During the early 19th century a remarkable structure developed in Britain – the glass cone. The conical building was designed to channel air into the furnace to make the fires burn hotter. It also provided a large work space for the glassmakers. Throughout Dudley and Stourbridge areas there were many cones, but the densest concentration was in Amblecote and Wordsley.
Even after technology advanced and the cones were no longer needed to act as chimneys, the buildings were still used for glassmaking until many eventually fell into disrepair, were demolished or simply collapsed. Today there are only four cones left standing in Britain and the Red House Glass Cone is the most complete example in Europe – the other three are located in Scotland, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield.
The Red House Glass Cone, which is 100ft high, was built around 1790. It was most recently home to Stuart Crystal who produced glass in the Cone until 1936. Production at their factory on the Cone site stopped in 2001 and the factory shop now closed. The Red House Glass Cone has remained virtually unaltered in its 200 year old history and is now operating as a visitor attraction providing a fascinating insight into the history and tradition of glassmaking.
The self-guided tour around the Cone, visitor centre and canal give visitors a taste of what the site was like at its peak. Standing inside the Cone, and looking up, shows its scale and gives visitors an impression of what it would have been like to work inside this impressive structure. With contemporary glassblowing and cutting on site, as well as studio tenants in all the Cone’s courtyard, the Cone continues to be a site of artistic design, innovation and history.
A Site Rich in Glass History
The Glasshouse site has an abundance of local history, heritage and a prestigious past. Once home to the glass greats, Webb Corbett and Royal Doulton, the site was purchased, by Ruskin Mill Land Trust, in 2001 with the objective of keeping the indigenous trade of the area alive, and to create a vibrant, craft-based environment for the transformation of the lives of the students of Glasshouse College. Two developments of existing buildings on the site have encouraged independent artists and crafts-people to locate themselves at the Glasshouse providing work experience opportunities for College students as well as developing their own arts and crafts.
Another important outcome of recent developments at the Glasshouse has been for a number of local crafts-people, that were historically employed in the glass trade, to be employed as tutors and support staff of the College and for them to work with the students of Glasshouse College imparting their knowledge and skills. This has meant that some of the local ‘glass masters’ have remained on site, including a third generation glass cutter.
Despite the richness of the information and artefacts in the Heritage Centre we are still in the process of piecing together the history of the site. We particularly want to capture the memories of local people to help us to piece together our exciting and interesting past and to add to the story. We realise that many of the key events and milestones that have happened are centred on the key individuals, teams or departments of the factories and organisations that once were.