Hand-blown Domestic Glassware 07

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11. Technical Research

The question of technical research for the hand-blown section cannot really be considered separately from that for the glass industry as a whole. The firms in this section are comparatively small and have not the financial resources which would enable them to maintain their own individual research departments, nor even to maintain collectively a research department devoted solely to the problems concerned with their own products. They have, therefore, more to gain from collective research than some other sections of the glass industry, such as the flat glass and container sections, where there are large and wealthy units which maintain research organisations of considerable size.

The Working Party has considered it advisable to examine the situation in some detail and, although its terms of reference are limited to matters concerning the hand-blown section of the industry, it ventures to say what it thinks should be done to promote research for the industry as a whole.

Our investigations have come at a time when the provision for technical research in the industry is being reconsidered. There is clearly special need for such research. Progress in the selection and processing of raw materials, the design of furnaces, the choice and use of fuels, the development of new glass compositions, and in the processes of forming, annealing, finishing and decorating, depends on scientific investigation and control. The glass industry has long been conscious of this, and was one of the first to organise collective research.

The first steps were taken during the first world war, which found this country much behind Germany in the technology and production of glass. Scientific and technical help was given to the industry in several ways and through various channels during the war period. A scientific advisory committee set up by the University of Sheffield was called upon for advice and help by a number of glass manufacturers in the Yorkshire area, and to deal with these the Department of Glass Technology was established by the University in June, 1915, under Dr. W. E. S. Turner. It was made a separate department of the University in 1916, with Dr. Turner as its first Head, its functions being then extended to include the education and training of scientific personnel for the glass industry, in addition to carrying out research work and the investigation of day-to-day problems for the industry.

In 1920 the Glass Research Association was formed with Headquarters in London, but this Association ceased to exist after the initial five-year period.

A certain amount of research on glass was and is still being carried out by the British Scientific Instrument Research Association, mainly in connection with optical glass and other glasses needed for scientific instruments. The Department of Glass Technology is, however, the only co-operative research organisation in the country exclusively devoted to the study of glass and the problems of glass manufacture.


The Department of Glass Technology, housed in a University-owned building, is governed by a Board of Management known as the Glass Delegacy, responsible direct to the University Council. The Delegacy consists of representatives of

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the University, of the firms in the industry subscribing to its maintenance, of organisations interested in glass manufacture, and of certain educational and other bodies. The three functions of the Department are :—

  1. As a Department of the University, to provide education and training for those proposing to go into the glass industry.
  2. To assist the industry in its day-to-day problems, and
  3. To carry out fundamental research into glass and glass manufacture.

The finance of the Department of Glass Technology is ultimately subject to the University Council. The annual income includes about £3,000 from the University, £500 from the West Riding County Council, and £50 each from the Yorkshire Glass Manufacturers’ Association and the Society of Glass Technology. Its main part comes, however, from subscriptions from the firms in the industry, which have in recent years mounted to about £9,000 annually. Each con­tributing firm is entitled :—

  1. To consult the Department on any matters concerning glass production, ranging from refractory problems, furnace construction, furnace operation and efficiency, to glass batches and imperfections in finished glass whether existing as defects in the glass itself or imperfections arising from faulty methods of manipulation.
  2. To have all the reports on researches carried out by members of the staff of the Department apart from those initiated at the request of, and carried out at the cost of, an individual member.
  3. To ask the Department to carry out an investigation on any problem which it submits, and to have exclusive information of the results of the investigation, provided it pays all the cost.
  4. To be kept in contact with the Department by correspondence and by visits of members of its staff to the Department, or of members of the staff of the Department to its works.

It is understood that the Department hopes to arrange as soon as possible for members of the staff to visit all the works in the industry at regular intervals, preferably not less than twice a year. A firm can now call for a visit from a member of the staff at any time to discuss an urgent problem. The cost of such visits is charged to the manufacturer.

The income of the Department, about £12,500 per annum, is not large, and even if it were all devoted to the provision of technical assistance and research the amount would be small for an industry of such size and importance. The gross output of the glass industry in 1935 was £17,209,000, and must now be in excess of £25,000,000. The income given above has, however, to cover the cost of the educational side of the Department — which may reasonably be assumed to absorb about a third of it — in addition to paying for technical help and research.

At present no direct Government grant is made for research in glass. The normal manner in which technical research for industry is subsidised by the Government is through a grant made by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The glass industry was one of the first to receive such a grant: in 1916, £1,500 was allocated to the Department of Glass Technology for equipment, and £1,200 a year for five years for expenses.

The D.S.I.R. has power to assist co-operative industrial research by grants to research organisations constituted in accordance with the scheme for research

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associations. The Department of Glass Technology was, however, set up before the Research Associations Scheme was formulated, and its constitution as a University Department does not conform with that scheme, although its organisation and functions are closely similar to those of a research association. For this reason the Department has not received grants from the D.S.I.R. under the Research Associations Scheme, except that from 1919 to 1924 the Delegacy received through the Glass Research Association £13,624 for specific researches, and a grant of £1,875 from the D.S.I.R. in 1925.

Negotiations have been entered upon on two or three occasions with the object of obtaining contributions towards the work of the Department from the D.S.I.R., but without success, the difficulty being that its constitution does not conform to the type laid down as making a body eligible for such grants.

The organisation and functions of the Department, as has already been mentioned, are closely similar to those of a research association, the main difference being that the Department is constituted as a Department of a University and includes educational work in addition to its research association activities. Since, however, no scientific or technological training in glass and glass production is given by any other educational organisation in the country, there is a clear need for the educational activities of the Department, a need greatly stressed by the industry when the formation of the Department was first mooted. It may be interpolated here that although technological education for the engineering and other industriea has been provided by universities and technical colleges for many decades, such training for the glass industry has been available only in the Department. The value of the educational work, to which the other scientific and technological departments of the University contribute, is greatly enhanced by the close contact which is main­tained with the industry through the other activities of the Department, and the long-date researches carried out by post-graduate workers in the Department ensure that its activities are not entirely occupied in the solution of day-to-day problems and in short-date investigations.

Whilst the present arrangements have proved of great benefit to all sections of the glass industry, we consider that the industry will best be served for technical research by the setting up of a research association associated with, but not identified with, the University Department of Glass Technology and having its own separate staff and financial provision. The advantages of having a staff concentrating on research for the industry are clear. Freed from the responsibility of University work, they would be able to devote their whole time to the study of the industry and the solution of its problems, and would be able to acquire more intimate knowledge of its processes by frequent works visits and by contact with technologists and others working in the industry. The formation of a research association would make available financial support in the form of an annual grant from the D.S.I.R., the amount of which would be conditioned by the amount of the contribution from the industry.

The size which the research unit should be, and the amount of money which should be raised for its maintenance, will have to be considered with full regard to the needs of the industry, but it would appear that an annual income of at least £25,000 should be aimed at for the moment, increasing to at least £50,000 within the next five years. The manner in which the contribution from the industry is to be raised would, again, be the subject of negotiation between the D.S.I.R. and the industry.

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Some large units, notably in the flat glass and automatic machine-made divisions, already maintain extensive research organisations and are not so dependent on or perhaps so likely to use the research association as other sections, such as the hand-blown and hand-pressed divisions, but it should be possible to determine by agreement the just contributions from the firms in the various branches of the industry.

Provided that the consent of the University authorities can be obtained, we see no reason why the formation of a research association need involve a transfer of its work in the initial stages from the excellent buildings in which the Department of Glass Technology is at present housed. These buildings, which we have inspected, are of up-to-date design and construction, having been completed in 1939. They were acquired and extended largely through a fund of £35,000 raised by the industry. Private individuals and interested bodies also provided donations for special purposes in connection with their construction and equipment. The buildings should be able to accommodate, for a time, both the teaching faculty and the research association. Ample ground is available for necessary extensions which have already been planned by the University; such extensions might possibly be carried out at the expense of the research association provided that the University were prepared to lease the land for this purpose. The D.S.I.R. is prepared to make grants towards the erection of new buildings for research associations, and its aid can be invoked when extensions are necessary. Sheffield provides a sufficiently central position for a research association for the glass industry as a whole.

Much of the equipment of the Department of Glass Technology might be used jointly by the Department and by the research association, until such time as the association could, or found it necessary to, provide similar equipment for its own use. The annual income which we have suggested for the research association should be sufficient to provide for the maintenance of adequate staff and also for the purchase of the equipment necessary for the work which it has to carry out.

The staffing of the research association might, in the first instance, present some difficulty, owing to the shortage of trained scientists and technical workers. The duties of the Director of Research could at first be combined with those of the Professor of Glass Technology. With the extension of the work of the research association which we envisage, this can, however, be a temporary arrangement only, and we think that a full-time Director of Research should be appointed as soon as possible to devote his whole time to the work of the association. Much care will be needed in the selection of a Director. He will have to be capable not only of running the association efficiently, but also of maintaining good relations with the Head of the Department of Glass Technology. The remainder of the staff should from the beginning be appointed to work full-time for the association. There is, however, no reason why they should not from time to time lend a hand to the Department of Glass Technology as by giving short courses of lectures to the students in special subjects.


The technical research carried out in the Department of Glass Technology has hitherto been concentrated in the main on investigations concerning the nature and production of glasses. An important field of investigation has so

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far remained almost entirely unexplored, namely, development of new types of machinery and equipment for the glass industry. The whole industry, apart from the flat glass section, is dependent largely on foreign sources for glass-forming machines. The creation of a Machinery Research Section is one to which the research association should give early attention. We understand that plans have already been proposed by the University for a building extension for the housing of a Machinery Section. The primary task of this section would be the development of new plant and equipment for the industry, but an important feature would be the testing of new plant, whether of home or foreign design. Grants could also be made to factories, to enable them to acquire new plant for test, the results of the trials to be available to the industry as a whole. We believe that the hand-blown section of the industry has much to gain from the establishment of such a section. The development of mechanical aids, enabling hand processes to be assisted or replaced by mechanical processes giving results as good or even better, is one of the most urgent needs of this part of the industry, without which the necessary expansion of production cannot be achieved.


The small size of the units in the hand-blown industry does not permit of much provision being made for research in the factory. We are, however, pleased to observe that, despite the limited facilities available, a certain amount of useful work is taking place. Experiments are being carried out with new types of furnaces for melting lead glass. The development of machinery is also under consideration and test, as well as new methods of manipulation. With the acquisition of more technically trained staff in the factories, such develop­ment should be hastened.

The formation of a new trade association comprising all the firms in the hand-blown section of the industry would enable more research work to be done on co-operative lines in the factories themselves on their own special problems.

  1. That consideration should be given by the glass industry to the expansion of technical research for the whole industry by the setting up of a glass research association having the support of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
  2. That the University of Sheffield should be asked to consider the possibility of permitting this research association to be established initially in the existing buildings of the Department of Glass Technology at Sheffield, and to consider also the possibility of leasing some of the land belonging to the University behind and adjacent to the present building, for the erection of new laboratories, etc., as the work of the association develops.
  3. That the research association should be provided with a staff separate from that of the Department of Glass Technology, although for a time the position of Director of Research of the association might usefully be held by the Head of the Department.
  4. That the contribution from the glass industry to the research association should be sufficient to provide it initially with an annual income, including the contribution from the D.S.I.R., of at least £25,000.
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  1. That the annual income of the research association should be increased as quickly as possible, and within a period of, at most, five years, to about £50,000, in order to enable a Machinery Research and Development Section to be created.
  2. That the hand-blown section of the industry should make every effort to develop and extend technical research work in its own factories.

NOTE. — Whilst agreeing wholeheartedly with the view that enlarged facilities for co-operative research into glass and glass manufacture are urgently desirable, Professor H. Moore does not concur fully with the suggestion that the setting up of a Glass Research Association is essential in order to provide these enlarged facilities. In his view the existing Glass Department at Sheffield, if properly staffed and financed, could make adequate provision for these additional research needs.

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12. Trade Organisations

The firms in this industry have always been of a strongly individualistic character, and consequently reluctant to co-operate. This has been almost inevitable from their character as, for the most part, old established family businesses. Conditions have, therefore, been unfavourable to the really effective working of trade associations.

In the middle and latter part of the last century there was an association of flint glass manufacturers, then largely concentrated in the Stourbridge area, but by the turn of the century the association had ceased to function. It had been founded at a time when the industry was prosperous, but it ceased to exist when competition of cheap goods from the Continent had developed strongly and the industry had fallen on bad times.

In 1915 the Association was re-formed under the name of the British Flint Glass Manufacturers’ Association. The membership rose at one time to 25, but firms went out of business one by one, and when the Association was wound up about 1941 the membership had dwindled to six or seven, of whom two were relatively new firms.

The manufacturers are now organised in two separate trade associations, the Stourbridge Glass Manufacturers’ Association which covers the Stourbridge industry only, and the Glass Manufacturers’ Federation which covers the whole glass industry with the exception of flat glass.


The Association was established in 1943. All but one of the firms in the Stourbridge area now belong to it; none of those outside the area are members. There is an independent Chairman and an independent Secretary; the Chairman is also Director of the Glass Manufacturers’ Federation.

The objects of the Association are to deal with all questions regarding legislation which may affect the industry, to deal with the relations between the industry and Government Departments and other bodies, including other employers’ organisations in the glass industry, with relations between employers and employees, including co-operation with a joint industrial council for the industry, with terms of trading both domestic and export, and any other matters directly or indirectly affecting the interests of members. Since its inception the Association has been actively engaged on all these questions with perhaps the exception of terms of trading; some attempts have indeed been made to fix prices, but so far without much success as the range of articles produced is so diverse. Agreement has, however, been reached from time to time on uniform percentage increases on pre-war prices to meet increases in costs of production and distribution.

The Association has been in existence for four years only, during which time it has displayed considerable activity. Much of its work has necessarily been negotiation on behalf of its members with Government Departments, especially the Board of Trade. The more important subjects dealt with have been the control on the production and supply of domestic and fancy glassware imposed by the Miscellaneous Goods (Prohibition of Manufacture and Supply) Orders made by the Board of Trade, the supply of raw materials, fuel and labour and the

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development of exports. The Association makes a point of seeking the views of those firms who are not members and keeping them informed of develop­ments.

Perhaps the most important of the Association’s activities have been in the field of labour relations. All the negotiations between its members and the glassmakers’ and the decorators’ unions on wages and working conditions have been conducted through the Joint Consultative Council for the industry, on which all three bodies are represented. It is, however, in this field that the lack of full membership of the employers has (as has been pointed out in Chapter 6), been most seriously felt. The agreements on wages and working conditions negotiated with the unions have been binding on the members of the Association only; manufacturers not in the Association have been able to accept or reject the agreements as they chose.


The Federation is not, as its name implies, a federation of trade associations, but a single trade association covering the whole glass industry with the exception of fiat glass, although there is a tendency for it to develop as a co-ordinating medium for the various sectional associations in the industry. It has been in existence for the past twenty-one years. It started as an association of container firms only, but its scope has gradually widened. It now includes amongst its members, who number about 100, almost all the firms in the glass industry apart from flat glass; only two firms in the hand-blown section are not members. Firms ancillary to the glass industry can join as associate members; there are at present 37 such members.

The objects of the Federation cover the usual range of trade association activities. It does not, however, deal with labour questions or with prices, which fall to independent sectional organisations such as the Stourbridge Glass Manufacturers’ Association, although when negotiations are held on these subjects with outside bodies such as Government Departments it may be called on to represent the whole or a section of the industry.

The Federation has made provision in its constitution for the association of members concerned with any one section of the industry in a group to deal with matters affecting that section. The Glass Manufacturers’ Federation has done much useful work on behalf of the industry and has represented it efficiently in negotiation with Government Departments and other bodies. At present membership and finance come largely from the container section of the industry, but as the domestic and illuminating ware and other branches of the industry extend, a better balance may be established.


Throughout the meetings of the Working Party there has been constant and unremitting reference to the urgent necessity for the formation of a trade associa­tion of which all firms in the hand-blown domestic glassware industry would be members. Whether our discussions were concerned with questions of labour, manufacturing or marketing, it has been emphasised repeatedly that one of the most important steps which could be taken for the good of all in the industry

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would be to establish a comprehensive organisation where any matters affect in the industry could be discussed and decisions could be taken. Our Trade Union members, when they stressed the essential need for co-operation between employer and worker, made it clear that this could not be satisfactorily achieved unless and until unity and harmony existed between the manufacturers outside and inside the Association.

We strongly urge the manufacturers to make a most determined effort to establish at the earliest possible moment a fully representative trade association. Largely as the result of action taken by the Working Party in bringing manu­facturers together to discuss this subject, negotiations are, we understand, at present being conducted with a view to the formation of such an association. We earnestly hope that they will be successful. Indeed, if such an association be not formed, a substantial proportion of the recommendations of this report cannot be carried out. When such an association is in fact established it will be possible to reconstitute also the Joint Consultative Council to make it fully representative of the industry, and valuable results in the field of labour relations should follow. At present only the manufacturers who are members of the Association are represented on the Council.

We do not consider the present trade association structure in the glass industry as a whole to be satisfactory, and are of the opinion that an examination should take place of the relations between the various organisations which now exist to serve the industry. At present firms in the hand-blown section can be, and are, members of two associations. It would seem to us better that this and other sections of the industry should each have its own association, and that such associations should be federated in an organisation representing the whole glass industry. Such a structure, whilst allowing each association to maintain its independence, would provide means for consolidation and co-operation on questions which concerned the industry as a whole.

In accordance with our terms of reference we have in this report made recommendations designed, we think, to improve organisation, production and marketing within the industry. The greater part of these recommendations will fall to the industry itself to carry out. We have considered, too, whether we should also recommend the setting up of a continuing body, a development council constituted and functioning as proposed in the Industrial Organisation Bill at present before Parliament. We have decided against such a body. We are dealing here with a small industry which threatens to be overburdened with organisations all making demands on its very limited financial and other resources, including two trade associations, a joint industrial council, a research association, a design centre, and a design research and training centre at Edinburgh. Moreover the industry, which is itself but part of a part of the glass industry, is in no position to carry out alone many of the functions which are to be assigned to development councils. For example, we have found it necessary to direct our recommendations for expanded facilities for technical research and the improvement of design to the glass industry as a whole.

We believe that those of our recommendations which are for the industry itself to implement can be dealt with successfully by the fully representative trade association which we trust will be established very shortly, and by the fully representative joint industrial council whose formation should auto­matically follow that of the new trade association.

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  1. That a fully representative trade association should be set up at an early date to supersede the existing one, followed by the reconstitution of the Joint Consultative Council, so as to make it cover the whole of the hand-blown domestic glassware industry.
  2. That those of our recommendations which are for the industry itself to carry out should be the concern of the new trade association acting, where working conditions, welfare and other matters usually dealt with by joint industrial councils are involved, in consultation with the Joint Consultative Council for the industry.
  3. That an examination should take place of existing trade organisation in the whole glass industry for the purpose of achieving an improved structure.