History of Joseph Webb
Holloway End Glasshouse – Joseph Webb & Edward Webb (cousins), 1844 to 1850
Holloway End Glasshouse existed by 1639 and possible as early as 1623. The operators of Holloway End Glasshouse, prior to the Webbs, were Thomas Littlewood and John Berry under the firm name of Littlewood & Berry. Littlewood retired from the firm in 1833 and died in 1844 at the age of 75. In 1843, the glass trade was extremely depressed. Littlewood and Berry took extreme or drastic measures to save the business. They were accused of an attempt to evade the excise duty then in place on glass. The penalty they received was to be banned from participating in any trade upon which a duty was payable.
Joseph Webb was born in 1810 and was the son of Richard Webb a glass packer and his wife was Mary nee Stamford. He and Edward Webb (his cousin) formed a partnership (E. & J. Webb) on September 29, 1844 and took over operations of Holloway End Glasshouse, Amblecote. Edward Webb and Joseph Webb were cousins to Thomas Webb who at that time operated the Platts Glassworks. Edward had previously been a farmer and his cousin Joseph had worked as a packer for the firm of Webb and Richardson at Wordsley Flint Glassworks. In 1841, Joseph also worked as a clerk for his cousin Thomas Webb at the Platts Glassworks. At the inception of the partnership, it was agreed that Joseph would make the metal and Edward would handle the commercial or business activities.
At the time the Webbs took over the operation of Holloway End Glasshouse, trade unions were just beginning to establish themselves in the glass trade. Obviously there was significant antagonism between employer and employee at this time. Labor relations were strained for every glasshouse. In October 1850, Joseph and Edward Webb dissolved their partnership. Edward’s interest in milling was causing some disagreement between him and his cousin Joseph. Joseph left to take over Coalbournhill Glassworks, which was vacated by Joseph Steven. This left Edward Webb in sole control of Holloway End Glassworks. In 1853, Edward Webb left Holloway End Glassworks. The glassworks operation was taken over by William Richardson and Elijah Smith under the firm name of W.H., B & J. Richardson at the Wordsley Flint Glassworks.
Coalbournhill Glassworks – Joseph Webb, 1850 to 1900
Coalbournhill Glassworks was built in 1861 by Thomas Bradley, Jr. The Glassworks had been operated by a number of individuals with the last, prior to Webb, being Joseph Stevens, Sr. who stopped operations at the site in 1842 and died in 1852. Joseph Webb purchased the glassworks in 1850 and continued the manufacturer of flint and colored glass as did his predecessors. He introduced pressed glass to the operation at Coalbournhill. Joseph Webb was at the forefront of designs of pressed glass. His first designs were registered in 1853 and were followed with a stream of additional new designs through the 1850s. Although he was saving labor by pressing glass, Joseph Webb’s glass quality was claimed to be excellent. He produced a much finer product than his contemporary competitors. Supposedly, both the glass (metal) and the artistic designs were equal to hand blown glass of the period with which they were competing. This is a very strong statement since at that time in history, British glassmakers, engravers, and decorators produced some of the highest quality glass pieces known to man.
In 1858, Coalbournhill Glassworks suffered a minor strike. At that time strikes were consider evil. Facing the possibility of additional strikes, the glasshouses formed a manufacturers organization (November 1, 1858) of which Joseph Webb was a founding member of the Flint Glass Manufacturers Defense Association. Strikes continued to spread throughout the district. In response, the Flint Glass Manufacturers Defense Association enacted a lockout that lasted for seven months. Based on Webb’s payment from the Defense fund, we can ascertain his firm was the eighth largest of 13 firms in the Midlands Associations.
After the strikes, business slowly returned to normal but employee and employer relations were not the same. Joseph Webb continued to manufacture glass at Coalbournhill. He and his family continued to live at Coalbourn House. On May 1, 1869, Joseph died, at 56 years of age. His will allowed for two important items: first, the completion of a new home then in progress at Penkridge, Staffordshire, and secondly, that the firm continued in operation until his two sons, Henry Fitzroy and Joseph Jr. reached the age of 21 so they could take over the business. At that time, the business was financially sound with an inventory stock of 234,588 finished pieces of glass. The inventory included tableware from knife rests to decanters, a few hundred lamps, plus thousands of pressed miner’s lamps, with virtually no ornamental glass. The Glassworks had 180 molds, a stopper shop, and three cutting shops with a total of 56 frames.
Joseph Webb’s widow Jane and her brother Joseph Hammond were set up as executors of Webb’s estate. Hammond took over the management of the Glassworks. He had previously run a cutting shop at Dennis. Unfortunately, Hammond’s management of the business was not too successful and it consumed much of Jane Webb’s assets. Hammond was fired on January 15, 1881. Shortly after his departure, the glasshouse manger, Lewis John Murray left to start his own businesses. He moved to Capetown as a freelance glass manufacturers’ agent and later returned to manage John Walsh Walsh Soho and Vesta Glassworks in Birmingham.
Joseph Webb, Jr. had been working in the business but he also decided to leave. He renounced all interests in his father’s estate and immigrated to Philadelphia, PA, USA in 1881. Joseph Webb worked for Phoenix Glass Company as well as others at later times (see below).
Below is the working chronology of Joseph Webb as per trade publications or his obituary.
1883 - 1893 – Phoenix, Metal Maker (Glass Formulator or Plant Superintendent)
1893 - 1894 – Libby Glass Co.
1894 - 1899 – Fort Pit Glass Works
1899 – 1900 - Tarentum Glass Co.
1900 – 1901 – Webb Decorative Glass Co., Coudersport, PA
1901 – 1904 – New Martinsville Glass, Superintendent
1904 – 1905 – Haskins Glass Co., General Manager
In June 1883, the Glassworks introduced a “New Gold Glass” with a crumpled surface, colored with gold. In 1886, due to a down turn in the industry, Joseph Webb’s firm stopped operations. The Glassworks and the adjoining home were put up for sale in January 1886. It failed to receive a single bid and the firm closed. The molds were sold to Edward Moore. Henry Fitzroy Webb became a commercial traveler in the glass trade.
Joseph Webb had a brother join him in the Webb Decorative Glass Co., Coundersport, PA. in 1900. The brother’s name was Hugh Fitzroy Webb according to US records. I wonder if Hugh Fitzroy and Henry Fitzroy Webb are one in the same. Or was Hugh a younger brother to Joseph? This needs to be researched further.
Unable to sell
Coalbournhill Glassworks, Jane Webb leased the Glassworks to Thomas
Michell for 14 years beginning in 1887 for £150 per year. In 1892,
records indicated the occupant to be Joseph Webb (executors of). This
could mean Jane Webb reopened the works. Early in 1897, The British
Lens and Glass Co. occupied the Glassworks. This company was run by Sir
Alfred J. Loftus and the glasshouse was managed by Joseph Davis with the
commercial side controlled by George Howard Cartledge and Tregarthen
Douglass. The company rapidly became insolvent and Douglas
died. Cartledge reformed the company under the name of British Opal
Wall and Glazing Co. They manufactured glass lenses for street lamps.
One week prior to her death,
Jane Webb continued to live at Coalbourn House with her remaining children until her death in 1899. Upon her death, the Glassworks and the house were put up for auction to be held on May 4, 1900. The Glassworks sold for £2,125 to an unknown buyer. Coalburn House sold to William Arthur Holmes for £1,000. In 1914, Thomas Webb & Crystal Ltd. suffered a fire at their White House Glass Works. They moved their operations to Coalbourn Hill Glassworks. They continued to produce crystal until 1942 through 1945. During the war, Thomas Webb & Crystal Ltd. produced lamp chimneys and tubes for liquid air and scientific glassware. After WWII, they again started producing crystal stemware. In 1999, glass production ceased completely. The glass cutting stopped in 2000.
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