Chance Britannia advert

above: advertisement
for Britannia glass
by Chance



below: "Grantleigh"
pattern candlestick
by Chance c. 1980





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Chance Glass from
The Glass Encyclopedia

A short explanation of Chance Glass:

Chance Brothers was founded by Robert Lucas Chance in the early 19th century. His family were successful entrepreneurs and industrialists, and he had been sent as a young man in 1810 to turn around the ailing Nailsea Glassworks. Having succeeded there he then set up his own glass merchants establishment in London before buying the British Crown Glass Company's glassworks in Smethwick in May 1824 and going on to found Chance Brothers and Company on that site.

Chance Brothers in the 19th century made glass for industrial purposes. It specialised in plain and patterned sheet glass and glass tubing. This company made the window glass for the Houses of Parliament in the late 1850s and for the huge Crystal Palace which was built of glass in 1851 to house the Great Exhibition.

Chance Brothers were fortunate in recruiting James Timmins Chance to the company in the 1830s. He was an engineering genius who was regularly consulted by the Astronomer Royal and by Michael Faraday on problems with lenses and prisms. Chance Brothers founded the optical glass industry in the UK and built lighthouses for export all around the world. The company was an engineering manufacturer as well as glassworks, and the only part of the lighthouses it did not make was said to be the stone.

They started producing domestic glassware after the first world war, at a time when they were still renowned for their engineering as well as glass.

In 1929 Chance produced Orlak heat resistant glassware, a rival to Pyrex. But they sold the patent to Joblings just a few years later in 1933. The Company then moved into pressed glass with a design called "Spiderweb" which it had commissioned from Robert Goodden and which was exhibited in 1935. A range of slumped glass designs using textured sheet (window) glass, which they called "Aqualux" was introduced in 1939, but during the war the company did not make domestic glassware.

Pilkington Brothers became involved with Chance glass in the 1930s and during the war (1939 - 44) a replica of the Smethwick works optical glass operation was set up at the St Helens glassworks. The reason for this move was to protect this vital industry from destruction by bombing. In 1945 Pilkington's owned 50% of the shares in Chance Brothers and by 1953 they had taken over full control.

After the war more pressed glass designs were added to the Chance Glass range, which continued until a slump in overseas sales combined with cheap imports coming into the home market caused the pressed glass operation to close in 1953. Meantime the "Aqualux" concept had been reintroduced after the war and domestic glassware based on slumped designs was carried over into the launch of the Fiesta range in 1951 at the Ideal Homes Exhibition. Fiesta glass was thinner than Aqualux, and transfer-printed or screen-printed with contemporary designs which proved very popular. New designs were introduced regularly over the next 30 years, with a full dinner service called "Swirl" being introduced in 1955 and two designs by Michael Harris (of Mdina Glass and Isle of Wight Glass) in 1959 (Calypto) and 1965 (Anemone). Another very popular design introduced in the 1950s was the slumped glass handkerchief vase printed in many different colours and designs.

In 1981 the Smethwick glassworks was closed and the Chance company was liquidated. The Fiesta tableware division was sold to a company called Midlands Sandblast, that operated as Fiesta Glass until about 2000. In 1992 Pilkingtons sold the Chance name and logo and the former Chance factory at Malvern to the management, and it continues to operate calling itself Chance Glass Ltd and specialising in industrial and laboratory glass products.



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References and Further Reading


British glass book 20th Century glass book 20th Century glass Millers 20th Century glass



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