Royal Brierley Glass

Royal Brierley Glass

Royal Brierley Glass

from the Glass Encyclopedia

Royal Brierley glass decanter
Royal Brierley crystal
Ships Decanter, a
typical cut crystal
Royal Brierley design

Stevens & Williams logo
above: logo used by
Stevens & Williams

Keith Murray decanter
above: decanter 1930s
designer Keith Murray
for Stevens & Williams

Royal Brierley Crystal logo
above: logo used by
Stevens & Williams for
Royal Brierley Crystal

Royal Brierley Glass: A short explanation

Royal Brierley was a name used by Stevens & Williams Ltd. a glass company in Brierley Hill, near Stourbridge in the English Midlands. A strong case can be made that they have existed for over 360 years if we accept that there have been changes of ownership and moving to nearby premises (never very far). The name Stevens and Williams Limited was established in 1847 and was used at least until the end of 1967, when it was abandoned. Royal Brierley Crystal was used for some of the company's glass from 1919 onwards, the date when George 5th awarded them a Royal Warrant. It became the company's name in 1968. A very brief potted history can be found below.

Royal Brierley Glass:

The glassworks which became Royal Brierley glass was making cut flint (crystal) glass and plain crystal for supply to specialist glass cutters as early as 1804 and probably from the 1770s. They also made coloured window glass for stained glass windows. In the 1880s they were producing high quality cut crystal glass which was termed "Rock Crystal" (as did other firms in the area).

Innovations in coloured glass became popular in the 1870s, and in the Stourbridge area cameo work became a speciality, led by John Northwood who undertook commissions for several glassworks including Stevens and Williams. In 1880 Frederick Carder, then aged 17, joined Stevens and Williams in their design section. John Northwood became "artist manager" in 1882 and the company produced several innovative and beautiful types of coloured glass, as well as their traditional cut and engraved crystal.

John Northwood's eldest son, Harry Northwood, left England in 1881 to work in the glass industry in America, and eventually to found his successful glass companies there. John Northwood continued to work for Stevens and Williams until he died in 1902, and a year later Frederick Carter left for America and subsequent fame. John Northwood II continued the innovative successes at Stevens and Williams, with Joshua Hodgetts as master craftsman.

The early 19th century was a time of change in the glass industry. There was a demand for attractive mass-produced glass, foreign imports competed strongly with local glassworks, and the design tastes of the art deco era were quite different from traditional Victorian art glass. Again Stevens and Williams led the way in design, by appointing the New Zealand architect Keith Murray in 1932 to produce some very modern designs, like the decanter shown on the left. Keith Murray's designs were given extensive promotion via advertising and displays; this decanter was shown in a whole page advertisement (September 1932) under the heading "MODERN ENGLISH GLASS Designed by Keith Murray and executed at STEVENS & WILLIAMS LTD at BRIERLEY HILL STAFFS". Throughout its history, from the earliest records until the present day (2004), the company made traditional cut crystal glass of the highest quality alongside their other designs.

Brief History:
Jeremiah Bague's Glassworks was operating in Brettell Lane, Audnam (just South of Brierley Hill) in the 1640s and probably earlier (see Jason Ellis "Glassmakers of Stourbridge" p. 108). It was passed on within the Bague family but in 1698 Jeremiah Bague II was declared bankrupt (largely as a result of the crippling emergency tax on glass introduced in 1695) and shortly afterwards Thomas Hamond took over along with Jeremiah Bague III. When Thomas Hamond died in 1743 he left Bague's Glassworks to his son in law, Robert Honeyborne, and his granddaughter Mary Honeyborne. Because the glassworks was getting very old and was built on leased land, Robert and Mary decided to build a new glassworks at Moor Lane, Brierley Hill. The old Bague's Glassworks became a pottery and by the 1760s the Honeybornes were manufacturing glass at Moor Lane, the glassworks which eventually became Stevens and Williams. The company dates its origins to 1776.

The Honeyborne family continued to operate the Moor Lane glassworks until 1824 when it was leased to Joseph Silvers and Joseph Stevens (brothers-in-law). It was then passed on in the Silvers/Stevens family to Samual Cox Williams and William Stevens (son of Joseph Stevens) both of whom were married to daughers of Joseph Silvers. They formed Stevens and Williams Ltd. in 1847 and in 1870 built a new glassworks at North Street, Brierley Hill very close to the Moor Lane glassworks (which was demolished shortly afterwards). This glassworks continued to be run by descendants of Joseph Silvers until 1999, when it was sold to Epsom Enterprises but went into receivership in 2000. In 2002 Royal Brierley Crystal Ltd. started up again in new premises in Tipton Road, Dudley, employing just a handful of skilled glassworkers and making very high quality studio glass. The little irridized pot shown below on the left is an example of their work.

Summarizing this short history, there were three discontinuities in ownership, in 1702 when the Hamonds/Honeybornes took over from the Bagues, in 1824 when the Silvers/Stevens/Williams family took over from the Honeybornes, and in 2002 when Tim Westbrook took over. And there were three changes of location, in the 1770s, again in 1870, and in 2002.

If you are looking for Royal Brierley Glass, you can usually find a few items on ebay - click here to see if there are any Royal Brierley Glass listings currently offered for sale on ebay.

Royal Brierley logo
above:Royal Brierley
studio glass logo.

Royal Brierley Glass bowl
above:Iridized glass
by New Royal Brierley.

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References and Further Reading

Any book on British Glass will have some information on Stevens and Williams Ltd and their Royal Brierley glass. The following books are especially useful. Jason Ellis's book on the Glassmakers of Stourbridge is the most detailed. Jason spent 20 years researching for this book, which takes each glassworks in turn and gives its comprehensive history. Anyone writing about glass from the Stourbridge area needs this book as a reference. Charles Hajdamach's book is another excellent book which focuses on the glass itself and has information on how and when it was made with wonderful pictures. Lesley Jackson's book covers the glassmaking companies, with a good account of many glassworks not covered in detail in other books (including Stevens and Williams). Click on the titles or the bookcovers below to read more:

1: Glassmakers of Stourbridge and Dudley 1612-2002, by Jason Ellis, (2002).
2: British Glass 1800-1914, by Charles R. Hajdamach, (1991).
3: 20th Century Factory Glass by Lesley Jackson (May 2000).
4: British Glass Between the Wars by Roger Dodsworth, (1987).

Click on the book covers below to read more about these books.

Glassmakers of Stourbridge British glass book Arwas glass book 20th Century glass book

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