While some people associate British art glass with that of Scandinavia since the Mid-century Modern aesthetics of the two cultures were so similar, glass making in the British Isles has also been inspired by the Venetians, Bohemians, and Belgians. In fact, during the Victorian Era, many British artisans hand-painted vases that were actually produced in Bohemia and Belgium. On these classic cylinders and trumpet-shaped forms, English artists rendered romantic depictions of flowers and rural scenes. More recently, in the 1950s, a pre-Victorian company called Chance became famous for its handkerchief vases, a staple of Murano glass factories.

One of the founding firms of British glass making was Whitefriars, which was built in London in the late 1600s and purchased in 1834 by James Powell, who would be the first of successive generations to lead the company (Whitefriars was known as James Powell and Sons until 1962). One of the first products made on Powell’s watch, as early as 1848, may have been a millefiori glass paperweight, although art historians disagree on this point. What we do know is that by the 1930s, Powell’s company was well regarded for its paperweights, which were low and wide rather than tall and domed.

Between the wars, a number of non-Powell designers made their marks on the venerable glass company. For example, William Wilson championed a “knobbly” look, achieved by hand-working free-blown surfaces.

Later, in the 1950s and ’60s, Geoffrey Baxter used molds to produce bark-like and textured surfaces on the exteriors of his vases. His most famous design was the Drunken Bricklayer, a vase that appears to be composed of three irregularly stacked squarish bricks. These signature vases were produced by Whitefriars in a range of colors, from relatively common tangerine to rare pewter.

Such surface treatments were being explored simultaneously in Finland and Sweden, which was also the home of cased pieces, which are identified by their thick, clear-or-bubbled bases and sides surrounding a single elongated teardrop of color. Baxter did these, too, often combining them with bumpy surfaces.

Another early English glass center was the Birmingham area, home to Bacchus, which was founded in 1818 and produced paperweights that had mushroom-like millefiori forms in their interiors. Glass makers in nearby Stourbridge also produced paperweights, as well as Bohemian-looking vases with flared and ruffled lips, hot-worked exterior decorations such as ribbons and fruit, and eye-catching interior casings that ranged from bone white to fuchsia pink.

Stourbridge was also known for its carved and cameo glass. Thomas Webb & Sons relied on the best designers of the day to produce masterpieces that were entered in international c...

By 1881, Northwood had defected to Stourbridge competitor Stevens & Williams. Under Northwood’s creative direction, Stevens & Williams produced about 1,000 cameo designs a year. But Webb had already moved on, turning to the design team of George and Thomas Woodall to lead its efforts. Webb cameo glass vases from this period are neoclassical in form and dizzyingly intricate. By the end of the century, as Art Nouveau bloomed, Webb vases seemed to take their cues from the soft-focus, naturalistic designs of Galle and Daum, as well as the precision of Wedgwood Jasperware.

To the north, in Perth, Scotland, a father-son team of Spanish glassblowers sowed the seeds for several firms: Monart (1924), Ysart Bros. (1947), Vasart (1956), and Strathearn (1965). Monart was the partnership between local John Moncrief and Salvador Ysart. The simple shapes of their vases and bowls were the perfect foils for the mottled abstractions and swirling designs Monart was known for. Ysart, Vasart, and Strathearn continued in this vein, expanding to include millefiori paperweights that are at once traditional and fresh, with rich coloration and lush interiors.

In addition to Baxter at Whitefriars, other giants of postwar British art glass include Frank Thrower of Dartington Glass. Thrower started out as a salesman of Scandinavian glass, so by the time he began producing his own designs in 1967, he was steeped in that look. Thrower was also a product of the 1960s, decorating his unassuming squat square vases with simple daisy patterns and radiating suns.

By coincidence, 1967 was also the year Ronald Stennett-Willson got into the glass business when he established King’s Lynn Glass, which was snappped up two years later by Wedgwood. His designs were more modern than Thrower’s, although Thrower actually designed pieces for King’s Lynn when Wedgwood acquired Dartington in the early 1980s.

Another child of the ’60s was Michael Harris, who established Mdina Glass on the island of Malta in 1968 before being forced out by the Maltese government, which had recently gained independence from the crown and was sensitive about appearing too British. In 1972, Miller established a new glass studio on the Isle of Wight. Although he had left the Mediterranean, the colors and surfaces that made Mdina Glass so popular, and collectible today, were continued in the English Channel.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



This fabulous site is a guide to Bohemian art glass makers from 1885 to 1920. Loetz was the premier Bohemian glass … [read review or visit site]

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Chris and Val Stewart’s impressive attempt to create a complete catalogue of all known cloud glass, a decorative … [read review or visit site]

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

The heart of this website, home of the Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club, is the Identification Project, whe… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Gorgeous Genuine John Ditchfield Glassform Signed Glass Frog Isle Of Wight Glass - Perfume Bottle - Golden Peacock RoyaleC1890 Signed Thomas Webb English "ivory Cameo" Glass Vase~~no Reserve3 Art Deco Pressed Black Glass Display Stand/ PlinthsHm1973 Caithness Silver Pendant & Chain Edinburgh Ysart Scottish Art Glass No ReWedgwood Glass Parrot Paperweight 1970s - Ronald Stennet-willson & Paul MillerWhitefriars Pewter Large Bark Vase (19cm)Beautiful Caithness Art Glass Tall Vase 11" - 218 F20Stevens & Williams Monumental 15" Ftd. Opalescent Striped Jack N'the Pulpit VaseGeorge Elliot Bewdley Signed Art Glass VaseExtremely Rare Whitefriars Haemorrhoid Vase -sage Green Colourway-original LabelAntique Art Deco Green Uranium Pressed Glass Dressing Set Sowerby,bagley,bohemiaAntique Stevens/williams Swirled Footed Pink/green Glass 2-handle Bowl - No ResBeautiful Caithness 'colour Pool' Green Paperweight - 345 Glass Mushroom Pink Iridescent John Ditchfield Large PaperweightVintage 5.5" High Whitefriars Geoffrey Baxter Gold Colourway Dilly Duck Minor AfGeorge Elliott Studio Glass Large Goblet. Bewdley 1970's/80's Vintage BritishWhitefriars Teardrop Bud Vase 9571 Green Crystal Geoffrey Baxter Sommerso 1960's2 Heron Glass Mushrooms Pale Green Glass Ruffled Rim Salt With Clear Glass Rigaree In Sp Basket StandArt Deco Bagley Carnival Pattern Green Uranium Glass Biscuit Barrel 849118Okra GlassFancy Cranberry Art Glass Ruffled Brides Basket Bowl English? 1800sWhitefriars 9798 Random Strapped Vase In Tangerine Geoffrey BaxterOkra GlassVintage Dartington Turquoise Blue Glass Vase By Frank Thrower - Cube - FlowerVintage Whitefriars/murano Green Controlled Bubble Paperweight. C1890 Victorian Art Glass 2 Punch Cups Pulled Swirl~~#2 Davidson Blue Cloud Glass Bowl (pat.1910sd) C1940Parker Whitefriars Desk Set With A Parker 51 Desk PenStevens & Williams Style Art Glass Cranberry & Green VaseCaithness Paperweight Amethyst Lace. Ltd Edition 340 / 1000Vintage Art Deco Green Uranium Glass Vase & Frog On Black Glass Plinth / BaseEnglish Webb Corbett Cut Glass Flower Vase W/ Removable Frog InsertVintage Multi Coloured Strathearn Scottish Small Paperweight 3cmWhitefriars Mobile Phone Vase Pair Of Vintage Ditchfield Glasform? Iridescent Mottled White Glass Apples6 X Caithness Peat Canisbay Glasses C.1970Langham Crystal Glass Spiral Dna Swirl Paperweight Signed By Paul Miller In BoxVintage Whitefriars Amethyst Large Glass Ewer/jugStrathearn Vasart Glass Bowl Lilac Stunning Glass Art Scottish MonartElegant Caithness Glass Vases (3) ScotlandStevens & Williams (?) Cased Satin Glass Ribbed Peachblow Vase - Excellent Stevens & Williams Original Art Glass Vase With Rigaree Bell Flower & LeavesHandkerchief Vase, Handkerchief Bowl, Vintage, Retro, Chance Glass, Blue, Alum Bay Wine Glass Filled With Coloured Sands From Isle Of Wight 4" TallVintage Hand Blown White And Clear Art Glass Handbag Shape VaseVintage Mark Taylor Art Glass Small Pitcher / Jug 1992Art Deco Uranium Lime Green Glass Equinox Sowerby Lily VaseVictorian Art Glass Vase Stevens & Williams Applied Glass Ribbon Mat Su NokeVintage Art Deco Green Uranium Glass Shallow Lidded Powder / Trinket PotDavidson Pressed Glass Amber Creamer With 'lion' Maker's Mark To BaseBagley Pale Pink Glass Candlesticks No Damage Pretty DesignWedgwood Crystal Glass Paperweight - FalconTurquoise Small Vase 185mms Long/55 High/95 Wide--maker Not Known-293 GramsPair Of Bristol Vases Blue Hand Painted With Floral Decorations W/pontil BasesPeachblow Art Glass Flower Vase Bowl Enameled Jules Barbe Cylindrical Langham Glass Paperweight Orange And White Ribbons On Silver SpiralVintage / Antique ? Stevens & Williams ? Royal Brierley ?amber Crackle Glass JugLangham Art Glass Paperweight Labelled