Stourbridge, in the English West Midlands, is the center of fine glassmaking in England and is home to “The Crystal Mile”—where the best glassworks are found. It was here, in 1827, that an eleven year old boy, Frederick Stuart, was sent off to work. At the time, glass factories built large brick “cones”—tapered, oven-like structures, in which their glass and crystal were produced. Little Frederick worked in one called “The Red House Glass Works.” Little did Frederick know that one day he would own a successful glassmaking company bearing his name (Stuart and Sons), a firm which would lease (and one day purchase!) the very Red House cone in which Frederick’s little hands labored.
Over its long life, Stuart Glassworks made drinking glasses, decanters, footed bowls, cocktail sets and other serviceware for the well-appointed table. During World War II, they made lightbulbs for airplane landing strips and vacuum tubes for use in radar. Stuart Glass was known for its high quality and seemingly-endless range of patterns and styles—and they mastered the art of applying enamel decoration to their blown and hand-cut products. Stuart Glass even created special stemware and decanters—etched with the White Star emblem—for use on the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
In 1995, Waterford, the Irish crystal manufacturer, purchased Stuart Glass. In 2001, the company ceased production. Today one can tour the restored Red House Glass Works “cone” (one of the only such structures surviving) where one can learn about glassmaking and the history of the English crystal manufacturing trade.
The set of ten Stuart crystal wine glasses, shown above, were made in the optimistic 1950’s and are decorated with hand-cut ferns and a little “pearl necklace.”