History of Scottish Glass Industry

William Cooper, crown-glass cutter, glazier, and stained glass maker to King William IV had a glass warehouse at 18 Picardy Place, Edinburgh in the early nineteenth century. He also wrote ‘The crown glass cutter and glazier’s manual’ in 1835, describing the history of glassmaking, the processes of glass manufacture and the different methods of using glass.

A few years earlier, during George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822, some of the glass-blowers of Edinburgh had a prominent role in the royal pageant. Robert Mudie in ‘A historical account of His Majesty’s visit to Scotland’ describes how the Society of Glass-blowers were particularly conspicuous with the officer at their head wearing ‘a glass hat, with a glass sword and target’ and each member carrying a long glass rod.

So how did it all begin? In 1610 Sir George Hay, 1st Earl of Kinnoull (1570-1634), obtained a patent of monopoly to manufacture glass in Scotland. Due to his influence, the industry thrived and continues to this day, even if it is on a smaller scale than in previous years. For those interested in this subject, the Library has a wealth of information on the glass industry in Scotland and those who were involved in its manufacture.

The most comprehensive history of the early glass industry in Scotland is Jill Turnbull’s ‘The Scottish Glass Industry 1610-1750: ‘To serve the whole nation with glass’, Edinburgh, 2001. This book has an extensive bibliography, which provides a wealth of further references to check. She has also written a number of journal articles including:

“A most artful deception”: behind the scenes of an 18th century Scottish glasshouse’, in ‘The Journal of the Glass Association’, Volume 7, 2004. This article describes William Tennant’s Greenock Glassworks Company and his involvement with Excise fraud.

‘Scotch Venetian Glass’ – Edinburgh’s contribution to the Venetian revival’ in ‘The Journal of the Glass Association’, Volume 9, 2010. An article on the Venetian style glass produced in Scotland in the late nineteenth century, especially that produced by Alexander Jenkinson in Edinburgh.

‘Jacobite’, ‘Jacobean’ and other reproduction glasses produced by the Edinburgh and Leith Flint Glass Company’, in ‘The Glass Circle Journal’, Volume 11, 2009. An article discussing this particular style of glass, including lots of photographs.

‘Behind the Scenes in the Glasshouse: glassmaking in Scotland between c.1600 and present day’, in ‘History Scotland, Volume 6(4), 2006. A general overview of the subject of glassmaking.

Diana Connell, in her ‘The Glass Workers of Scotland’, Glasgow, 2001 provides a brief history of the industry as well as describing the different types of jobs available in glass houses, lists of glass workers in Scotland and lists of Scottish glass workers in England. The information has been taken from variety of sources, including the census, parish registers and directories. She has also written an article ‘The Scottish Glass Industry’, which was published in ‘Scottish Industrial History’, Volume 23, 2002. The Hisory of Scottish Sash Windows

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