Webb and Corbett

The area  

Dudley is a large metropolitan borough council (38 square miles) located on the western part of the West Midlands conurbation of England, approximately 9 miles west of Birmingham and 6 miles south of Wolverhampton. To the west lies the urban fringe of South Staffordshire and the rural parts of Worcestershire.

The modern Borough of Dudley was a recent creation comprising the local districts of: Halesowen, Kingswinford, Sedgley, Stourbridge and Dudley itself. The one thing that all of these disparate places had in common were the minerals that lay beneath them: coal, iron ore, limestone, fireclay and sand. The use of these materials for manufacturing during the industrialization of great Britain was enormous. A factor that gave rise to the name The Black Country.

The borough of Dudley takes in several old Black Country and Worcestershire towns. It is the only urban borough outside London which has a growing population - 312,453 in June 1995. The present metropolitan borough formed in 1974, combining with Stourbridge and Halesowen. It also takes in the outlying towns of Brierley Hill, Kingswinford, Sedgley, Coseley and Netherton. Dudley has an area of nearly 38 square miles and tourist attractions include Dudley Zoo, which encompasses the town's Norman castle.

Dudley lies at the heart of the Black Country, a part of England unique in terms of its cultural and economic heritage. However, despite its predominantly urban character, an estimated 25% of the Borough is open space (ie: not built upon), including just under 1700 hectares of Green Belt and Wedge, which contribute to its environmental quality and attractiveness.

map of the uk
Map of the United Kingdom


The area shown in yellow on the map above


The area of Dudley. The distance between Stourbridge and Amblecote is about 1.25 miles

History

The Wren's Nest is a national geological reserve featuring a wealth of rare fossils. Some of the most interesting features of Dudley are to be found below ground. During the industrial revolution a vast network of caverns were dug from the limestone layer under the town. Canal tunnels were also excavated beneath the town. The industrial history of the town is reflected at the Black Country Living Museum. The area's fortunes were founded on the natural resources of coal, iron ore, limestone and fire clay. Traditional iron founding industry has now been superceded by modern manufacturing and service industries.

The borough also takes in the growing Merry Hill shopping centre and Waterfront office development in Brierley Hill. Stourbridge is famous as a centre of glass-making and fine crystal. The Crystal Leisure Centre in Stourbridge, with its leisure pool, is the flagship of the borough council's sports and community provision.

Stourbridge: The Market Town of Stourbridge, situated within the parish of Oldswinford, as the name implies, it is located at the river crossing over the River Stour. Wool and leather were its staple trades in the medieval and post-medieval period, but these were quickly overtaken by the iron industry.

The ironmasters, the Foley family, began their rise to fame and fortune in the town. They once lived at The Talbot Hotel, a fine building of the 17th and 18th century. They also founded the Old Swinford Hospital School, which still exists to the present day. The first locomotive to be run in the United States of America - the Stourbridge Lion and the first to be run in the Midlands, the Agenoria, were manufactured by John Rastrick's Old Foundry in Stourbridge in 1820.

The glass industry in the Stourbridge area dates back to the 17th century when refugee 'gentlemen glass makers' from Lorraine settled here attracted by the abundant supplies of coal and clay for their melting pots. At first they made window glass and bottles but in the 18th century following the invention of lead glass they began producing the tableware and ornamental glass for which Stourbridge has become world-famous. The site of the Coalbournhill glass works was occupied in the 1770s by two cone shaped glass works, but they were demolished many years ago and what was then a modern glass house was erected after the First World War. The golden age of the Stourbridge glass industry was the 19th century when many new firms were established and new colours and decorating techniques pioneered locally. Today the glass industry is much less extensive than it was, with a handful of factories still operating on their historic sites. These include Royal Brierley Crystal, Royal Doulton Crystal and Stuart Crystal.

Webb and Corbett

Webb and Corbett Ltd was founded just over a century ago at an old cone shaped glass house called the White House at Wordsley, a parish adjoining Amblecote. The partners were a Thomas Webb who was connected with the important decorative glass manufacturing firm of Thomas Webb and Sons of the Dennis glass works, Amblecote. The family business produced magnificent glass, tableware, etc and exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace, but the family had to sell out as the quality of their ware was such that it was too expensive to buy. The glass works however, continued operating in other hands, but closed down less that 10 years ago, and the glass house and warehouse were demolished. Houses have been built on much of the site.

During 2003-2004 Dennis Hall was saved from rack and ruin and completely refurbished by Paul Tibbetts, the owner of the site, and his property company Lord Edward Developments in conjunction with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and its Historic Environmental Team. It is now divided into 19 high specification apartments and has been splendidly restored. Visit the Amblecote Historical Society web site at www.amblecote.org where you will find the history of the Hall and its restoration together with some very good pictures.

Thomas Webb and George Corbett, the founding partners of Webb and Corbett had both been employed by Thomas Webb and Sons. Their business at the White House glass works flourished, but in 1913 they gave up their lease of the White House and moved to the Coalbournhill works which they continue to occupy. In 1969 the Webb and Corbett business was taken over by the Stoke-on-Trent pottery makers Doulton and in 1980 the name was changed from Webb Corbett to Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd.

Key dates

1897 Company established by Thomas and Herbert Webb, sons of Thomas Wilkes Webb, and George Harry Corbett, at the White House Glass Works in Wordsley, known as Thomas Webb and Corbett Ltd. It operated variously from two Stourbridge sites, the one at Coalbournhill, Amblecote, and the other at The White House Glass Works, Wordsley, (across the main Stourbridge - Wolverhampton main road opposite Stuart's Red House Cone). Additionally, it acquired the Tutbury Glass Works at Burton on Trent. The White House Glass Works was previously operated by W H, B & J Richardson.

1903 Thomas Webb retires through ill health.

1906 Webb Corbett acquires Tutbury Glass Works near Burton-on-Trent, and G H Corbett becomes manager. Herbert Webb (1871-1946) becomes chairman and managing director of Webb Corbett.

1911 Walter E Guest replaces G H Corbett as manager of Tutbury Glassworks.

1914 By now the company's glass was being made at Coalbournhill, Amblecote, and the decorating and cutting shop and showroom were situated at The White House Glassworks, Wordsley. On Tuesday 31st March 1914 a fire took place at the Wordsley factory. The company then moved its local operations totally to Coalbournhill.

1946 Death of Herbert Webb. Irene Stevens joins Webb Corbett as designer.

1953 Company name changed from Thomas Webb and Corbett Ltd to Webb Corbett Ltd.

1957 Irene Stevens leaves to join the Glass Department at Stourbridge College.

1963 David Queensberry commissioned to design a range of cut glass.

1965 David Smith becomes chief designer for both Stourbridge and Tutbury factories.

1969 Webb Corbett and Tutbury factory acquired by Royal Doulton Company.

1980 Glassware becomes known as Royal Doulton Crystal by Webb Corbett. The Tutbury Glass Works are closed.

1986 Web Corbett name discontinued. Glass marketed as Royal Doulton Crystal.

Glass markings

  

webb corbett

  

Trademark dated
about 1930 to 1947

Trademark dated
about 1947 to 1965

Trademark on the bottom of
a glass tumbler dated 1968

A "T" in the centre of the marking indicates that the piece was produced in the Tutbury works between 1947 and 1949.
An "S" indicates the piece was manufactured at Stourbridge between 1947 and 1949.
A "*" indicates that the piece could have been produced at either works, and this style was made at both factories between 1949 and 1952.
Glass made between 1952 and 1959 was often etched with the year of production.
Glass made between 1965 and 1972 was etched "Webb Corbett Crystal".

Royal Doulton

Doulton found it expensive to maintain the old glass making furnace and gradually the actual glass melting was reduced, decorating being continued on blanks imported from abroad. Doulton pottery and glass businesses have been doing badly during the past few years and in February 1999, it was announced that the glass melting would be discontinued at Coalbournhill but that cutting would continue. About 40 employees involved in glass making were made redundant. About 40 decorators have been retained. Visitors can still visit the Coalbournhill works but can no longer see the fashioning of the molten glass. The company's main local sales outlet is now the Crystal Glass Centre in Amblecote, 300 yards from Coalbournhill. There they sell Royal Doulton crystal, Edinburgh crystal, foreign glass (mainly coloured) and china tableware and ornaments. At the centre, some studio glass makers named Blowzone have started up a small glass melting furnace and produce decorative ware, all handmade. Incidentally, Webb & Corbett supplied the glassware used on the Concorde aircraft. In the old days, they had some highly skilled craftsmen, but nowadays much of the domestic glassware is made by machine and is imported to be decorated. Their website is at www.royal-doulton.com.

The present day

There have been many changes in the lead crystal glass industry of the Stourbridge area in the last 20 years. Because of the high cost of running the old pot furnaces and replacing them and the cost of labour, all have closed down. The last to do so was Stuart, who are owned by Waterford. The Red House is now under the umbrella of Broadfield House.

Some small businesses employing about a dozen craftsmen, usually ex-employees of the old businesses, have started up and produce some excellent quality glass, and glass making training centres have been opened at Wolverhampton University to continue to produce craft men and women, and teach new glass making techniques.

The present position with the Coalbournhill Glassworks is that glass making ceased there in March 1999, thus ending more than two hundred years of continuous glass making on that site, and in April 2000 Royal Doulton terminated their operation completely. The two dozen or so glass decorators who had continued working on the site during the previous twelve months were laid off, and the property was put up for sale.

There are plans for the main building, Harlestone House, a listed Georgian structure, to be taken over by Ruskin Mill, a Gloucestershire-based educational charity, to house students and for the site to become a 'cottage industry' development for various crafts, including glass and pottery.

The archive materials and museum pieces previously held at Harlestone House, and including incomplete sets of pattern books dating back to c1920 and glass from c1899 are believed to have been taken to Royal Doulton's factory museum at Stoke on Trent.

Areas to visit

Broadfield House Glass Museum

Compton Drive
Kingswinford
West Midlands DY6 9WS
Website: www.glassmuseum.org.uk

The museum tells the story of the historic Stourbridge glass industry. The displays show glass from Roman times but the emphasis is on the cut, etched, engraved and coloured glass which made the name of Stourbridge world famous. The fabulous cameo vases carved by Alphonse Lechevrel can be seen together with the work of other renowned craftsmen. The technology and techniques of glass making are explained and illustrated.

Broadfield House staged an exhibition in 1997 to celebrate 100 years of Webb Corbett. A catalogue is available for £2 plus postage, and initial enquiries can be made to Roger Dodsworth, keeper of glass and fine art at Broadfield House.

Important notice: February 2009, updated April 2009.

Broadfield House Glass Museum, near Stourbridge in the UK, is going to be closed by the local council unless those of us who care can convince the Dudley Council to change their minds.

Broadfield House is the only designated glass museum in the UK. No other museum in the world has a collection of British 18th, 19th & 20th century glass that can rival its rare archive and loan collections.

The annual cost of running this outstanding museum is £250,000, or just under £5,000 per week, which is excellent value for a world class museum. However, the accountants at Dudley Council have decided that they can save half of that by closing the museum and relocating it to an inferior site. Dudley Council spends more than £120,000 a year cleaning up graffiti!

The closure was announced out of the blue and campaigners to save the museum had till the beginning of March to persuade the Council to change its mind.

A new website has been created for the Friends of Broadfield House at www.friendsofbroadfieldhouse.co.uk now that the petition has closed and been presented to the council. Supporters of the Museum will be able to keep up to date with the events as they take place.

Please do not hesitate to contact Adam Aaronson on adam@aaronsonnoon.com if you would like further information.

The Red House Glass Cone
This museum is on the same site as Stuart Crystal and is centered on the 100 feet high cone which was the original glassworks and has graced the area for over 200 years. These were once common in this district but now this is one of only four left in the entire country and it is open to the public. Restoration as a working glass museum is under way but the restored cone and the adjacent canal wharf can be explored.

Stuart Crystal
There is a large shop selling their crystal.

The Crystal Glass Centre (Very large shop selling crystal from all the major producers in England)
Churton House
Audnam
Stourbridge DY8 4AJ

Museums

Broadfield House Glass Museum (see above)

Dudley Museum and Art Gallery
St James Road
Dudley DY1 1HU

Himley Hall and Park
Himley
Dudley
West Midlands DY3 4DF

Address of Royal Doulton

Royal Doulton
High Street
Amblecote
Stourbridge
West Midlands DY8 4HF
United Kingdom
Phone 01384 552900

Patterns and replacing pieces

American company Replacements Ltd have a large number of patterns on their website. They have become the world's largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver, and collectibles. Our 300,000 square foot facilities (the size of five football fields!) house an incredible inventory of 10 million pieces in more than 200,000 patterns, some over 100 years old. If you are looking for a replacement piece, they maybe able to help you.

More information

For information on glass marks go to the glass trademarks web page, and to the glass encyclopedia site for information on a huge selection of glass manufacturers. Great glass has a lot of information on UK glass plus a photo library of designs. The Glass Quarter has more information about glass making in Dudley with a recent map of places to visit.

After 20 years of research, Jason Ellis has published a book titled "Glassmakers of Stourbridge and Dudley 1612-2002". Published in January 2003, an important historical book based on the author's original research which covers each glassworks in this area of England, who built it, who owned it, and the craftsmen who worked there. This is available through Amazon, or if you would like to know more about this book, please email me.

Acknowledgements

Jack Haden for adding to the above history of Webb and Corbett.
John Sanders for correcting some of the dates and bringing the history up to date including the latest news on Dennis Hall.
Adam Aarsonson for news on the closure of the Broadfield House Glass Museum.

If you have anything you can add to this or would just like to mention pieces of Webb and Corbett crystal that you own, please email me. My next job is to try and catalogue as many different pieces of Webb and Corbett crystal and the dates that it was produced. I also note that the markings on the glass differs and it would be interesting to know the background behind these.

Please visit the Thos Webb web page for a history of their glass.

David Levin
April 2009

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