of junk and modern replicas in among a few decent pieces. Maybe we should start selling it on here. If anyone wants to sell their authentic Nailsea Glass please drop us an email.

  7. Michael Ferguson

    Have you any information about the Nailsea Glass Makers’ Guild? It is mentioned in the Connoisseur, 1911, vol. XXX no.118, in an article by Harold St George Gray on Nailsea Glass. He also says that the Glass Makers’ Arms was actually demolished. His account of the history of the company was well-researched and was largely illustrated from a collection of a Mrs Challicombe of Clevedon. Do you know what became of her collection?

    1. Hi Michael
      I’m afraid I don’t. There was a furniture store called Challicom’s of Clevedon that was family-run for over 150 years before sadly closing down a few years ago. I think the Clevedon link might be worth exploring.

  8. Hi,
    I have loved Nailsea glass since aquiring a piece in the 70’s. During the course of my work in District Nursing in Somerset, it was my privaledge to meet a retired District Nurse who had worked amoung the families of Nailsea glassworkers as part of her area. She told me that the families lived very well and were able to maintain a good standard of living due to the rate of pay they received in return for their skills.

    1. Thanks Heather. And thank goodness the bottle factory bosses let them use up the spare glass at day’s end to make such exquisite pieces. If only all bosses were so generous!

  9. I have a piece of glass that I’m told is Nailsea. It is a scent bottle I’m told. My father who learnt to glass blow and was interested in glass told me that he had found it in the sands on new Brighton beach. I was told it was just made from the old bits of left over glass and of no value -at the most about £50 . -after reading all your comments I’m now quite interested in the glass.

  10. Hi Barnaby My sister has handed me four walking sticks made of Nailsea glass and wishes to sell them. woud you be interested.

  11. Anthony Anderson

    I am going through memoirs of my Grandmother and came across this passage;

    “I also remember very vividly, three men entering the front drive with sacks and they proceeded to turn over all the stones in Mother’s rockery at the top of the lawn – near a huge walnut tree. They had come from the Midlands or Nailsea to that area – all limestone in the Mendips – to gather the huge snails which lived under the stones. They said the glassblowers ate them (Nailsea conkers). Mother was furious to find, after they had left, that none of the stones had been put back in position and some of her favourite plants had been uprooted.”

    This would have been somewhere between 1895 and 1910.

  12. Michele Bentham

    Did you know that the glassworks site was excavated by the Avon Industrial Buildings Trust in the late 1980s? I don’t know where the trust archived their findings, but it was my husband, Brian Bentham, who directed the excavation.

    1. Hi Michele
      Thank you for getting in touch. Do you have any photos or finds from the excavation? Thanks!

  13. I am interested in any accounts of nailsea glassblowers. Anthony Anderson’s grandmothers memoir of the nailsea conkers (snails) is interesting and also marie comer’s, Yvonne jaynes and sue Taylor’s ancestors who worked in the glassworks too. If any of these people wish to contact me please email Thanks. Kate

  14. Hi I see in a photo in this thread that there is are some glass hats. We have come across similar hats. 1top hat and 2 bowler hats. Can you give me any information about them please and any idea of their value?

  15. My wife’s family were glassmakers in Bristol and Nailsea. The family were named Groves and worked in many glasshouses in England and Scotland.

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