Nazeing label

above: Nazeing label
with two goats
representing The
Goats farmhouse

below: wall vase
by Nazeing sold by
Herbert Elwell

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Nazeing Glass from
The Glass Encyclopedia

A short explanation of Nazeing Glass:

Nazeing Glass was founded in 1928 and registered as a limited company in 1931, but its founders (Richard Kempton and his two sons Reg and Cedric) had a long history of owning and operating a glassworks before this. Their father, Charles Henry Kempton had married the daughter of a glassmaker in 1860 and nine years later he and his wife Caroline set up a lamp warehouse in Oakely Street, Vauxhall; shortly afterwards they began making lamps and flint glass and called their premises "The Albert Glass Works" (established 1874). When Charles died in 1899 his three sons were all glassmakers, and his third son Richard took over The Abbott Glass Company and changed its name to Southwark Glass Works. In 1928 Richard and his two sons Reg and Cedric left Southwark and bought "The Goats" at Broxbourne, near Nazeing. They converted the outbuildings of this former farmhouse into a glass factory and called it Nazeing Glass Works.

Nazeing Glass has been through a colourful history since that time, with several key figures playing an important part. Les Ayre joined Nazeing in 1932 at the age of 14, and worked his way up to become Managing Director by 1968. Along the way (in 1932) John Ismay, a local industrialist, had bought a controlling share in Nazeing so that he could get his glass light bulb outer shells (envelopes) made there. John Ismay soon found he could get a plentiful supply of cheaper glass envelopes made elsewhere and lost interest in Nazeing. This is where the Pollock-Hill family comes into the story. Malcolm Pollock-Hill was the son of a vicar who took a job as clerk in a local bank in the 1930s after a serious injury had deterred him from going to University. John Ismay was a customer at this bank, and recognising considerable potential in Malcolm, offered him the job of Company Secretary to Ismay's company. Malcolm was fascinated by the Nazeing Glass Works, just one small part of Ismay's holdings, and in 1939 he purchased Nazeing Glass from his employer.

Very shortly afterwards England went to war with Germany, and Malcolm was posted to Norway as an acting Major in the army. The war effort required a special glass called "vitrite" a black glass essential for all light bulbs and valves for radios and radiocommunications. There was only one factory, Vitrite Manchester, making it at the start of the war. If that factory should be destroyed by bombing, there could be no more bulbs or valves made. So Nazeing Glass Works became a back up for making Vitrite as an “essential Government supplier” and Major Pollock-Hill was recalled from military service to manage the company's production.

By the end of the war the company was doing well, with four furnaces and about thirty employees. One of their best customers was Major Herbert Elwell, who bought Nazeing's art glass and sold it to companies such as Harrods and Heals. He had his own labels made, and the wall vase shown on the left is an example. The wording on the label reads "Luxury Glass ELWELL's Harlow, Essex. British Hand Made"

The disastrous winter of 1947 resulted in the nearby river bursting its banks and flooding Nazeing Glass Works to a depth of 18 inches. With no insurance compensation and advice from the bank to close down, Malcolm Pollock-Hill was facing ruin. Fortunately he found Robin Mayer and persuaded him to invest 50,000 pounds of his recent inheritence in purchasing a half share in Nazeing Glass Works. So in 1950 Robin Mayer became joint Managing Director.

Over the next 60 years the company had many ups and downs. Best known for their beautiful art glass with its mottled colours and internal tiny bubbles, they were many times kept successful by large contracts for particular pieces from organisations such as the Admiralty (the Pullman Suite from 1949); Guinness (decorated tumblers and ashtrays); Harp, Bass, and Allied Breweries (decorated tumblers); Woolworths (white dishes decorated with pony club cartoons); Nestle (blue opal cereal bowl); Colman's (blue mustard pot); Chalwyn Engineering (road danger warning lenses); and several other contracts. .

In 1961 Malcolm Pollock-Hill bought a half share in Davidson's Glass works in the North East of England, along with John Howarth. Several Davidson's molds and their catalogues were transferred to Nazeing (and it is true that the furniture van carrying the molds broke down on its way from Davidson's to Nazeing when its axle snapped from the weight). In 1966 Malcolm sold his share in Davidson's. The Kempton's sold the freehold of "The Goats" to the Nazeing Glass Company in 1968 for two thousand pounds, the same year that Robin Mayer retired and Malcolm Pollock-Hill bought his shares in the company. Les Ayre took over as Managing Director and Malcolm became Chairman. When the company went through difficult times in later years it was saved by the rental income from an industrial estate that was built on the site.

Malcolm's son Stephen Pollock-Hill joined the company in 1970 as a trainee sales assistant, and worked his way up to become Export Director in 1974, Joint Managing Director in 1984 and Company Chairman in 1991. The company remains profitable whilst most of their competitors in the UK have closed. Although they have downsized from 120 employees in their haydays to just 25 people in 2006, their profitability (14%) was the highest that year since 1979. And in 2008 Nazeing supplied over 1,100 magnifying lenses used to light the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games in "The Bird's Nest" Stadium in China.

If you are looking for Nazeing glass, you can often find items on offer on ebay - click click here to see what is being offered just now.

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