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Nazeing Glassworks Limited by Frank Andrews
Revised 2003. Mary Houston-Lambert
This article originally appeared in Ysartnews 5 - January 1989
NEW FEBRUARY 2007 A large collection of mainly Nazeing Glass
See separate page for examples of Nazeing GlassFor the collectors of Monart, Gray-Stan and James Powell (Whitefriars) glassware, this factory offers a new type of glass to seek out and identify without the premium now attached to the former types. The paperweight collector has also been catered for by this busy company. Much research has been done into the factory and its products since the following article was written; Geoff Timberlake privately published a book on Nazeing, in early 2003.
The pieces seen to date owe more to the techniques of Gray-Stan than to Monart and many pieces must have been attributed as unsigned Gray-Stan. In one example, the metal and approach to applying colours, is very consistent with some Gray-Stan, to the extent that one wonders if the same glass-blower worked at both factories. But this speculation seems not to be very likely. Colours seen have been bright and lively, the glass not very thick and the base pontil polished concave.
The first factory was opened in Vauxhall, Surrey in 1612 by Sir Edward Zouche and was later known as Dawson Bowles & Company. A Charles Kempton opened a factory in Wickham Street, Vauxhall, London in c.1870, and a second works was opened in Vauxhall Walk in 1874 for producing gas globes and fittings. The flint and coloured glass were the main products at this time. The Wickham Street works closed some time later.
Charles Kempton’s sons William, Charles and Richard continued the business at Vauxhall until 1917 when William joined Edison & Swan at their electric lightbulb factory at Ponders End in Middlesex, he died in 1924. The rapidly expanding electric light bulb industry was becoming the major industrial glass user at this time. Richard moved the glass works first to Southwark, in 1920, and then in 1928 to Nazeing, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, taking the name Nazeing for the glassworks. The works at Nazeing sound like they were similar to the Vasart Shore Works in Perth - a goat shed in a marshy field with a coke fired skittle-type furnace holding about 200 kilos of molten metal. The annealing oven was a hand-operated conveyor, and the works did not have a mains water supply.
Most of the early production was hand blown decorative coloured glassware. As with Gray-Stan glass, white was used with the colours to give them a brighter look. Seen from the inside white is dominant while from the outside the colour is dominant. Single colours were used too, and one feature of this glassware appears to have been the inclusion of areas of clear lead glass, either at the top or between spiral bands of colour. Handles and feet, when applied, were in clear glass. The glass has a fairly high lead content. Examples have been seen with an acid etched ‘Nazeing, Made in England’, stamp on the bottom. Paper labels may have been used, but no examples have been reported to date. Mostly they are unmarked. Labels from retailer Elwell's are often seen on Nazeing glass.
During the 1930’s, financial difficulties almost caused the company to fold but another electric lamp manufacturer took a share for glass rod production. These rods were drawn by a boy running across a field with the hot glass. In 1939, a Belgian glassblower was employed and stemmed glasses were then made in the continental style. War production was directed to sips’ signal lights and semaphore lenses for the Admiralty, and lamp caps for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The goat shed was upgraded to Nissen huts and army surplus tents and, by the end of the war, the factory was producing glass for many government departments. After the war, a serious flood almost ruined the factory but production was restarted after a few months of repair work. Expansion brought the development of single pot brick furnaces to replace the original and these gave the factory a much greater flexibility in production. A major retail outlet was Elwell of Harlow, Essex. Examples of Nazeing are often found with an Elwell label.
Today, Nazeing Glass Works Limited employs over 200 people in purpose built buildings on the same site. Production ranges from traffic light lenses and other precision coloured glass through hand-blown glasses and glassware, cut lead crystal, to lighting and custom ashtrays.
At some stage paperweights were in production. These were generally swirl and/or bubble types to no specific design and in a great variety. Many of these must be in collections now and perhaps some were labelled or marked? Nazeing Glass Works received a small mention in the ‘British Glass Between the Wars’; some examples were included in the exhibition but had arrived too late for inclusion in the catalogue/book.
The company has taken over or been involved with several famous glass-making companies such as, Sowerby Ellisons’ Glass works whose moulds they bought, unfortunately 80% of them had to be scrapped owing to their poor condition. During the early 1960’s bought a half share in George Davidson & Sons, Newcastle. They were also involved with other now defunct companies such as Wood Brothers (Lenses, ashtrays and domestic glass c1983), Davey and Moore (Ashtrays and bottles closed c1970), and Phoenix (Heat resisting glass c1970). Nazeing purchased their moulds upon their demise.
The illustrations here are from one of the company's catalogues remaining from the 1930’s. If anyone else has seen any copies of this or another catalogue please let us or Nazeing Glass know about it. Sadly, much valuable material was lost in a fire that destroyed the main offices of Nazeing in December 1973. Some of the information included here was taken from a history of the company prepared by Cyril Weedon and Brian Moody on the occasion of the company’s Diamond Jubilee in 1978.
Nazeing Glass Catalogue from the 1930’s
Frank Andrews © 1989, 2002 & 2005
Mary Houston-Lambert, Revision 2003
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