Lemington Glassworks

Duration: 3:44 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.492
This story has been viewed 10217 times

Elsie's story is about her time working at Lemington Glassworks in Newcastle upon Tyne.

By Elsie Marshall


Other information

This story was inspired by the decorative art collections at the Laing Art Gallery.

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Video transcript

“Are you going to buy that glass or have you fallen in love with it?” Whenever I go into a store I am automatically drawn to the glass department where unknowingly, I pick up an item and look at it for imperfections then slowly turn it round in my hands, feeling the shape – a throwback to my inspection days at Lemington.

I started at Lemington Glassworks in 1973 to pay for my daughter’s wedding. It was a big culture shock for me as I’d never been in a factory before. I went into the inspection department working alternate weekly shifts, 6 til 2, 2 til 10. I found the work so boring I thought “I’ll never stick this” and would leave at the end my first week. I was persuaded to give it a few more weeks which I did, although I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere with my co-workers, I disliked the work intensely. Once I got into the swing of sorting I took an interest in the production side.

The glassblowers were like little ants going to and fro on the platform surrounding the furnace gathering molten glass from the pot onto a ‘blowing iron’, working it into a mould to create a glass bulb – an amazing sight to see. The hand-drawn tubing I found fascinating to watch – a glassmaker gathering a huge amount of molten glass onto the end of an iron then connect this glass to a post holder and proceed to walk backwards drawing out the glass into tubing. Unbelievable, when you think it was only half a millimetre in diameter when finished.

The most fearsome, yet awe inspiring sight I ever saw was the firemen changing a pot. The molten glass was ladled out of the old pot, a big iron plate on chains was dropped over the furnace, the brick wall in front of the pot was removed followed by the pot itself which was taken away on a long, ladder-like barrow and left to cool. The new pot which had previously been handmade using a special clay and put into a kiln and heated until it was glowing white hot, was then manoeuvred on the same barrow-like construction by the firemen into the furnace and the wall rebuilt around it. These men were extremely brave and worked together as a magnificent team – no protective clothing or safety regulations in those days.

In 1987 we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the glassworks. Each employee was given a glass momento in the shape of the original cone, also a scarf for the ladies, a tie for the men. Sadly, from 1990 the glassworks was in trouble because of imported cheap glass bulbs. There was a huge drop in the market for handmade glassware which resulted in redundancies etc. over the next six years. After 23 years, four family weddings and a wealth of knowledge about glass, I tearfully watched the doors of Lemington Glassworks close forever.

Elsie's story is about her time working at Lemington Glassworks in Newcastle upon Tyne. Posted on 11/11/2010 at 09:01:47

My dad, Jimmy Welsh, worked as a presser for most of his life at Lemington Glass works. I would be very interested to see any old photographs of the glassworks, and perhaps my dad working there, if anybody has anything that may be of interest to me please contact me by email at ghurst291@btinternet.com He must have started work there in about 1949 at age 16, and was there till his death in 1981. Any memories and anecdotes would be gratefully received. Many thanks.Posted on 19/09/2012 at 18:26:51

I knew your dad Jimmy Welsh. I worked in the Wages Department at Lemington Glassworks from 1956 to 1961 Jimmy and I played for the Lemington Glassworks table tennis team. We played teams all over the north east. He was a good player and a good bloke. Happy memories Posted on 15/01/2014 at 18:55:20

Regarding the above information at the glass works , my mothers father work there his name was Robert Brunskill. If my memory is correct we visited the site in 1977/1978 with him. I think he retired around the early 1970 If any body has any additional information or worked with him. Please email me keelliott06@aol.com much appreciated .Posted on 09/06/2015 at 15:23:09

Amber films have made a approx 20 mins short film solely about the glassworks. their website has details. AH Posted on 05/01/2016 at 21:16:11

Hi, I have the DVD from Amber films with among others, footage of Lemington Glassworks. My dad and I both worked there. My dad worked there after the pits and I went from leaving school til 1981 when made redundant. Posted on 01/12/2016 at 20:40:08

My husband and I have just started fusing glass on the Isle of Harris. A lovely gentleman who used to work at the glassworks told me that the sand used was shipped down from the islands here. I would really love to get any further information anyone might have about this? Please email info@thehebrideandesigncompany.com Many Thanks, KatePosted on 29/10/2017 at 16:09:38

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