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Colour images of lost glass and brick makers

By gavin jones  |  Posted: February 09, 2013

The White House cone in colour.

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WE'RE VERY lucky, in the 21st century, to still have such an iconic reminder of the Black Country's glass trade, in the form of Wordsley's Red House Cone and the museum built around it.

Though most of the glass trade has gone (with the notable exception of several small businesses still flying the flag on the Crystal Mile) the large scale production of glass will never be forgotten as long as the cone continues to dominate the Wordsley skyline.

And thanks to Harry Martin, who has sent us these photographs by email, we can remind ourselves of some of the remnants of the glass trade which have fallen by the wayside in recent decades. Harry is in the process of transferring all his old transparencies to digital files, and thought Bugle readers might like to see some of them.

Three of them are of Stuart Crystal when it was still very much a going concern, taken forty-five years ago in 1967.

One shows the survivor; the Red House Cone, but when it was still part of a working factory. Stuart Crystal's green and cream logo is in evidence just to the left of the entrance, and the yard looks spick and span. The second picture is of the not so lucky White House cone, which stood on the opposite side of the main road, near the brow of the hill. Originally the cone had been of similar stature to its near neighbour, but had its top removed in the nineteenthirties, before being completely demolished in 1979.

Much of the rest of the buildings in the photograph survived it, however.

Furnace The third picture, lit solely by the white hot glow of the furnace, is an almost abstract, but quite atmospheric image of a glass moulder at work.

The remaining two photographs were taken not too far away, at the old Clattershall Works on Meeting Lane, just off Brettell Lane, Brierley Hill. They were taken in March 1970 when, by the looks of the pictures, they were in the process of being demolished.

Kiln A round brick kiln is clearly shown in one picture. The Clattershall Works, once a huge concern judging by old maps, were part of Harris and Pearson's fireclay brick manufactory, and the map suggests there were at least 17 of these round kilns at one time. Many of the firebricks made in them, appropriately enough, were used to line kilns in the glass works just down the road.

According to Christopher Robinson, who wrote a piece on this area for the Bugle a couple of years ago, "the round kiln or downdraught kiln was at the cutting edge of the brick industry, and the capacity of a round kiln could be 20,000 bricks or more depending on their size.

“Today, continuously operated tunnel kilns have all but replaced these kilns, as they are automatically controlled and very efficient.

“The finest clays and coal were fed into the works over the canal using a tramway laid from the massive coal and clay laden area of Withymoor.

New uses “The most surprising thing about this former fireclay works is that so many buildings have found a new use, small fabrication shops and woodworking shops, timber suppliers, car spares and welding firms."

 Harry Martin told us: "I haven't been into Meeting Lane for at least thirty years, although I go past the end of it every time we go to Merry Hill. I used to call on a factory making chain, It might have been Sam Harris's."

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