Development of the Skills and Materials Used in the Scottish Glass Industry from 1750

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Glass requires two key elements for its manufacture: raw materials and skilled labourers. The sourcing of both is considered in the context of the Scottish glass industry from 1750 to the late 20th century, with particular reference to the Alloa glassworks which were formed in Clackmannanshire in 1750.
For most of the history of the glassworks, raw materials were both imported from overseas and sourced locally. The late 20th century saw something of a shift towards indigenous materials, with sand quarrying close to Alloa and an increased use of recycled glass.
Similarly, for much of the history of the Alloa glassworks labour was sourced from overseas to fill gaps in the workforce and to drive technological advancements. Local training of the workforce slowly emerged, with workers being sent to Glasgow for training in the early 1800s. By the late 20th century on-site training was a routine function at Alloa.
The mechanisation in the 20th century impacted not only the duties carried out by glass workers but their salaries also. Victorian glassblowers in Scotland earned salaries that were well above the national average. By the late 20th century the salary of machine operators was on a par with the national average.
Evidence is presented that demonstrates the Alloa glassworks was manufacturing crown glass from 1832-1839 using kelp as the alkali flux. This impacts on the currently established dating model for Scottish glass, and an updated model is presented here.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-43
Number of pages26
JournalScottish Business and Industrial History
Volume31
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2017

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