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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Sobering tale of life consumed by alcoholConnacht Tribune Group, February 3rd
He travelled the country for work, spending periods in Limerick, Cork and Kerry, before ending up in Waterford, working on an extension at the Waterford Glass plant. During that time, he quit alcohol for three months, in sympathy with a colleague who...Read more
'From 2003, I noticed a very unpleasant total obsession with money in Ireland'Irish Independent, January 30th
Basically, his money kept Waterford Glass afloat for four or five years more than it should have. "There are relatively few Irish people on the international stage of stature, so you have him, Peter Sutherland, Mary Robinson. I know he has helped all...Read more
On borrowed time: Ireland's deceptive debt numbersIrish Independent, January 23rd
How much if any of these deficits will the State end up picking up the tab for courtesy of the 2013 Waterford Glass judgment? When seeking to estimate the extent of the possible liabilities to which the state is exposed, one is confronted by a...Read more
Burton defends record after no-confidence motionRTE.ie, January 19th
She also told the Dáil he played a key role in ensuring the workers in Waterford Glass secured their incomes into the future. The Tánaiste criticised the Independent Alliance for moving the motion. She said she was proud to say that - together with...Read more
Jersey Reflections: First RailsSNJ Today, January 11th
According to R. Craig Koedel in his book South Jersey Heritage, “At the southeastern end of Camden County, a cluster of glass furnaces was erected between 1822, when Jonathan Haines set up his Waterford Glass Works, and 1827, when a son of William ...Read more
Waterford Crystal workers to receive €182m compensation over pensionsRTE.ie, July 31st
Waterford Crystal workers are to receive €182m in compensation for losses to their pension scheme after the company and its pension scheme went into insolvency. The High Court formally approved the closing of the Waterford Crystal pension case and ...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
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