Nailsea glass: weird things made from glass, read on for the how and why .
Nailsea Glass: A Brief History
The Nailsea Glassworks were founded in Bristol in 1788, a city which had already long been a centre of glassmaking. The Nailsea factory closed in 1873, and is important not only for the work it produced but also because it has given its name to a type of work also made by other establishments all over Britain, in Sunderland, Newcastle, Stourbridge, Wrockwardine Wood in Shropshire, Alloa in Scotland and elsewhere.
Like most early glassworks, Nailsea was primarily concerned with making bottles and window glass, the latter, for some, still a luxury as it was taxed by government. However, the name of Nailsea is now mainly associated with glass novelties. By the turn of the 19th century it was using pale green window glass and deep coloured bottle glass to make domestic articles. The majority of glass produced at Nailsea was tinged green from impurities in the local sand, and sometimes decorated with other colours.
These glass novelty items, also known as friggers or end of day pieces, were made from the residue of the batch of glass when production for the day had finished.
Novelties such as glass pipes that were not be smoked, horns not to be blown, hats, bells, rolling pins, bugles, drumsticks, staffs, walking sticks and swords , were paraded through the streets on gala days. Some eventually acquired a commercial value and began to be made officially in working hours.
As such Nailsea glass became an inexpensive way of introducing bright colour into the home and many curios were produced in many shades of blue, green, amber and red, which might be flecked, mottled or striped.
The earliest walking sticks were in pale green bottle glass tapered at the ferrule end and sometimes twisted. Glass rods were widely believed to have the property of attracting germs and diseases out of the atmosphere, so they were hung on the wall and wiped clean daily to keep the household healthy.
Later they were made in clear and coloured glass and with spiral ribbons of enamel within or spiralled around the surface. Sometimes walking sticks were made hollow so they could be filled with sweets.
Most of what the collector will find today was made in second half of the nineteenth century..