Little evidence remains of our glass industry

ON A PLATE ... employees of glass works feature in the latest baptism records on-line.
ON A PLATE ... employees of glass works feature in the latest baptism records on-line.

Given how important it once was to the town, it’s astonishing that so little evidence of the old glass industry in Shields remains.

It was a huge employer, albeit hard work.

I only recently came across a note of when, in 1879, the Tyne Plate Glass Works in the town announced that the working hours of its employees were going up, to 6am to 6pm daily.

And it was dangerous - there were often fires.

The various glass works were centred on and around the riverside at Shields, so it makes sense that glassworking families feature heavily in the latest batch of baptism records for St Hilda’s Church which have been placed on line by Durham Records.

There are more than 11,000 of them, covering the period 1842 to 1867.

Again the addresses cover a wider area than just Shields, ranging as far as Howdon and Percy Main.

Details of parentage reflect the town’s character as a port, with many mariners, shipwrights etc among the fathers.

But there are also glass blowers, glass cutters, glass flatteners etc; also glass smoothers.

The latter seems to have been a speciality of women, as I’ve a note of the Tyne Plate Glass Works advertising for “Women smoothers. Constant work for steady hands.”

Some of delight of the records rests just in the lovely variety of names they display, like Isabella Rennison Guest, who was baptised in 1845, and whose mother was Eleanor, and whose father, a grocer, was called Peveral.

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The picture is of Swinburne’s glass works at what became Harton Staithes.