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Bristol Blue Glass

Bristol Blue Glass is world famous. The working factory located in Brislington is open 7 days a week with free entry after 4.00pm. Daytime tours, evening displays and offsite talks, special tours for groups and schools are available. Demonstrations of glass blowing are held with audio-commentary, there is a glass museum, a public viewing gallery, hands-on activities and of course a wide selection of glass for purchase. The manufacturing process is explained from start to finish from gathering the molten glass on the end of a pre-heated blow pipe, to shaping and blowing, adding the pontil, tapping off and finally cooling off in a lehr before being inspected for quality prior to sale. A wide range of engraving is available from the highly skilled in-house engravers to personalise your choice of glass.

Glass making dates back over 4000 years. The ancient Egyptians were proficient glassmakers and used metals and metallic oxides to colour glass. The Phoenicians discovered how to blow glass, this was learnt by the Romans and they brought glassmaking to Bristol. The city soon became one of the most important glassmaking centres in Europe and by the late eighteenth century there were around twenty glassmaking firms in Bristol. Glassmaking tools have remained the same for around 2000 years. The metal tools are all made by specialist blacksmith toolmakers and the wooden tools are made by the glassmakers themselves.

During the late 1700s Richard Champion, a Bristol merchant and potter making porcelain, was working with a chemist, William Cookworthy. Cookworthy began a search for good quality cobalt oxide to give the beautiful blue glaze decoration on the milky white porcelain and obtained exclusive import rights to all the cobalt oxide from the Royal Saxon Cobalt Works in Saxony. Nobody is quite sure when Bristol Blue Glass was first made but the quality and beauty of the glass swiftly gained popularity. Lazurus and Isaac Jacobs were the most famous makers of Bristol Blue Glass in the 1780s and their company held a royal warrant and were making glass for the aristocrats of Europe. Bristolís glass makers were invited to demonstrate their skills at the Great Exhibition of 1851, opened by Victoria and Albert, and Ruby Glass was made for the very first time. They used 24 carat gold to give the glass its ruby red tones. The Exmoor Cranberry rose tinted range, developed by James Adlington, is also made by adding gold to the molten glass. Shortly after glassmaking in the city began to decline due to economic recession and the glasshouses began to close and in 1922 the last one closed its doors.

The art of engraving glass can be traced back as far as the early Egyptian civilisation and was widely used during Roman times. By the 1700s engraving techniques had become highly developed. Bristol, with its world class reputation for producing fine leaded crystal attracted the best of Europes engravers.

For most of the twentieth century there was little or no glassmaking in Bristol but in 1998 James Adlington revived Bristol Blue Glass. Today the glassmakers still make glass the way it was made over 300 years ago. Bristol Blue Glass is entirely freeblown and handmade, without the use of moulds and machinery, and each piece is unique and highly collectible.



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