three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair


Foyer Exhibition:
february 2012

british engraved drinking glasses 1770 - 1850

The February 2012 foyer exhibition will focus on a fine collection of British engraved drinking glasses curated by two of our regular and much respected exhibitors, Timothy Mills and Robert Marris.

The glass engravings of the late Georgian and early Victorian period provide an insight into many social, political, and historical aspects of the period. The people of this period, more than any other, decorated their drinking glasses with all manner of motifs that had personal meaning to themselves and their contemporaries.

A cylinder bowled rummer engraved with an image of Sunderland Bridge. C1810

This exhibition will show the wide range of engravings that can be found from the simple to the ornate, from those intended for the wealthiest households to those treasured by the poorest, and from those celebrating personal events to those commemorating events of national importance.

Included in the exhibition will be more than 100 glasses, including stemmed drinking vessels, rummers, tumblers and tankards. Overall, the range of engravings will illustrate and support the research carried out by Timothy Mills and Robert Marris and published in the Glass Association Journal (2010).

The important subject of wheel engraving on drinking glasses in the later Georgian and early Victorian period has been largely neglected in literature, possibly in part because of the difficulty of attributing the execution of the engravings as the engravers were mostly reluctant to sign their work.

The work of British engravers has been dismissed as crude and naive compared with that of their continental contemporaries and can be considered almost as folk art, reflecting the issues which were of interest to the common people rather than those of a loftier social standing.

The subjects of the engravings can be seen as important, however, for their relevance as historical and social artefacts.

For their research, Robert and Tim focussed on sale catalogues, literature and museum and private collections.

A Barrel form tumbler engraved with a coach and horses by William Absolon engraved A Trifle from Yarmouth William Flint London. 1794.

Rummers form the largest group of recorded examples with facet-stem glasses providing the second most numerous form followed by tumblers and tankards. After these came ale glasses, slice cut wines and drams.

The last group is probably under-represented because authors of the literature available chose to illustrate important and rare glass over the ordinary and mundane.

The type of engraved subject matter was classified into ten various groups, including categories such as 'Decorative' and 'Transport and Travel' and then into many sub-categories.

The detailed examination of these engravings gave much insight into the issues and concerns that excited our ancestors sufficiently to commemorate them on their drinking glasses and these concerns are perhaps not very different from ours today. Families and friends, politics and government and pastimes, societies and technological change are all still celebrated now as then, and although today we don't typically engrave glasses, this can still be a very effective way of commemorating important and special events.


The early glasses are nowadays very collectable and Tim and Robert's research affords collectors a framework whereby to judge the rarity or otherwise of their latest acquisitions.

Display Cases

This exhibition will provide visitors with a valuable and rare opportunity to see for themselves examples of the various types of engraving including some very scarce items.


exhibition highlights

  • Probably the largest collection of glasses engraved by William Absolon of Great Yarmouth ever shown in a single exhibition.
  • An exceptionally rare tumbler commemorating the failed assassination attempt on George III.
  • A previously unrecorded and important marriage goblet from 1794.
  • Examples of goblets engraved by Thomas Hudson of Newcastle.



Note: All images supplied by Tim Mills, Robert Marris and Patrick Hogan.


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