Whitefriars Glass was a glass manufacturer until it closed down in 1980. The company was originally known as James Powell & Sons.
James Powell & Sons was a notable British glassworks manufacturer. The company’s history started in 1834 when a London wine trader by the name of James Powell bought a factory to help his three sons earn a living.
At the start the Powells were not knowledgeable about glass making, but over time by a matter of necessity they learned the technology and processes behind it. In the beginning, they focused on the manufacture of church stained glass windows.
During the late 19th century, the company forged close ties with highly regarded designers and architects such as Philip Webb, James Doyle, T G Jackson, William De Morgan, and Edward Burne Jones. Also in the mid 1850s James Powell & Sons began to manufacture and design domestic table glass.
Harry James Powell, a grandson of James Powell joined the company in 1875. He studied chemistry in Oxford and introduced several processes in the company's factory. During his work with James Powell & Sons, Henry was able to develop several innovations, one of which is heat resistant scientific glass.
The company changed its name to Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd in 1919. During World War II, production in the factory halted.
By 1951, Whitefriars’ operations were starting to pick up again. In the mid 1960s, Geoffrey Baxter a designer of the company began developing glass products that reflected the "mood" of the period. Out of his experiments came the Textured range, which was sold initially in three colors, willow, indigo, and cinnamon.
In 1963, the company once again changed its name to Whitefriars Glass Ltd and also adapted a new logo. During the late 1960s Whitefriars also released the short-lived Studio Ranges.
The 1970s proved to be tough for the company especially when Zeal, its parent company started sourcing their industrial tubing requirements from American-owned Corning. Still during this period, Whitefriars was still able to releases a new glass line, Glacier. Still business continued to decline and in 1980 the company permanently closed down.
Glassworks produced by Whitefriars included wine glasses, vases, bowls, decanters, paperweights, tumblers, goblets, beakers, and plates. Many of the company’s products are now considered to be collectible items.
Labels and marks
Only a few Whitefriars products were marked or labelled. The Studio Range of Peter Wheeler which was introduced in 1969 is the only glass line of the company that was regularly marked. Whitefriars used paper labels from 1870 to 1923. From 1940 to around 1950, they utilized round paper labels that were marked with the characters, “POWELL’S WHITEFRIAR'S GLASS.”
In the 1940s, they also started using a paper label that showed a picture of a friar. Its edges were stamped with the wording, “WHITEFRIARS CRYSTAL.”
From the year 1950 to about 1963, the company began using a paper label that featured a friar and the characters,”WHITEFRIARS CRYSTAL MADE IN ENGLAND.”
By 1963 to approximately 1979, they redesigned their label to one that only showed the wording, “WHITEFRIARS HAND-MADE CRYSTAL.”
Products that were for export also had different labels and markings. Prior to 1963, for export Whitefriars glass works carried a blue metallic label. The company also used several labels that showed the Union Jack flag.
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