The Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers
 07596 418127

Our news

Annual Ravenscroft Lecture – 19th February 2024 – The Legacy of George Ravenscroft

The Company gathered at Glaziers Hall in February for the Annual Ravenscroft Lecture – “The Legacy of George Ravenscroft” This 2024 marks the 350th Anniversary since a group of Glass Sellers signed an agreement with Georges Ravenscroft.

Our presenter – Colin Brain a Chartered Mechanical Engineer. His interest in glass started in 1968. Having grown up in a world of scientific and engineering innovation he became increasingly dissatisfied with the published narratives on the development of British crystal glass. In the 1970s he set out to find out for himself.  Little did he realize how long this would take or how much fun and help we would have in the process.  He recently completed a four-year term as president of the Association for the History of Glass and writes and lectures on a variety of glass-history topics, particularly the development of British crystal glass in the 17th century.

This enlightening Lecture highlighted key points of the development of the Crystal Glass Industry in the United Kingdom and can be viewed on You Tube


1672, was a pivotal year in the development of crystal glass. 1642 had seen the closure of the only crystal glass factory in the United Kingdom. Twenty years later there were approximately thirty glasshouses producing flint and crystal glass and the industry was the envy of our continental rivals and would remain so for more than 200 years and more.

Stimulated by the publication of Merrett’s translation of Neri’s Art of Glass at the request of the newly formed – Royal Society (1662); and the establishment of The Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers of London, who received their Royal charter in 1664 enabled them to assume responsibility for drinking glass designs. Also, the decision by the King to allow saltpetre imported from India to be sold at public auctions removed the last barrier to the economic production of high-quality British flint glass (1672).

By the 1670s, the quality and value of English crystal drinking glasses was even acknowledged by the Venetian secretary in London.

During this time two significant patents were also given, the first a 7-year patent to George Ravenscroft to produce a ‘glass resembling rock crystal’, and the second an almost identical patent which was granted in Ireland to the Altarese glassmaker Jon Odacio Formica and two others, but for 14 years. We know that many Italian glassmakers played key roles in the development of our industry, and several worked for Ravenscroft in the 1670s.

Frequently, this area of study in historical glass has been dominated by attributions based solely on aesthetic appearance and an overemphasis on the singular figure of Ravenscroft.


Colin recently wrote just after the lecture…….

About a year ago I was invited to the Museum of London Archaeology to examine some glass finds from a site in Southwark.  The site was close to the Glaziers Hall.  My conclusion after viewing these was that the bulk of the material was dumped glass-making waste, contemporary with Ravenscroft, that probably originated from a ‘white’ glasshouse situated by what is now Southwark Cathedral.

What is exceptional about the finds is that they demonstrate that as well as the classic clear ‘flint’ glass, London glass makers and sellers were also making and selling world-class coloured and decorated glasses.  For example, filigree glass; opalescent glass; and representation of semi-precious stones.  It appears likely that the glass house concerned was one of those mentioned in Glass-sellers agreement no 6 (Young’s History 1913 p.70) of April 1678.  I have just heard that my conclusions have been accepted and I have been asked to participate in the newly authorised analysis project and the subsequent publications.  Given that there are about sixty pieces to be analysed and most are unique this looks like a significant challenge.  However, the work has the potential to illuminate a whole new perspective on the birth of British fine glass.  Is this something in which the Worshipful company would be interested?  If so can you please suggest a contact and maybe what kind of involvement you would like as the project unfolds?



Skip to content