In 1783, brothers George and William Penrose established Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. They did not know anything about glass manufacturing, but they did see economic opportunity—demand was high for plain and decorative flint glass, and the supply was low in England, thanks to debilitating glass excise duties that did not apply to Ireland.
The Penrose brothers hoped to created crystal “as fine a quality as any in Europe… in the most elegant style.” To accomplish that goal, they brought in Quaker glassmaker John Hill, who supervised Waterford’s 50 to 70 employees for about three years. When he left, Hill gave the company’s glass formula to a clerk named Jonathan Gatchell. After William Penrose left the company around the turn of the century, Gatchell took over Waterford, along with two local families, the Ramseys and the Barcrofts.
Waterford blossomed in the early part of the 19th century—King George III ordered Waterford Crystal for his vacation residence. Waterford flint glass had become famous for its distinctive shade of gray, a color caused by sand imported from the King’s Lynn region used in Waterford’s glass recipe.
The company produced a wide array of table and ornamental cut glass, including claret and water jugs, glassware from wine glasses to goblets, bowls, candlesticks, dishes, chandeliers, and, of course, their famous decanters. These decanters featured three rings around their necks, with a mushroom-shaped stopper. One of the most collectible Waterford pieces today is the so-called apprentice bowl. At the end of his Waterford apprenticeship, the former student would carve a bowl that featured every kind of cut found in the entire Waterford line.
After Gatchell died in 1825, Waterford’s growth began to slow. Waterford submitted a hugely successful entry to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, but heavy British taxes on glass put the company out of business that same year.
In 1947, a small group of workers restarted Waterford as part of a renewed desire for Irish art driven by the independence movement. The new Waterford began with the old company’s designs and expanded from there. The perennially popular Lismore pattern was introduced in 1952, along with Alana, Carina, and Araglin, to name just a few.
In 1986, Waterford merged with Wedgwood, and the company has continued to enjoy a sterling reputation for quality. In fact, the world-famous Times Square New Year’s Eve ball has been decorated with Waterford Crystal triangles since the ball was redesigned in 2000.
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World Cup: Riding on 14 young legs will Pakistan repeat 1992...?indiatvnews.com (press release) (blog), January 17th
When the great Viv Richards dazzled the West Indies retained the World Cup title in 1979; Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram, Aamir Sohail, Mushtaq Ahmed and Aaqib Javed were all young guns when Imran Khan lifted the Waterford glass trophy in 1992; ...Read more
Renault years in WexfordWexford People, January 13th
The business, which had been owned by Waterford Glass, finally went to the wall in 1986, soon to rise from the ashes as Wexford Electronix. While some of his colleagues retired, Davy stayed on with a company that had 600 (mostly women) on the payroll...Read more
Chris Johns: State faces stark arithmetic over future of pensionsIrish Times, January 4th
The recent settlement at Waterford Glass is a case in point: pension rights accrued by workers turned out to be aspirations rather than cast-iron guarantees. Too many schemes have liabilities – future promises – greater (often much greater) than the...Read more
President presented with gifts of brooch, rugs and crystalIrish Independent, December 26th
The gifts included one silver Tara brooch at IR£110.45; one Aran sweater at IR£55.81; one copy of 'Florilegium' at IR£76.80; five Waterford Glass ash trays at IR£255.55; five Donegal Design rugs at IR£204.05; four Avoca Rugs at IR£108.52 and six ...Read more
Garda 'exceeded powers' in detaining protesters during Reagan's 1984 visitIrish Times, December 26th
The Garda Síochána exceeded its powers in detaining a group of women protesters for the duration of US president Ronald Reagan's visit to Dublin in 1984, the government was later informed by its legal advisers. Nearly 30 women were rounded up from a ...Read more
Cabinet signs-off on €178m Waterford Crystal pension dealIrish Independent, December 9th
Waterford Glass and Crystal was the iconic industry in the South East. This double insolvency has been relatively rare. When the case was taken, it was in the context of Ireland being in breach of a directive in relation to insolvency," she said. "The...Read more
Crystal Clear: Waterford's problems need fixing…and fastIrish Independent, November 11th
In its heyday the 3,500 employees of Waterford Glass, and its subsequent re-incarnations, were bringing home a relative fortune in wages. The money was spent locally giving life to local businesses. The streets were buzzing, the tills full and the pubs...Read more
European court rules in favour of Waterford Crystal workers in pension caseRTE.ie, April 24th
Unite Regional Secretary and former Waterford Glass employee Jimmy Kelly said it is a great day for former Waterford Crystal workers and for others who lost their pensions in similar situations. Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny, Mr Kelly said the ...Read more