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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Recent News: Waterford Glass
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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
Crystal is back at the cutting edge of styleTelegraph.co.uk, November 8th
And daring features strongly here – it was a hallmark of Miroslav Havel, the Czech “maestro” who is credited with reviving the Waterford glass industry, which had been dormant for a century when, in 1947, he was enticed to Ireland by promises of a land...Read more
In the saleroomsIrish Independent, November 6th
Also included is a pair of Georgian lamp tables, large canteen kings pattern cutlery, Victorian oil lamp, Edwardian inlaid wardrobe, c19 carved oak cabinets and tables, Black & Tan medal, selection of rare old adverts, Waterford glass, and engravings...Read more
Annual Torquay ball will help fight diseaseTorquay Herald Express, November 2nd
The ball has been organised by Tarasa Van Martin, the owner of the Waterford Glass Centre in St Marychurch, Torquay. She said: "Every year we try to support a local charity who deserve more recognition. "Crohn's and Colitis affects more than 1,700...Read more
Memorial unveiled at 300-year-old Quaker Burial ground in Waterford CityWaterford Today, September 3rd
a brewery in in the City in 1772; Jacob who was the name behind Jacob's Cream Crackers, whose direct descendants were to establish firms in shipbuilding and biscuit making in Waterford and Penrose who founded the Waterford glass works in 1783...Read more
Quaker memorial site to be unveiled in WaterfordIrish Times, August 28th
Other prominent Quaker families included the Strangmans, who set up a brewery in the city in 1722, and the Penroses who founded the Waterford glass works in 1783. The Quaker legacy continues today with Newtown School which was built on the ancestral ...Read more
Exploring Waterford's Viking PastIrishCentral, July 13th
It carried a gift of Waterford glass which was presented to the Tsar in St. Petersburg. Vikings aside, it is this glass that has spread Waterford's name worldwide. Waterford Crystal was founded by brothers William and George Penrose in 1783. “They were ...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