Scottish glass industry

Interior of a crown-glass house, from 'The crown glass cutter and glazier's manual' by William Cooper, Edinburgh: 1835.
Interior of a crown-glass house, from ‘The crown glass cutter and glazier’s manual’ by William Cooper, Edinburgh: 1835, frontispiece.

William Cooper, crown-glass cutter, glazier, and stained glass maker to King William IV had a glass warehouse at 18 Picardy Place, Edinburgh in the early nineteenth century. He also wrote ‘The crown glass cutter and glazier’s manual’ in 1835, describing the history of glassmaking, the processes of glass manufacture and the different methods of using glass.

A few years earlier, during George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822, some of the glass-blowers of Edinburgh had a prominent role in the royal pageant. Robert Mudie in ‘A historical account of His Majesty’s visit to Scotland’ describes how the Society of Glass-blowers were particularly conspicuous with the officer at their head wearing ‘a glass hat, with a glass sword and target’ and each member carrying a long glass rod.

So how did it all begin? In 1610 Sir George Hay, 1st Earl of Kinnoull (1570-1634), obtained a patent of monopoly to manufacture glass in Scotland. Due to his influence, the industry thrived and continues to this day, even if it is on a smaller scale than in previous years. For those interested in this subject, the Library has a wealth of information on the glass industry in Scotland and those who were involved in its manufacture.

The most comprehensive history of the early glass industry in Scotland is Jill Turnbull’s ‘The Scottish Glass Industry 1610-1750: ‘To serve the whole nation with glass’, Edinburgh, 2001. This book has an extensive bibliography, which provides a wealth of further references to check. She has also written a number of journal articles including:

“A most artful deception”: behind the scenes of an 18th century Scottish glasshouse’, in ‘The Journal of the Glass Association’, Volume 7, 2004. This article describes William Tennant’s Greenock Glassworks Company and his involvement with Excise fraud.

‘Scotch Venetian Glass’ – Edinburgh’s contribution to the Venetian revival’ in ‘The Journal of the Glass Association’, Volume 9, 2010. An article on the Venetian style glass produced in Scotland in the late nineteenth century, especially that produced by Alexander Jenkinson in Edinburgh.

‘Jacobite’, ‘Jacobean’ and other reproduction glasses produced by the Edinburgh and Leith Flint Glass Company’, in ‘The Glass Circle Journal’, Volume 11, 2009. An article discussing this particular style of glass, including lots of photographs.

‘Behind the Scenes in the Glasshouse: glassmaking in Scotland between c.1600 and present day’, in ‘History Scotland, Volume 6(4), 2006. A general overview of the subject of glassmaking.

Diana Connell, in her ‘The Glass Workers of Scotland’, Glasgow, 2001 provides a brief history of the industry as well as describing the different types of jobs available in glass houses, lists of glass workers in Scotland and lists of Scottish glass workers in England. The information has been taken from variety of sources, including the census, parish registers and directories. She has also written an article ‘The Scottish Glass Industry’, which was published in ‘Scottish Industrial History’, Volume 23, 2002.

As well as the publications listed above, the Library holds many other books and articles that are relevant to the subject. Books can be found easily in the main catalogue by doing keyword or subject searches. Journal articles are sometimes more difficult to locate, so a selection of relevant articles are listed below.

H A Basterfield, ‘United Glass in Scotland. 2. The Portobello Factory’, offprint from ‘Scottish Goodware’, June 1966.

Brian J R Blench, ‘Scottish Glass: 1945 to the Present Day’, in ‘Journal of Glass Studies’, Volume 25, 1983 [available via JSTOR; remote access only to registered readers resident in Scotland].

Colin M Brown, ‘Scotland’s Glass Industry’, in ‘Scottish Geographical Magazine’, Volume 96(3), 1980.

Monica Clough, ‘The Leith Glass Works: 1689-c.1708’, in ‘Scottish Industrial History’, Volume 5(1), 1982.

John C Logan, ‘The Dumbarton Glass Works Company: a study in entrepreneurship’, in ‘Business History’, Volume 14(1), 1972.

Michael T Vaughan, ‘Scottish Glass: an overview of the history of glassmaking in the Edinburgh area’, in ‘Scottish Glass Society Newsletter’, Number 41, 1992.

Directories can also be useful to locate individuals or companies who were involved in this industry. The Library holds the ‘Directory for the British Glass Industry’, Sheffield for the years 1923, 1928, 1934, 1949, 1951,and 1956. Older trade and postal directories can also be viewed online for free at Scottish Post Office Directories.

Finally, the Moving Image Archive has archive footage of the glass industry in its collections including ‘Oban Glass Manufacture’, 1970 [Ref: T0753] and ‘Strathearn Glass, Perthshire’, 1977 [Ref: N0660].