HEART OF ENGLAND GLASS
The West Midlands of England has been the vital heart of glassmaking in Great Britain for over four centuries. In 1612 Paul Tyzack, a French glassmaker from the Lorraine district who had settled in the Stourbridge area, baptised his first son at St. Mary’s church in Kingswinford. In the ensuing four hundred years, the area, which encompasses Dudley, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and the glass district of Stourbridge which itself includes Amblecote, Brierley Hill and Wordsley, witnessed some of the greatest artistic and technical revolutions in glass to affect glassmakers worldwide. In the 1790s two glasscutters from Dudley and Stourbridge harnessed the new technology of steam power to drive their cutting lathes and intricate cut glass was born. In 1876 John Northwood rediscovered the ancient Roman art of cameo glass and influenced the likes of the great Emile Gallé and countless other international cameo glass artists to the present day. Even glass geniuses were ‘exported’ including John Hill who established Waterford Crystal in Ireland at the end of the 18th century, and Frederick Carder who helped to set up Steuben Glass, still America’s greatest glass factory.
At the start of the 21st century huge changes have altered the glassmaking map but the one constant which remains is the never-ending source of originality, inventiveness and inspiration which has always been the hallmark of West Midlands glassmakers. Now, all of those stakeholders, from educational institutions, individual glass artists, glass companies, glass and craft museums, and private individuals, are represented in this Heart of England Glass web site, have formed themselves into a well-organised group to continue to promote their achievements and to participate as major players in the new national and global glass market-place, a vision perhaps not too dissimilar from Paul Tyzack’s, all those years ago.
Charles R. Hajdamach
Photography by Simon Bruntnell