Nailsea Glassworks


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 47677 70843, ST 47823 70893

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. HISTORY 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 included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Thomas, M, The Nailsea Glassworks, (1987), 27
Thomas, M, The Nailsea Glassworks, (1987), 20
Thomas, M, The Nailsea Glassworks, (1987), 12
Thomas, M, The Nailsea Glassworks, (1987), 4-11
Thomas, M, The Nailsea Glassworks, (1987), 16-17
Undated note accompanying excav info, Bowen, Trevor, Nailsea Glassworks,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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