three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair

Foyer Exhibition:
February 2004

Hartley Wood Factory

An example of an 'Antique Glass' vase.
An example of an 'Antique Glass' vase.

In 1837, the brothers James and John Hartley established the Wear Glass Works in Sunderland which became well known for the manufacture of window glass, including crown, cylinder and Patent Rolled Plate or PRP, a type of mainly patterned cast glass which was much thinner than that produced elsewhere.

At the Great Exhibition in 1851 Hartley's was awarded a prize medal for PRP for roofing. Various problems led to the closure of the firm in 1892. In the same year James Hartley's grandson, James Hartley Jnr., rented a redundant bottle works in Monkwearmouth and with a small team of ex-Hartley glassblowers continued to produce cylinder and crown glass.

The name changed to Hartley Wood & Co. in 1895 when Alfred Wood, the leading colour mixer from Hartley's, joined as a partner.

The firm prospered in the 1920's due to the demand for memorial windows after the Great War, and in the period after World War II because of the wide-spread damage sustained by churches.

In 1956, the Clean Air Act meant that the old coal-fired furnace was replaced by four oil-fired modern furnaces. New legislation brought about other changes to dangerous materials used, especially in the manufacture of the streaky colour combinations known as 'Antique Glass' for which Hartley Wood was famous.

A very colourful streaky 'Antique Glass' vase.
A very colourful streaky 'Antique Glass' vase.

The difference this made to the metal can be most easily seen in the art glass made by the firm from the 1930's onwards, examples of which can be seen here. The earlier vases are uneven and heavy and the glass has an oily look, while the later pieces are mould-blown, lighter and more regular in shape.

The company was sold to Pilkington's in 1983, but despite investment Hartley Wood closed in 1989.

The foyer exhibition will bring together a number of these interesting and striking pieces in various shapes and colourways from two private collections. This area of glass is deserving of more attention and, as can be seen from the images accompanying this article, with even a small number of vases placed in close proximity you can have your very own stained glass window.

For further information about Hartley Wood glass, please see the article by Susan Newell published in The Journal of the Glass Association Vol.6 dated 2001.