The antiquarian

 

 

 

  

 

HISTORY OF RICHARDSON brothers and successor companies

1810 -1928

Dudley Flint Glassworks – Hawkes, 1766 - 1843

     In 1810, William Haden Richardson joined Dudley Flint Glassworks at the age of 25.  He became the firm’s traveler.  Richardson’s own notebook indicates that he began glassmaking in Bilston in 1802.  He then moved on to Graftron’s Brierly Glassworks, then on to Hawkes.  He worked for Hawkes from 1810 to 1828.  Benjamin Richardson truly learned much of the trade at Thomas Hawkes where he worked for many years.  His younger brother Benjamin, joined the firm later and worked his way up to the Manager’s position within the firm.               

Wordsley Flint Glassworks

Wordsley Flint Glassworks was built in 1781 by John Hill.  Hill hired a local furnace builder Joseph Richardson to build a new ten-pot furnace.  Hill ran into financial problems and the works was sold to Richard Bradley, a wealth local industrialist.  Bradley and his brother-in-law George Ensell had experience in glassworks, namely the Harlestones Glasshouse in Coalbournbrook.  On February 23, 1796, Bradley died and control of his properties passed to his heirs in the Ensell family.  The Wordsley Flint Glassworks continued to be operated by the Ensell family until 1810 when operations were discontinued.  A legal dispute took place over ownership.  The property was divided into six lots and sold in 1827. 

The old Glassworks had been converted into a “Steel House’ when it was purchased by George William Wainwright, who returned it back to a glasshouse operationGeorge took his brother Charles into the business and they hired Benjamin Richardson, then the Manager of Thomas Hawkes to manage their new firm.  In July 1828, the furnace was relit.  After a year, the Wainwright brothers decided to sell the businessBenjamin Richardson and his brother William Haden Richardson jumped at the chance to own and operate their own glass business.  William Haden Richardson, 44 yrs. old, was oldest of 11 children; his brother Benjamin was only 27 and the ninth child.  William was knowledgeable in glassmaking from working for several Midlands factories and also furnace building from his father.  Their father was Joseph Richardson, a master glasshouse furnace builder, and their grandfather was a bricklayer.  Joseph was the same Joseph Richardson who built the glasshouse furnace to begin with in 1781.  Benjamin had learned the trade at Thomas Hawkes where he had moved up to the Manager’s position.             

Thomas Webb, then 25 years old, joined their partnership with an investment of £3,000, most likely supplied by his father, John Webb.  Thomas Webb held a 50% ownership in the new company with each of the Richardson brothers owning 25%.  It appeared that Thomas Webb or his father John supplied the needed capital to make the partnership work, because the Richardson brothers contributed only £1,200.  The new firm was known as Webb & Richardsons. 

In 1832, Webb & Richardsons were doing pioneering glass work by introducing a machine for producing pressed glass, a relatively new invention, which was developed in the USA.  Their success was documented by tax records in 1833 showing Webb & Co. paid £5,745 of excise duty. These records today prove they had become the largest of 16 Stourbridge/Dudley glassmakers only three years after the company founding.

In 1833, John Webb died leaving his share of Shepherd and Webb to his only surviving child, Thomas Webb.  Thomas withdrew from his partnership with the Richardson brothers in 1836 to take over his father’s firm.  He received over £7,000 for his interests.   

In 1837, Johnathan Richardson took Thomas Webb’s place in the partnership.  The new partnership and new firm name of W.H., B. & J. Richardson did not become official until 1842 even though operational it was effective as of 1838 when Johnathan Richardson took Thomas Webb’s place in the partnership.

In 1839, Richardson’s firm was described as manufacturers of “Plain & Rich Cut Glass of Every Color.”  In 1842, Benjamin Richardson’s letters report with pride of “his experiments with new colors such as canary yellow and cornelian white.

The year of 1842 was during a time of a deep depression.  Letters between Richardson and their salesman (travellers) indicate Benjamin Richardson’s pessimism about price cutting going on within the trade.  He stated that “Jackson is the curse of the Trade” and went on to say “Hawkes is likely to close.” “Littlewood and Berry are likely to shut up for a time.”  Later Richardson is even more upset when he stated “cursed foolishness of manufacturers giving the goods away.”  His proposed answer was “Regular meetings and prices fixed.”  He then tried to export to Canada without success, finding the Canadian market saturated. 

Stourbridge firms faced increasing competition from abroad, namely Bohemia.  Bohemia was exporting a new form of glass called cased glass.   Due to this pressure from Bohemia, Richardson began experimenting with cased glass.  Cased glass required the development of new techniques.  New examples of cased glass appeared in 1844 pattern books. 

Finally the glass industry received relief; the hated glass excise duty was lifted in 1845.   After the elimination of the excise duty on glass, Richardson sent letters to their customers informing them there would be no price reduction in their glass.

The elimination of glass excise duty led to an immediate surge in new designs and colors being offered to the market.  At the Manchester Exhibition, W.H., B. & J. Richardson exhibited their products including opaline glass, layered and painted work.  It was also reported that Richardson was experimenting with new and improved colors:

“Richardson are directing considerable attention to the improvement of colored glass, in this are we yet lag behind our neighbors:  chemistry has at present done little for it in this country; these gentlemen have, however, already made great advances in rivaling the production of Bohemia:  and we have little doubt a few years hence, we shall see at least equal to the best of the imported articles, their specimens of opal glass are remarkably successful:  and of cutting, engraving, and polishing, thy supply examples second to none that have every been produced in this country.”             

On July the 6th and August 16th of 1947, W.H., B. & J. Richardson registered two new designs of Vitrified enamel decorations.  These pieces were usually marked Richardson’s Vitrified Enamel Color.  Most articles were painted with simple but elegant designs in black. 
Later more sophisticated styles appeared with several different colors.  Decorators from Potteries in the north Staffordshire were attracted to Wordsley by high wages and painting in high styles then popular on bone china. 

The vitrification process then used on glass was metal oxides fused with flux at a lower oven temperature than that of enameled objects.  Richardson was awarded a Gold Isis Medal from the Royal Society for this type of glass.  

Richardson was marketing a white opaline version of the Portland Vase with a transfer printed design upon it.  Richardson’s decorating department was a stimulating and vibrant place to work.  It was a center for creativity in the Stourbridge/Dudley area.  John Northwood I started his apprenticeship in the decorating department at age 12.  He would have learned painting, gilding and enameling.

Despite their creative successes with their products, the Richardson firm was having financial difficulties.  They were overreaching themselves by too much expansion.  The brothers were not working together.  William Haden Richardson purchased White House Glassworks for £3,400 pounds in 1841.  In 1848, Benjamin Richardson mortgaged all his interests in the glass trade, that of W.H. & J Richardson as security for liabilities incurred by firm, without the knowledge of his brother Johnathan Richardson.  That debit equaled £4,450.  Later that year, William Richardson mortgaged the White House Glassworks also.  Despite the Richardson firm’s financial problems, they continued to produce the finest quality glass.  

In 1849, W.H., B. & J. Richardson exhibited colored and opaline glass at the Birmingham Exhibition.  The same year, the Richardson firm was awarded the Royal Society of Art’s Silver Isis Medal for their combination of cutting with Venetian ornamentation.  At the Exhibitions of Specimens of British Manufacturers held by the RSA in 1847, 1848 &1849, Richardson displayed a wide selection of cut, frosted, engraved, enameled, glided, stained and colored glass.  The display included every type of manufactured glass from tableware to center pieces.  In 1851 at the Great Exhibition held at the Crystal Place in Hyde Park, Richardson won a Bronze Medal for crystal and colored glass and secured an order of glass from Queen Victoria.

On February 14, 1852, W.H., B. & J. Richardson was declared insolvent.  Some of the Richardson paper references the hiding of assets and tools from the Bankruptcy Commissioner.  Due to the bankruptcy the workforce was laid off, many of whom went into new ventures.  As an example, Philip Pargeter, a nephew of the Richardson brothers, was serving an apprenticeship as an engraver; he left and setup his own engraving shop.  John Northwood went to work for his older brother William as a builder. 

William Jabez Muckley began his career with Richardson as a glass cutter.  He later became their principal designer and engraver.  He was responsible for much of the engraving that won the firm such praise at the Great Exhibition of 1851.  His father, Jabez Muckley was a glass cutter in Wordsley and by 1861 he had become the Glassworks Manager.  After the bankruptcy, the out-of-work William Jabez Muckley joined the Birmingham School of Art.  He won eight scholarships.  He obtained four art degrees and went on to study in London and Paris.  He was the head of Burslem School of Art for five years and was later offered the headmastership of Wolverhampton School of Art.  Not only was he a master engraver and a famous painter, but he also authored four editions on painting. 

John Thomas Bott, also out-of-work from Richardson, had been responsible for many of the enameled vases with floral decorations produced by the firm.  Bott was forced to move to Worcester and work at a porcelain works.  

Richardson reopened under the management of Benjamin Richardson resulting in many of Richardson’s old craftsman returning.  These employees included John Northwood I, Thomas Bott, William Jabez Muckely and his brother, L. Locke, Philip Pargeter, E. Guest and others.  The firm quickly got back to business and exhibited at the 1853 Dublin Exhibition.  Benjamin Richardson’s oldest son William Haden Richardson left to seek his own way. 

In 1857, Richardson patented an acid-etching process.  This process was used to produce cameo glass.  Cased glass, which is composed of two or more layers of colored glass, is completely or partially coated with gutta-percha or India rubber that is acid resistant.  Then areas are removed with various pointed tools exposing the glass.  The glass is then exposed to acid to etch the glass.  Also in 1857, Benjamin Richardson filed the first English patent for Satin Glass.  His patent “An Improvement In The Manufacture Of Articles In Glass, So As To Produce Peculiar Ornamentation Effects” was filed on July 27, 1857.  It was granted on January 26, 1858.  Richardson’s MOP was shown at the Manchester Industrial Exhibition in 1857. 

Benjamin Richardson’s oldest son left the firm and moved to Scotland to work.  In 1858, his second son Henry Gething Richardson decided to start his own business as a glass decorator.  With his brother-in-law, Thomas Guest and one of the firm’s most talented employees John Northwood and John’s younger brother Joseph, the new company started business in 1860.  The partnership only lasted a year before it was dissolved.  Thomas Guest left to form his own glass decorating business in conjunction with his brothers Edward and Richard.  Henry Gething Richardson worked as a decorator for 20 year before taking over the family firm in 1883.  The Northwood brothers carried on as J. & J. Northwood.  From their small shop came some of the greatest Victorian glass masterpieces made.  Examples of their work include:  the Portland Vase, the Milton Vase, the Pargeter-Northwood tazze and the Pegasus Vase.  In 1882, John Northwood was tempted away from
J. & J. Northwood to manage Stevens & Williams where he became Works Manager and Artistic Director.  J. & J. Northwood continued to operate until 1927. 

In 1859, Richardsons obtained a patent for a method of decoration known a Trapped Enamel.  The process consisted of blowing a base shape: as an example, a vase minus the neck.  A decorating design was then applied inside of the vase.  This was a form of reverse glass painting.  Reverse glass painting is the art of painting an image on the reverse side of a piece of glass or glass object so that the image can be viewed from the unpainted side. It has been done since early in the sixteenth century in Europe, and was known in China during the early 18th century.  The best art historians have been able to determine, reverse glass painting evolved in Austria, the Black Forest region, and Romania in central Europe. And northern Spain, central and southern Italy in southern Europe. These paintings were generally created in small village family workshops, with fewer paintings produced by larger shops in large cities. Many of the images painted were of religious subjects in the beginning of the art form.  The decoration might be bright flowers, floral swag or possible cherubs.  A second gather was then blown inside the vase with the neck being finished at this point.  This process would trap the enamel decorations between the two layers of glass.  Usually a frilly collar would then be applied to mask the lip formed by the joining of the first outside vase.               

Johnathan Richardson also lost his most promising son to another business.  In 1863, John Thomas Haden Richardson joined the Tutbury Glass Company as a managing partner.  At this point, Benjamin was 61 yrs of age and his brother Jonathan was 59. They were thinking of retiring or at least slowing down but between them they had lost their three oldest sons to other companies.  So they turned to their nephews, Philip Pargeter and William James Hodgetts Parageter.  Both nephews returned to the firm.  Both of the nephews had apprenticed in 1852 at the firm.  William James Hodgetts Parageter had been operating the Red House Glassworks with his mother Elizabeth.  On September 14, 1863, the two nephews with their Richardson uncles formed a new partnership of Hodgetts, Richardson & Pargeter.  The most surprising thing about the new partnership was that it was not responsible for any new designs or masterpieces of glass.  However, they continued to operate producing a steady output of commercial glass.  The partnership lasted six years and was dissolved in 1869.  Pargeter remained for two more years as the Manager.  In 1871, William Pargeter left to take over the Red House Glassworks.  Benjamin Richardson talked his son Henry Gething Richardson into coming back to the firm.  A new partnership was formed known as Hodgetts, Richardson & Son.  In 1876, they were known to “manufacture of flint, ruby, and Venetian glass and of cut, engraved, etched and ornamental glass of every description.”  Venetian glass style required the use of glass threading on the main body of glass.  It is a very difficult and time-consuming process when made by hand.  The same year of 1876, William James Hodgetts patented the first machine for applying threading.  This machine allowed for the easier application of threading, which led to hundreds of designs using threading.  Richardson had a definitive edge at this point in time. 

Also in 1876, William Haden Richardson, the co-founder died.  His brother Benjamin was 75 years old but continued to run the firm. 

In 1877, the firm introduced blue and straw-colored opal soon followed by pale green, amber, amethyst, sea-green and sky blue.  Benjamin also hired a Frenchman Alphonse Eugene Lechevrel to train his workmen in cameo production.  Lechevrel was born in Paris in 1850 and worked as a gem engraver.  Lechevrel was trained by Henri Francois.  In 1878 at the Paris Exhibition, some of Lechevrel / Richardson produces pieces were shown. 

Joseph Locke was Lechevrel’s most promising student.  At age 12 Lock was apprenticed to the Royal Worcester China factory.  At 19 and still an apprentice he won a competition sponsored by the Guest Brothers.  After winning the competition, he went to work for them and married into the family.  Lock later joined Hodgetts, Richardson & Co. to the chagrin(s-del) of the Guest Brothers.  After working for Richardson, he moved on to Webb & Corbett and in 1882 he went to the USA and joined New England Glass Co.  He died in 1936.

As stated earlier, Henry Gething Richardson came back to the firm in 1876.  As H. G. Richardson began to take more control of the company, a period of new innovation began.  His daughters Elizabeth and Martha continued in the business as an artist-glass (decorators).  In 1878, the applied snake decoration was revived.  The firm used this mid-century decoration on the necks of decanters, stems of glass and bodies of vases.  In 1879, H.G. Richardson patented “Improvements in Producing Ornaments, Designs and Inscriptions On Or In Glass.”  This patent was for a method of enameling on the inside of clear glass blowing opal or another color inside it.  This is a follow-up to Richardson’s 1857 patent. 

Benjamin Richardson retired in 1881 and died in1883.  William James Hodges retired from the firm in 1880 and he died in 1884.  These two retirements left H. G. Richardson in sole control of the firm.  Applied decoration led to increasingly bizarre creations.  The Convolvulus Vase was made by Henry Sutton in 1885.  In 1886, a style called Tartan glass was registered.  Tartan glass was a type of MOP or air trap glass with a plaid pattern resembling tartan cloth.  By that time, most manufacturers had developed their own version of MOP/air traps glass and were marketing it under their own names.  All of this was an outgrowth of Richardson 1857 patent.

In 1892, the firm was trading as Henry G. Richardson and registered a design for miniature fir cones in opalescent glass with rustic crystal branches.  In 1898, they followed with Companula with opalescent bluebell(s-del) flowers arranged on straw or light amber rustic feet. The design was in a naturalistic style resembling bamboo and flowers or tree-trunks and is similar to John Walsh Walsh’s work. 

Cameo glass was too expensive to sell; quality of glass being bought was on the decline.  The advent of Mary Gregory was a cheap replacement for true cameo.  High demand for lesser quality of glass was forcing a didgeridoo of glass production in the UK.  The death of Queen Victory marked the end of the much of the quality, exuberant glass.  In 1899, H. G. Richardson patented Rominto and in 1902 CeonixThese were a series of colorful vases with a marble-colored appearance, which had a coat of clear glass for the base glass.

In 1916, H. G. Richardson died.  The business was carried on by his two sons Benjamin and William Haden Arthur.  The First World
War forced production to scale down significantly. 

About 1924, the firm stopped manufacturing glass but continued to trade as Henry G. Richardson & Sons, flint glass manufacturers. They paid the lease on the Glassworks until 1928.  In 1930, Webbs’ Crystal Glass Company Ltd. of Dennis Glassworks bought the firm.  Webb also purchased the Glassworks in December the same year.    

    

Individual (Relationship)

Born

W. in G. B.

Partnership

Retired

Death

Notes

Samuel Stuart (Father of Joseph and Grandfather of William Haden & Benjamin Richardson)

 

 

 

 

 

Brick Mason 

 

Joseph Richardson (Father)

 

 

 

 

 

Master Furnace Builder

William Haden Richardson  (Son of Joseph & Founder)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1785 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1829 

1842

1863

1871

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1876 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Webb & Richardson

W.H., B & J. Richardson

Hodgetts, Richardson & Pargeter

Hodgetts, Richardson & Son

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin Richardson (Son of Joseph & Founder)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1800

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1829

1842

 1863

1871

 

 

 

 

 

 

1881

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1887

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Webb & Richardson

W.H., B & J. Richardson

Hodgetts, Richardson & Pargeter

Richardson & Son

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Webb (Founder)

 

 

1804

 

 

1829

 

 

1829

1836

 

 

 

 

1869

 

 

Webb & Richardson

(Left Firm)

 

Johnathan Richardson (Son of Joseph)

 

1806

 

 

1837 / 1842

 

 

 

W.H., B & J. Richardson

 

William Haden Richardson II (#1 Son of Benjamin)

 

1825

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Gething Richardson (#2 Son of Benjamin)

 

 

 

1832

 

 

 

 

1871

 

 

 

 

1916

 

 

 

Hodgetts, Richardson & Son

 

 

 

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