Black Country pride; Howells Patent Glazing delve into the history of Black Country glass making

Here at Howells Patent Glazing, we’re a proud bunch; especially when it comes to our industrial history. Fabricating and manufacturing isn’t unusual in this area of the Midlands, and the team behind our 40 year old firm have decided to take a look into the history of the area, and our roots in the industry.

The Black Country is an area in the West Midlands generally agreed to include Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Walsall. However, there’s more to the Black Country than just the distinctive ‘Marmite’ accent.

Howells Patent Glazing, our industry trusted patent glazing and rooflight firm, are based in the heart of the Black Country. Industry roots date back to around the 17th century, coinciding with the discovery of an abundance of coal, iron ore and clay, making it an ideal location for the birth of industry in the Midlands. In the 1960’s, the Black Country was described as the best area for glass making in the country.

Tracey Jackson, our marketing manager here at Howells Patent Glazing said, “The Black Country has once again become an industry hive for most areas of manufacture. There are so many skilled people around here, who aren’t afraid of a little hard work, who make Midlands businesses so strong. We’re proud of who we are, and where we are from. Our family run firm have been based in Cradley Heath for over 40 years, and its heritage is important to us – It feels good to take a deeper look into the roots of glass making in this area”.

The development of the canal network meant that products and outputs were able to become larger as transport became easily accessible. The fruits of the local area became most relevant when the use of trees was banned in furnaces in 1615. An abundance of coal, silica and clay provided the ideal materials for glass making. Skills in the craft of glass making had to be acquired rapidly, and small scale glass makers became very popular.

Patent Glazing - The Crystal Palace

The Chance Brothers, a historic Black Country glassworks provided glass for the famous Crystal Palace building.

However, glass making on a much larger scale soon became possible. The Chance Brothers in Smethwick produced glass in such large quantities in the 19th century that it supplied the glass for the celebrated Crystal Palace. Other notable landmarks that have used Black Country glass are the windows in the Houses of Parliament, the glass used in the clock tower that houses Big Ben, and the Whitehouse in the USA.

With such rich history in the industry and glass making, it’s no surprise that the Black Country inspired the fabrication of systems to hold and support architectural glass. Long after the closure of the mines and the shutdown of steel mills and foundries, industry still survives in the West Midlands, albeit on a smaller scale.

Whilst we may not have been founded four centuries ago, our family team remain proud to have been born and raised in the Black Country. Innovation and hard work are the new resources mined in the Midlands, and show no signs of running out any time soon!


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