English Glass - (Glass)

TheAntiqueTrade.co.uk Glossary of Antique Terms G

English Glass - (Glass) Some crude domestic glass was probably made after the Roman withdrawal, but even by the twelfth century most stained window-glass was imported from France. For fine table glass England had to await the arrival of Giacomo Verzelini and his band of Venetian workmen in 1571. After a troubled start he acquired royal patronage when, in 1575, Queen Elizabeth granted him a licence 'to make drinking glasses in the manner of Murano, on the undertaking that he bring up in the said art and knowledge our natural subjects'. Verzelini kept to the bargain and during the twenty years that followed made much fine glass and a good deal of money and won a great deal of respect. But he did not create an industry; this feat was performed by Sir Robert Mansell who held the monopoly from 1618 till the advent of Cromwell. Mansell brought prices down; he welcomed new ideas and processes, the making of mirrors, of wine bottles; he encouraged coal-mining to provide his industry with fuel. After the artist and the business man came the technologist, George Ravenscroft, who first made flint glass, the celebrated 'glass of lead', about 1675. Though it could not be blown as thin as the Venetian cristallo it was more durable, its softness lent itself to deep cutting, and it had a greater brilliance and richness. It was a glass that was to allow the English genius its full expression. It enabled England to become an exporter and by the end of the seventeenth century some 100 glass-houses were making lead glass. London, Bristol, Stourbridge, Birmingham, Newcastle upon Tyne, and other centres, were in the glass business. (See particularly Drinking Glasses for later developments.)

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