Powell vase by Whitefriars
above: Powell vase
from Whitefriars Glass

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Powell Glass - Whitefriars Glassworks, from
The Glass Encyclopedia

A short explanation of Whitefriars Glass from James Powell and Sons:

James Powell, a successful London wine merchant, bought the Whitefriars Glassworks in 1834. His grandson Harry Powell played a major role during the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, when the company made very high quality art glass on a par with the output of Loetz in Europe and Tiffany in the USA. They exhibited at the major international exhibitions and won many prizes during that period. The vase above/left is typical of a part of their production during the 1880's and 1890's, continuing through to the 1920's.

They made fine quality historismus glass, they were part of the avant garde of the Arts and Crafts movement, they made beautiful art nouveau pieces, and when Venetian glass was all the rage in London, James Powell and Sons were producing some of the finest reproduction Venetian glass in the world.

In spite of this long tradition of very fine art glass, the Whitefriars Glassworks became best known for its Industrial Art glass, made from the 1920's onwards after Harry Powell had retired. The glassworks moved to a new site in Wealdstone, Middlesex in 1923, and the designs became much simpler to produce.

Whitefriars (or Powell) glass was normally marked with paper labels, which have often been lost over the years. However, most of the later designs and colours are so distinctive, that it is usually easy to identify Powell glass post 1930. Whitefriars continued to design and produce high quality glass right until the end, but their sales were not enough to cover their costs, and in 1980 the company was put into receivership, made bankrupt, and closed down.

There are two really good books on Whitefriars glass. The first, called Whitefriars Glass: James Powell and Sons of London, by Wendy Evans, Catherine Ross, and Alex Werner, was produced by the Museum of London and tells the story of the Glassworks, reproduces material from the Museum's extensive archives on Whitefriars glassworks, and illustrates pieces from their collection. It is a beautiful and substantial coffee table book.

The second book on Whitefriars glass was produced by the Manchester City Art Galleries (in England) to accompany an exhibition of Whitefriars Glass, and was prepared as a supplementary volume to the Museum of London book. It contains detailed historical information about the company, and many pages of coloured pictures covering the range of glass produced: Whitefriars Glass: The Art of James Powell and Sons, by Lesley Jackson.

Each of the books shown below has some excellent information about Whitefriars. Click on any book cover to read more about that book.

Whitefriars glass book British glass book Whitefriars glass book History of Glassmaking in London 2013 20th Century glass book

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