Sowerby pin tray
above: Sowerby pressed
glass pin tray, 1877.
Below, the Sowerby
logo of a peacock head
Sowerby Trademark.

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Sowerby glass

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Sowerby Glass - from
The Glass Encyclopedia

A short explanation of Sowerby Glass:

There is a record of Sowerby Glassworks in Gateshead, North East of England as early as 1807, but very little is known about the glass they produced. We do know that the company had an art glass workshop from 1870 to around 1888. They made high quality, hand-blown, Venetian-style glass and initially employed workers brought from Italy.

But it is Sowerby's high quality pressed glass that is best know today. They made a vast array of designs, styles, and products in pressed glass over the hundred years from the 1870's to 1972. During the years 1876 to 1888 Sowerby reproduced a range of the best art designs of the period, and they produced it in large volumes. In 1882 one of Sowerbv's four glassworks was Sowerby's Ellison Street Glassworks, and it was recorded as the largest pressed glass operation in the world employing nearly a thousand men. They made pressed glass copies of designs by Christopher Dresser, by Walter Crane, reproductions of Egyptian and Japanese designs, copies of Wedgwood pottery. Although Walter Crane once said the less machinery has to do with art the better, there is no doubt that Sowerby's were bringing art to the millions by making beautiful pieces affordable.

John G Sowerby, who joined his father's company as a manager in 1871, was a successful painter and illustrator of children's books in his own right. He was closely involved with the artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Aesthetic movement which prevailed in Britain at that time. It was his influence that led Sowerby's to use popular designs from the leading artists and faithfully reproduce in glass the drawings notably of Walter Crane.

These artistic designs were almost entirely on the surface of the glass. The posy holders and vases were attractive, imaginative, with beautiful decoration. But the art went into design of the moulds, and the pieces were then produced in their hundreds by hand pressing the glass.

They produced a wide range of products in vitroporcelein or glass-that-looks-like-porcelein, and their most common colours were turquoise blue, white, ivory, malachite (glass with streaks like marble) in purple, blue and brown, and clear flint glass.

The company's logo of a peacock's head (shown above left) was used from 1876 to1930. It is not on all their pieces, especially in the later years.

In the 1930's the company had new designs (the Tynesyde Glassware series), new mold makers (from Bohemia) and new technology which made good quality glass cheaper. But their success did not survive the second world war, and after the war they had too many employees and not enough work. By 1956 they were going bankrupt, and the company was taken over by Suntex Safety Glass Industries Limited who continued to make household glassware, ornaments and vases on the site until 1972, when the coloured glass part of the company's operation was moved to Nazeing Glassworks in the South of England.

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References, Sources & Further Reading:

Here are some books that contain information about Sowerby Glass. Click on the book covers or titles to read more about the books.

Sowerby Ellison Glass 1986 Sowerby Pattern book 1982 Disaster Glass of NE England (2008) English Pressed Glass 1987 English Pressed Glass by Thomson 2000 British Glass Book 2 British glass book 19th C British Glass Victorian Glass - British Millers 20th Century Glass 2006 20th Century glass 2004 British Glass Between the Wars 1987 20th Century glass book

INFORMATION about Bagley Glass!
Bagley Glass were competitors of Sowerby from the 1930s onwards so we thought you would be interested in this book.
The first three editions sold out very quickly.

The 4th Edition is now available and has received a rave response
- more information, more and better pictures, new items identified
as Bagley for the first time, a helpful index, and more compehensive coverage.
A truly comprehensive guide to help you identify Bagley Glass.
Click on the picture for more details.

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