Reasons for Designation
Glass has been produced in England since the Roman period, although field
evidence is scarce until the late medieval period. Wood was the main
manufacturing fuel up to the early 17th century, so the industry was located
in woodland areas, particularly the Weald. From about 1610, production shifted
to the coalfields.
Glass production requires three major components: silica, alkali and lime,
together with colouring material for certain products and decolourisers for
clear glass. Lead was also used in the production of certain types of glass
during the Roman period and after the 17th century. The manufacturing process
involves three stages, fritting, melting and annealing. Fritting was a common
practice before the 19th century involving heating the main glass constituents
to produce an unmolten material for grinding, melting and annealing. Melting
involved the remelting of previously formed glass, and the production of new
glass from raw materials. Until the late 19th century, glass was normally
melted in pre-fired crucibles of refractory clay, on stone benches called
sieges, within the melting furnace. Use of coal as the preferred fuel and
automatic bottle-making machinery in the 1880s led to changes to the melting
furnaces and the use of larger furnaces, hitherto conical structures over
circular furnaces. Regenerative furnaces were developed in the 1860s, and tank
furnaces for bulk melting quickly followed. Flat-glass production methods were
made obsolete by the Pilkington float-glass system of 1959. The third process
is annealing. Because the rapid cooling of molten glass can give rise to
internal stresses, glass was treated in furnaces designed to heat the glass to
a point where deformation begins, then cooled gradually. In the 19th century
conveyors were introduced to take glass through a hot zone into cool air.
Features on glass manufacturing sites include various types of furnaces,
producer-gas plants for the making of gas from coke at 19th century
glassworks, bottle-making machinery, blowing irons or pipes for blowing glass,
glass residues and various buildings used as stores or warehouses. A total of
135 glass production sites (representing about 25% of the estimated national
archaeological resource for the industry) have been identified as being of
national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed though a
comprehensive national survey of the glass industry, is designed to represent
the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional
diversity, and to include all the better preserved glass sites, together with
rare individual component features.
Despite being partially built over, much of the glassworks site at Nailsea
still has good archaeological potential, and survives well as buried remains
or standing buildings. The remainder has been fully recorded by excavation in
advance of redevelopment. It is a good representative of the late 18th and
early 19th century glass industry, and as such is important in a national
context in contributing to the understanding of the glass industry in
England. The extent and some of the elements of the works can still be traced
on the ground.
Nailsea Glassworks, established in 1788, prospered in the first fifty years
of its existence, and by 1835 had become the fourth largest glassworks in
Britain. The `New House' cone, built on the site shortly before 1828 and
demolished in 1905, is believed to be one of the last built in Britain, and
therefore represents the culmination of English cone design. The Science
Museum and Pilkington Glass have indicated that the swinging pits of Nailsea
are the only surviving examples in Britain of the process that produced glass
for the Crystal Palace.
The site is well-documented with detailed lists of wages, costs of production
and raw materials, glassmaking recipes and dimensions of furnaces. In
addition there are records of family relationships in the glassworks and
economic conditions of industrial workers in the late 18th and early 19th
centuries. Today, Nailsea is known worldwide for the decorative `latticino'
glass, although this type of glass was not in mass production at the works,
but rather was made by the individual glassblowers for personal satisfaction
or financial gain. The glassworks had a significant effect on settlement
pattern in the area; Nailsea was an agricultural community before the
establishment of the glassworks when it subsequently expanded. In addition,
the glassworks had a bearing on the topography of the present day town
including the establishment of a number of public houses used by the workers,
the foundation of an independent Chapel at Kingshill and the enlargement of
the Untied Reformed Church.
The monument includes a glassworks in the north east part of Nailsea. The
glassworks is now partially built-over, the remainder either surviving as
standing buildings, as ruined structures, or has been recorded and
subsequently altered or damaged. It lies within two areas of protection.
The original extent of the works form an area, aligned north east-south west,
extending for some 290m with the High Street to the north. The glassworks,
at its peak, had two cones, gas-fired furnaces, a square-based bottle cone
and an extensive range of works buildings including a six storey warehouse.
There were also houses for the workers and the manager.
By 1790, within two years of the establishment of the works, two glass cones
were built. These were the Round House kiln and the bottle kiln, the latter
being square in plan. Another kiln, called `New Cone', was built just before
1828. A sketch dated to 1835 shows a chemical stack and two cones, which
must be the Round House and New Cone since by then the old bottle kiln had
ceased production. By the early 1840s a new cone known as the `Lily Cone'
had been added, and glass flattening kilns for the production of sheet glass.
Later, provision was made for the production of plate glass. The French
kilns represent experiments carried out between 1870 and 1872 in gas-fired
kilns. Around the cones, which housed the furnaces, were a skirt of lean-to
buildings where the actual glass blowing was done, together with a vast range
of outbuildings and yards where there was storage space for raw materials as
well as facilities for cooling and cutting the glass, packing it in crates
made on the site, and housing for the horses and carts that transported the
glass. Window and bottle glass were the main products of the glassworks. The
so-called Nailsea Glass, which comprised domestic products with flecks of
colour known as the `latticino' effect, was never produced on a large-scale
commercial basis at Nailsea.
Those parts of the works surviving today exist either as buried remains or
standing buildings. The western end of the works is marked by a long narrow
building which originally housed the French kilns, and gas-fired furnaces.
This building still stands and became the Royal Oak Garage. The garage is
excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath it is included.
Excavations in this area in 2008 revealed that the archaeology associated
with glasswork remains undisturbed and includes evidence for further glass
working buildings as well as evidence of structures associated with the
alkali chemical works.
Immediately to the south of this was a gas retort, to the east is kiln No.1
(also called the Old kiln) together with the remains of ancillary works
buildings including a warehouse which was six storeys high. These structures
survive as ruined walls and buried remains in an area of waste ground. To
the east of this area is land which has been developed for the new ring road
and supermarket, and under it lay kiln No.2, `New House' cone, with more
ancillary buildings including swinging pits used by the glass blowers to draw
the glass out. This area was excavated in advance of building work in 1983
to 1985, and a record made of the archaeological remains. Some of these
structures remain intact beneath a car park. Also beneath the car park are
the remains of the Lily cone and the site of the bottle cone. Close to the
south edge of the the car park is a winding house which was associated with
the exploitation of coal supplies on the site, and is included in the
scheduling. This structure is a Listed Building Grade II.
To the north of the car park are two short rows of terraced houses, fronting
onto Woodview Terrace, which were built to house the workers, and are still
in use as dwellings. These are not included in the scheduling.
The Nailsea Glassworks was established by John Robert Lucas in 1788. Prior
to this he had leased an established glass works at Stanton Wick in Somerset,
and was a partner in the Limekiln Lane Glassworks in Bristol. The enterprise
at Nailsea was established on a new site, thought to have been chosen for its
proximity to the necessary raw materials for glass production: stone, lime,
sand, clay and especially coal supplies; Nailsea lies at the centre of a
small coalfield which is an outlier of the Bristol coalfield. Lucas took as
his partners his brother-in-law Henry Pater and William Coathupe.
This partnership was dissolved in March 1793, and Pater was replaced by
Edward Homer and William Chance, also brothers-in-law of Lucas. Lucas died
in 1828, and his son-in-law, Reginald Bean, took over his share in trust for
Lucas's two grandsons. A new partnership was established which puchased the
glassworks, buildings and premises and in 1844 the glassworks became known as
Coathupe and Co. In 1855 Isaac White took over the works, but during the
1850s a gradual decline set in and buildings fell into disrepair. In 1861
the works closed for several months, putting 200 men out of work, and Messrs
White & Co gave up their lease.
The decline was halted for a time by the dynamism of Samuel Bowen, who took
over the lease in 1862, but he was forced into bankruptcy, having tried to
undercut the assocation controlling the glass trade. The works might still
have survived, having been bought by Chance Brothers in 1870, but the failure
of the coal supply brought an end to the works, and in March 1874 they
finally closed. The land was offered for development in 1889, and again in
1905 when one of the cones was demolished in the hope of selling the bricks.
Neither attempt met with any success and the remains of this cone were
bulldozed and taken to Filton for hardcore after World War II. The site
became overgrown and ruinous, until interest was renewed in 1983 when Avon
County Council planned a new link road through the site and an excavation
took place. This revealed the base of the `New Cone', swinging pits, and the
cross passages for emptying the central furnace.
All fences and railings as well as the surface of the car park are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.