A brief history of the Gloucestershire Glasshouses

Elizabeth reigned 1558-1603 James reigned 1602-1625

The sign of the Glasshouse Inn, Taynton is a poignant reminder of the glass industry which once operated in the area. One of the earliest references to the Glasshouse is for the year 1598, when Sir Jeremy Bowes obtained letters patent, which said:

"In Gloucestershire one Houx, a Frenchman, hath built a glasshouse and furnace and doth make great quantities of glass".

The previously limited craft of glassmaking in England was opened up in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 by refugees from religious persecution in the Low Countries in the late 1560’s. By 1572, glassmaking houses had become established in the Weald where there was at that time a rich supply of non-resinous wood- Oak, Ash and Beech- for the fuelling of their furnaces.

Dwindling supplies of wood, coupled with the high transporting costs as well as local complaints, forced the Flemish glassmaking communities, settling where they could find wood, to move to Hampshire in 1576, and thence Westward, as recounted by Basil Marmont:

From Hampshire they migrated to Gloucestershire and here they appear to have divided into separate colonies, one settling on wooded common land at the foot of May Hill, near Newent, where the site is called ‘Glasshouse’ to this day, and the Newent registers, at the end of the 16th century, contain entries of the ‘Tyzaxcks, Voydyns’ etc described as ‘glass founders of the glass-houses’.”

Glassmaking became established here as well as at Windsoredge near Nailsworth and St Weanords near Hereford, as is attested by the fact that in 1592 Sir Jerome Bowes, who had obtained a monopoly patent for glassmaking by the Queen, complained that “certain persons have erected Houses and Furnaces for the making of ‘Drinking Glasses in the county of Gloucester’.

The rapid decline of woodland caused sufficient concern for an act to be passed in 1615 during the reign of James 1 forbidding the use of wood in glass furnaces. As a result many glassmakers moved to areas like Newcastle and the Forest of Dean to take advantage of the emergent coal industry. It is clear, however, that Newent glass continued to be manufactured, since Abraham Liscourt, tenant of a glassmaking business at Yartleton, near Newent, was one of those who opposed Sir Robert Mansell’s patent in 1621 for coal-fired glass manufacture. Liscourt is known to have later moved to Staffordshire, so it can be argued that the Mayhill glasshouse must have begun its decline from about that time.

Hostess “you will not pay for the glasses you have burnt?

Sly “ No, not a denier”

Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew