Glass making became an important local industry when French Huguenots from Lorraine, in north east France, came here to escape religious persecution in the early 17th century. There were plentiful supplies of the raw materials that were needed to produce glass, including coal, fireclay and sand. Initially the fuel for the furnaces was wood but this changed to coal as wood became scarce.

The first glasshouse in the area is believed to be Coleman’s Glasshouse at Lye, which was built in the early 1600s. Glass of the highest quality was produced at Amblecote, Wordsley and Brierley Hill.

An advert from 1876.

By the end of the century, glassmaking had spread to Dudley, where it was an important industry. By the middle of the 19th century, over 60 glass makers were working in Dudley and the surrounding area.

The best surviving and most complete example of a glass cone is the Red House Cone that was built around 1790. Only three other complete glass cones survive in the UK. They are at Lemington, near Newcastle upon Tyne, Catcliffe in Yorkshire and Alloa in Scotland.

Although all kinds of glass products were made in the Stourbridge area, the industry greatly suffered due to a failure to modernise, foreign competition and changing tastes. Very little of the once prominent industry now remains.

Dixon’s Green

The Dixon family began making glass products at the end of the 17th century in Dixon’s Green, which is probably named after them. One member of the family, Hugh Dixon, became wealthy from the proceeds of the business, so much so that Hugh and his wife Joyce, who were married on the 2nd November, 1701, had a lovely house built in Priory Street, then called Sheep Street.

The building is still there, standing next to the building that once housed Dudley’s museum. It is a lovely house and carries the date 1703 with the initials ‘D’ and ‘H. J’ so this was possibly their first proper family home.

The house was Grade II listed on the 14th September, 1949.

The plaque on the front of the house.

Hugh and Joyce Dixon's House.

Hugh was the first known glassmaker in Dudley. He was a white glass maker, whose glass house was in his father's grounds at Dixon’s Green. At the time, glass making was a precarious business, which resulted in Hugh being declared bankrupt in 1713.

After the bankruptcy, the Dixon family sold their old mansion house and glassworks at Dixon’s Green to Jonathan Green, a glass maker. In the late 1740s, Jonathan constructed a new glass works on the site, which continued to operate until 1793 when his son, John, replaced it with a new structure. In 1829 the glass works was run by Messrs. Davies and Hodgetts, but had to be abandoned in 1834 because of subsidence caused by coal mining. The business then moved to the Red House Glassworks in Wordsley.

Jonathan Green also ran Springsmire Glasshouse, at Scotts Green, from the early 1730s until the late 1740s when his son John took over. In the late 1760s it seems to have closed.

Hollyhall Glasshouse

There was a glassworks in Holly Hall, called Hollyhall Glasshouse. In the 1750s it was owned by John Keeling, who like Hugh Dixon, lived in Sheep Lane. The factory was taken over by George Ensell, in 1786, but within 16 months it became bankrupt and closed. Between 1787 and 1803, the business was run by Zachariah Parkes. In 1828 Joseph Stevens purchased the glassworks and ran the business until 1837 when he moved his business to Coalbournhill Glassworks.

Hollyhall Glasshouse was then leased to Edward Page who ran the business until 1852, when it closed. By 1886 the factory had been demolished.

Dudley Flint Glassworks

The glassworks was built on the site of the old Horse Pool in Stone Street Square, by Abiather Hawkes, in the 1780s. By 1794 Abiather's sons Thomas and George had taken over. The firm’s products consisted of high quality enamelled ornamental ware and coloured glass, much of which was exported, particularly to Russia and America. The factory closed in 1843 during a depression in the industry. In 1886 part of the cone collapsed and the site was cleared. Abiather Hawkes was Mayor of Dudley in 1824 and his son, Major Thomas Hawkes of Himley, became the Tory Member of Parliament for Dudley on the 28th February 1834. He resigned from his seat in 1844.

Phoenix Glass Works

Phoenix Glassworks was built on the east side of Hall Street by Phillip Penn in 1780. Phillip died in 1781 and the factory was then run by his two sons, Bate and William, who traded as Penn and Sons, hop merchants and glass men. William ran the glassworks, while Bate ran the hop merchants. The glass works was enlarged in 1798. By 1820 the business had been purchased by Thomas and Isaac Badger, who owned many other businesses and local housing. They traded as Badger Brothers and Company, cut glass manufacturers. In 1859 the employees at the glassworks went on strike and were locked-out. The glassworks closed and in 1886 it was converted into a foundry.

Castle Foot Glass Works

The factory stood at the north eastern end of Tower Street, along the northern side of Downing Street, now part of The Broadway. It was built between 1780 and 1789 by Benjamin Cooke, Joseph Price and James Wood, who were partners. The partnership was dissolved in 1820 when Benjamin Cooke and Joseph Price left the business and James Wood went into partnership with Joseph Guest & Edward Guest, who were nail makers. The business then became Guest, Wood and Guest. Joseph Guest is remembered because of the Guest Hospital which received a large endowment from him.

In 1846 the Glassworks was sold to Henry Homer and John Renaud, who presented a glass goblet to Georgina, Countess of Dudley when she officially opened the fountain in Market Place. Henry Homer later left the business, which continued to operate until 1899, when it closed after an industrial dispute. The buildings were demolished in 1902.

The location of Castle Foot Glass Works.

Castle Foot Glass Works in Downing Street. From 'Dudley As It Was, by G. Chandler and I. C. Hannah.

Sheep Lane Glassworks

Little is known about this business. It stood off Priory Street on the site now occupied by the Town Hall. In 1770 it was owned by Richard Keeling, but had closed by the 1830s.

Eve Hill Glassworks

Nothing is known about the Eve Hill Glassworks until the business was taken over by Josiah Lane in 1888. At the time he had a glass factory in Birmingham, which was in a bad state of repair, so he came to Dudley, because coal was cheaper there. All kinds of glassware for every day use was manufactured at Eve Hill including cut glass tableware, lamp glasses, fancy glass globes, paraffin gas globes, chimneys for paraffin lamps and fancy shades for electric light fittings. They also made paperweights and glass panels for doors with pictures etched on them. They were called Enamelled Pearl Glass and can be seen in many houses and railway stations throughout the country.

In 1904, Josiah died and the business was taken over by Josiah junior, his son. At the time, the firm, now known as Joseph Lane and Son Limited, specialised in a wide range of coloured and decorated lampshades and employed 65 people. By the early 1920s the business was failing due to a loss of trade. Josiah junior died in 1932 and three months later the factory closed. It was the last surviving glassworks in Dudley.

The location of Eve Hill Glassworks.

An advert from 1876.

Thomas Webb and Sons

Thomas Webb & Sons was based at Wordsley Glassworks and Dennis Glassworks, in Stourbridge. It began in 1829 when Thomas Webb became a partner in Webb and Richardson, that was formed to acquire Wordsley glassworks. The business was run by three partners; Webb, Benjamin Richardson and William Haden Richardson.

In 1833 Thomas Webb’s father, John Webb, entered the glass industry by going into partnership with John Shepherd at the neighbouring White House Glass Works. John Webb died in 1835 and Thomas inherited his father's share in Shepherd and Webb.

In 1837 Thomas Webb opened a new glass works at Amblecote and in 1842 sold his share in Webb and Richardson to his two partners in the business. In 1850, Thomas Webb’s second son, Thomas Wilkes Webb, joined the firm as a clerk and the firm exhibited a wide range of table and decorative glass at the 1851 Great Exhibition, winning a medal for cut glass.

In 1855 the company moved to Dennis Glassworks and in 1859 Thomas Wilkes Webb, became a partner. Thomas Webb retired in 1863 and his eldest son, Charles, also became a partner. The firm then became Thomas Webb and Sons.

In 1869 Thomas Webb died and was succeeded by his son, Thomas Wilkes Webb. Thanks to Thomas’s efforts, the firm gained a world wide reputation for fine crystal and coloured glass. In the catalogue for the 1878 Paris international exhibition, the company is described as the best maker of glass in the world. Thomas was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

Walter Wilkes Webb and his brother Charles Webb became joint Managing Directors and Charles F. Wedgwood joined the Board of Directors. Thomas Wilkes Webb retired due to bad health and died at the early age of 54 in 1891. Walter Wilkes Webb retired due to ill health in 1899 and in the same year, Charles Webb retired.

In the First World War, the firm specialised in electric light bulbs, glass tubing and glass rod and also continued to make tableware. In 1930 the firm became part of Henry G. Richardson and Sons, of Wordsley Glass Works.

An advert from 1876.

Some of the many glass cones that dominated the area around Wordsley in 1924. From an old postcard.

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