The Smethwick Glass Works of Chance Brothers, West Midlands

Image: The Glass and Lighthouse Works at Smethwick in the early 20th century. Glass cones can be seen at various locations across the site. Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, 100 Years of British Glass Making 1824-1924 (Smethwick and Glasgow, Chance Brothers & Co., 1924).

Following images from: Broadfield House Glass Museum, Kingswinford, Dudley, West Midlands


These photographs were taken by Arthur Reeves, a former employee of Chance Brothers Smethwick in the 1940s. They were digitised from 30 slides which Mr Reeves deposited at Broadfield House Glass Museum, Kingswinford, Dudley in the West Midlands during 1984. Mr Reeves provided descriptions to accompany the images which are included in this exhibition with minor alterations. Most of the images show glass houses, furnaces and other factory equipment at the factory dating from the mid 19th century. Demolition in the 1940s provided a record of their internal construction and the industrial processes they housed to make crown glass, plate glass and optical glass.

Chance Brothers was founded in 1824 in Spon Lane, Smethwick. During the 19th century it became one of the most important glassworks in Britain. It manufactured sheet glass, including the panes for the Crystal Palace of 1851, window glass in different colours and optical glass including the lenses for lighthouses. Chances pioneered new ways of making glass and many of the images provide evidence of innovative practices. One 20th century example shows the welding of a cathode ray tube used for radar detection (number 9). Fire was a constant hazard and Chances created a fire brigade at the works in 1848 (number 4).

Image courtesy of: Local Studies and History, Birmingham Central Library
Text by: Arthur Reeves

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2034-0The Smethwick Glass Works of Chance Brothers, West Midlands 4005-0Optical Department: Two Pot Furnace 4006-0Optical Department: Pot being set into a Furnace 4007-0Optical Department: Open Pots after Cooling 4008-0Works Fire Engine 4009-0Glory Hole (1852-54) for Crown Window Glass Production 4021-0Rectangular Chimney built for Glory Hole 4010-0Rectangular Chimney for Glory Hole and Circular Chimney 4011-0Globe Department: the Glass Blower 4012-0Globe Department: Welding a Cathode Ray Tube 4013-0Globe Department: Testing Radar or Cathode Ray Tubes 4014-0Stonemason’s Shop: Dressing a Rolled-plate Machine Sill 4015-0Stonemason’s Shop: Mason’s Shaping Refractories by Hand 4016-0Demolition of House Cone No 10 4017-0Demolition of House Cone No 10 4018-0Demolition of Glasshouses No 3, 8 and 12 4019-0Demolition of Glasshouses No 3, 8 and 12 4020-0The Last Cone No 12 built at Chance Brothers, Smethwick 4018-0Demolition of Glasshouses No 3, 8 and 12 4023-0Demolition of No 12 Glasshouse 4024-0Demolition of No 12 Glasshouse 4025-0Demolition of No 10 Glasshouse 4026-0Demolition of No 10 Glasshouse 4027-0Buildings Containing Furnaces 4028-0Back of No 6 Glasshouse 4029-0Warehouses and Globe Department 4030-0Buildings before Demolition 4037-0View of No 6 Glasshouse 4031-0View of Coal-feeding Hopper 4032-0Various Buildings at Chances Glassworks 4033-0Truncated Cone belonging to 1834 Pot Furnace
Sources and Further Reading

Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, 100 Years of British Glass Making 1824-1924(Smethwick and Glasgow, Chance Brothers & Co., 1924).
Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, Typical Illustrations of the Lighthouse Work of Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, Smethwick, Birmingham, (Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, Smethwick, Birmingham, December 1919).
Chance, James Frederick, A History of the Firm of Chance Brothers and Co. (London, Spotiswoode, Ballantyne and Co Ltd, 1919).
Chance, James Frederick, The Lighthouse Work of Sir James Chance, Baronet (London, Smith Elder, 1902).