Frank Thrower label

above: example of a
Dartington label







above: "Nipple vase"
FT95 designed by
Frank Thrower in 1968
for Dartington


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Frank Thrower Glass from
The Glass Encyclopedia

A short explanation of the glass designed by Frank Thrower (1932 - 1987):

Frank Thrower was the chief designer for Dartington Glass from the time it was founded in 1966 until his death in 1987. One of the key objectives of the Dartington Hall Trust in setting up this glass factory was to provide employment for the young people of North Devon, and the town of Torrington was chosen as their glassworks site. Frank Thrower was a protege of Ronald Stennett-Willson who had been Managing Director of J. Wuidart & Co. Ltd, a company importing Scandinavian glass which employed Frank Thrower as a salesman from 1953 to 1960. During this period Frank worked closely with Ronald Stennett-Willson, one of Britain's greatest glass designers, and saw how Ronald designed glass for Scandinavian glassworks to produce.

In the early 1960s Frank took on the post in charge of sales for the Portmeirion Pottery company, and soon led that company to follow the Ronald Stennett-Willson model of importing Scandinavian glass, and getting his own designs made in Sweden to sell in the UK.

Frank was influential in persuading the Dartington Hall Trust that a glassworks which created high quality Scandinavian style glass would succeed in Devon, and he became the first Sales Director and Designer for the newly formed Dartington Glass in 1967. Their first Managing Director was Eskil Vilhelmsson, who came from being works manager of a Swedish glassworks. He recruited a workforce of some 35 people which included many skilled Scandinavian glass blowers who then trained local employees.

The glass factory opened in June 1967 with a hugely extravagent opening celebration, but it was to be four years before they actually made a profit. Once their success started, however, the orders flooded in and they soon had the reverse problem of too many orders for their limited production capabilities. Glassworks in the UK (such as Nazeing Glass) in Sweden, and in Norway were used to supplement their production. This dramatic success was partly due to Erskil Wilhelmsson's skills in managing his workforce and the efficiency and quality of production; and partly due to Frank Thrower's brilliant salesmanship and his readily identifiable designs.

In the early years Dartington glass was soda glass, but in later years they turned to lead crystal. All their output was hand-made, and amongst their several signature ranges designed by Frank Thrower there were:

  • - simple Scandinavian-cum-18th-century English goblets, glasses and decanters in clear soda-glass and later in crystal
  • - angular and cylindrical mold-blown vases and candleholders with textured surfaces in clear, smoke, kingfisher blue, and flame (like the "nipple" vase shown above left)
  • - straight and spiral blown optic "Ripple" vases
  • - and their range of kitchen accessories.

A merger with Wedgwood Glass in 1982 (formerly Ronald Stennett-Willson's glassworks) produced initial financial benefits for Dartington and fresh designs and management ideas for Wedgwood. Frank Thrower and several other Dartington managers were unhappy with the new regime however, and in 1984 their problems worsened due to poor quality glass (which was eventually traced to poor quality sand supplies). Marketing and Distribution decisions made by Wedgwood further upset Frank; and when Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal in 1986 the management of Dartington seized the opportunity to negotiate a deal to end the partnership between Dartington and Wedgwood. The company name was changed to Dartington Crystal. It was only a few months after this that Frank Thrower died from a brain tumour.

After Frank Thrower's twenty years of designs for Dartington there were many different designers and teams of designers who contributed to the Dartington range. The company went through further takeovers, mergers, and two management buy-outs, returning to being an independant company from 2007 onwards, and acquiring Caithness Glass and Royal Brierley Crystal along the way. They produce a range of art glass by recognised designers and export it to over 50 countries. Their visitor centre entertains tourists, and the company still fulfills its founders' aims of providing skilled employment for people in North Devon.



If you are looking for Dartington glass, you can often find items on offer on ebay. Click Dartington Glass



Further Reading

Frank Thrower Dartington Glass (2007) British Glass Book 2 20th Century glass Jackson 20th Century glass McConnell 20th Century glass 2004




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