Making Glass at Chance's Glassworks

A VISITOR’S ACCOUNT FROM 1852

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Located in Smethwick, Chance’s Glass was one of the largest glass manufactories in the country.

The establishment provided the glass used to build the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, which housed the Great Exhibition of 1851. The palace was one of the greatest pieces of industrial art ever created. In 1852 the factory was visited by Harriet Martineau.

Harriet Martineau was a nineteenth-century journalist for The Daily News and The Westminster Review. Her visit to Chance’s was to research for an article to write for Household Words, a literary periodical edited by Charles Dickens. Her purpose was to show daily life in the factory that produced the glass for the Crystal Palace.

This was at a time when factory tourism was growing, particularly in the glass industry. It was common for journalists to visit factories and report on the mix of physical toil and craftsmanship it took to produce the industrial art of Victorian society. Following Martineau’s journey, and using other sources, we can rebuild the world in which Chance’s employees lived.

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