Whitefriars Glass Pottery Guide

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James Powell & Sons' (Whitefriars Glass) history can be traced back until at least 1720. Based in London, they produced a range of glass products. During the 19th century they were noted as producers of stained glass, popular in the Victorian age, and as time passed by they began to produce glass table wares as well. This became one of the mainstays of their output and Whitefriars always kept pace with the fashions of the day; they were technically and aesthetically innovative and gained a deserved reputation as a maker of quality and stylish glass wares.

Alongside these more decorative products, Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) always maintained various lines of glass products for scientific use, including thermometers and glass products designed for use at high temperatures.

In the early part of the 20th century, the company's name officially changed from James Powell & Sons to Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd and the period between the wars saw brought continued success for Whitefriars' domestic glassware ranges, not least with Art Deco-styled pieces, which were well-received as the Art Deco movement gained momentum in the 1920s and 30s.

The events of September 1939 and the resulting move of British industry to a war footing had a serious impact on Whitefriars, as it did on most other British companies who were manufacturing decorative products. Production was restricted by government policy to basic functional products only, and many Whitefriars staff departed to join the forces, some not to return.

Whitefriars Textured Glass Indigo Hobnail Nuts & Bolts Vase Designed by Geoffrey Baxter

The late 40s and early 50s were an austere era, and this was reflected in the fortunes of Whitefriars Glass. However, the 1951 Festival of Britain helped bring about a new sense of optimism, and the Whitefriars' fortunes improved as the 1950s progressed. They began to produce greater volumes of decorative glassware again, and launched several new designs, although none so radical as those which were to be launched a few years later.

In the early 1960s, Whitefriars had taken on Geoffrey Baxter, a graduate of the Royal School of Art and an enthusiastic and innovative designer. He began to experiment with new manufacturing techniques to create decorative glassware that would reflect the spirit of the swinging 60s - rather than the more austere and conservative 1950s. The result was a completely new range of wares - Geoffrey Baxter's textured range. Baxter had combined unusual shapes (and names) with innovative textures, creating pieces such as the banjo, the drunken bricklayer, the coffin vase, the hobnail vase and many more. The textures resulted from the use of all sorts of unorthodox materials in the molds - including nails, bark, nuts and bolts, and pieces of wire. The molds themsleves were then constructed from iron, and could be reused a considerable number of times.

Whitefriars Textured Glass Tangerine Bricklayer Vase  Designed by Geoffrey Baxter

It is Geoffrey Baxter's textured range that has so caught the collecting public's imagination in the last few years, and has made Whitefriars a hot collectable property once more, and a true antique of the future.

Whitefriars Textured Glass Meadow Green Sunburst Vase Designed by Geoffrey Baxter

Like so many British manufacturing companies, Whitefriars hit upon hard times in the late 1970s and the continued difficult trading conditions meant that Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd ceased trading in 1980. The paperweight manufacturer Caithness purchased the rights to the Whitefriars name, which is still used in some of their ranges.

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