The Arrival of Expert Workers

Image: Interior of a Crown-Glass Works. William Cooper, Crown Glass Cutter & Glazier’s Manual (1835).

Image from: Science, Technology and Management, Birmingham Central Library

In early 19th century Britain, crown glass was used for glazing windows, but on the continent sheet or plate glass was manufactured. Robert Lucas Chance visited France, Belgium and Germany and investigated new ways of producing window glass. He visited Georges Bontemps, the leading expert in glass manufacture who had his own glassworks at Choisy-le Roi, near Paris. Bontemps had succeeded in reproducing the brilliant ruby glass of the ancients and had founded a school specialising in the art of painting windows.  A friendship was formed between the two businessmen and Bontemps help was invaluable when Lucas decided to produce sheet glass at Spon Lane.  Bontemps helped to recruit French and Belgian glass blowers to work in Smethwick and teach local glass blowers to blow their globes of molten glass into cylinders rather than spheres. In August 1832 sheet glass production began in No.2 glasshouse, which from that time was described as the French house. It was many years before any of Chance’s competitors began their own production of sheet glass.


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4439-0The Infinite Uses of Glass: Chance Brothers, Glassmakers of Smethwick 3892-0Chance Brothers and Company 3891-0The Arrival of Expert Workers 2078-0The Chemical Works 2370-0Types of Glass 3900-0Crown Glass 2039-0Plate or Sheet Glass 3895-0Flint Glass 2077-0New Technology 4444-0Glazing the Crystal Palace 4445-0Glazing the Crystal Palace 4438-0Lighthouse Production 4442-0Lighthouse Production 4443-0Lighthouse Production 4441-0Lighthouse Production 2079-0Company Philanthropic Activity 2041-0Relations between Workers and the Company 2038-0French and Belgian Workers 2075-0Description of the Glassworks 2034-0Description of the Glassworks