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Modified on 2012/03/11 09:08 by Bart Categorized as Glassworks


Gateshead, England


The first glassworks in Gateshead was established by Joseph Sowerby in 1760, at the west end of Pipewellgate. His nephew, John Sowerby, took over the firm in 1846 and renamed it to the Gateshead Stamped Glass Works. It was the first factory in Britain devoted exclusively to making pressed glass items.

In 1852, the firm moved to Ellison Street where a larger factory was built, specifically arranged for making pressed glass. One of its main assets was that it had its own mould shop. This new factory was named the Sowerby's Ellison Glassworks. By 1882 the company provided work for 1000 employees thereby making it one of the largest glass factories in the world.

At the end of the 19th century the Sowerby glassworks produced a lot of tumblers, decanters, sugar bowls, cream jugs and other domestic items. Famous novelty items included butter dishes in the shape of a swan, a shoe or a chicken. Some of these items were kept in production until late in the 20th century.

In the 1920s Sowerby produced a lot of carnival glass in various colors, also including a purplish-blue (Rainbow) and deep ruby red, which were both fabricated by adding selenium as a coloring material. In the 1930s the factory joined the popular art deco movement with the production of several table centers and figurines in pastel shades, like amber, green and soft pink.

After 1950 the state of the company went down hill: the mould shop had to close in 1952 and the company was taken over by Suntex Safety Glass Industries in 1957. The factory closed in 1972.

Related persons

Joseph Sowerby
John Sowerby


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Sowerby on 20thcenturyglass
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