The Smethwick Glass Works of Chance Brothers, West Midlands
1824 - 1924 (c.)
Image: The Glass and Lighthouse Works at Smethwick in the early 20th century. Glass cones can be seen at various locations across the site. Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, 100 Years of British Glass Making 1824-1924 (Smethwick and Glasgow, Chance Brothers & Co., 1924).
Image from: Local Studies and History, Birmingham Central Library
Text: Arthur Reeves
Following images from: Broadfield House Glass Museum, Kingswinford, Dudley, West Midlands
These photographs were taken by Arthur Reeves, a former employee of Chance Brothers Smethwick in the 1940s. They were digitised from 30 slides which Mr Reeves deposited at Broadfield House Glass Museum, Kingswinford, Dudley in the West Midlands during 1984. Mr Reeves provided descriptions to accompany the images which are included in this exhibition with minor alterations. Most of the images show glass houses, furnaces and other factory equipment at the factory dating from the mid 19th century. Demolition in the 1940s provided a record of their internal construction and the industrial processes they housed to make crown glass, plate glass and optical glass.
Chance Brothers was founded in 1824 in Spon Lane, Smethwick. During the 19th century it became one of the most important glassworks in Britain. It manufactured sheet glass, including the panes for the Crystal Palace of 1851, window glass in different colours and optical glass including the lenses for lighthouses. Chances pioneered new ways of making glass and many of the images provide evidence of innovative practices. One 20th century example shows the welding of a cathode ray tube used for radar detection (number 9). Fire was a constant hazard and Chances created a fire brigade at the works in 1848 (number 4).
This exhibition and four associated ones explore the history and achievements of this glassworks:
Sections: [click on the images on the right to access each section]
1. Optical Department: Two Pot Furnace
2. Optical Department: Pot being set into a Furnace
3. Optical Department: Open Pots after Cooling
4. Works Fire Engine
5. Glory Hole (1852-54) for Crown Window Glass Production
6. Rectangular Chimney built for Glory Hole
7. Rectangular Chimney for Glory Hole and Circular Chimney
8. Globe Department: the Glass Blower
9. Globe Department: Welding a Cathode Ray Tube
10. Globe Department: Testing Radar or Cathode Ray Tubes
11. Stonemason’s Shop: Dressing a Rolled-plate Machine Sill
12. Stonemason’s Shop: Mason’s Shaping Refractories by Hand
13. Demolition of House Cone No 10 (1)
14. Demolition of House Cone No 10 (2)
15. Demolition of Glasshouses No 3, 8 and 12 (1)
16. Demolition of Glasshouses No 3, 8 and 12 (2)
17. The Last Cone No 12 built at Chance Brothers, Smethwick
18. Demolition of Glasshouses No 3, 8 and 12 (3)
19. Demolition of No 12 Glasshouse (1)
20. Demolition of No 12 Glasshouse (2)
21. Demolition of No 10 Glasshouse (1)
22. Demolition of No 10 Glasshouse (2)
23. Buildings Containing Furnaces
24. Back of No 6 Glasshouse
25. Warehouses and Globe Department
26. Buildings before Demolition
27. View of No 6 Glasshouse
28. View of Coal-feeding Hopper
29. Various Buildings at Chances Glassworks
30. Truncated Cone belonging to 1834 Pot Furnace
Sources and Further Reading
Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, 100 Years of British Glass Making 1824-1924 (Smethwick and Glasgow, Chance Brothers & Co., 1924).
Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, Typical Illustrations of the Lighthouse Work of Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, Smethwick, Birmingham, (Chance Brothers & Co., Limited, Smethwick, Birmingham, December 1919).
Chance, James Frederick, A History of the Firm of Chance Brothers and Co. (London, Spotiswoode, Ballantyne and Co Ltd, 1919).
Chance, James Frederick, The Lighthouse Work of Sir James Chance, Baronet (London, Smith Elder, 1902).
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