Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Lemington Glass Cone (NZ183645)

© Copyright HelenWilkinson and licensed for 

Situated where it is – a few miles upstream from Newcastle on the north bank of the Tyne – the settlement of Lemington was ideally placed to contribute significantly to the economy of Tyneside in its own special way. It was for centuries the point where many local collieries offloaded their coal onto waiting boats for export, and the make-up of the terrain thereabouts triggered the establishment of many other industries. One such speciality was glass-making, and the one remaining glass cone – a famous local landmark – is in itself rather special, being one of only four of its kind left in the UK.

Originally, in 1787, four glasshouses were built on the spot, and four cones were quickly added – the pride and joy of the newly-established Northumberland Glass Company, who had leased the site from the Duke of Northumberland. The chimneys’ striking form was designed to draw air up through underground tunnels to heat the glass to 2000°C. Glass production – originally flat glass – continued there until 1882, when the site was taken over for a short while by an ironworks. A depression in the glass industry had led to the decline, and in fact three of the four cones were demolished in 1837. Only by chance, it seems, did a single specimen survive into the Victorian era.

The industry picked up again in the 1890s and famous glassmaker, George Sowerby, reinstated operations at the ‘cone site’ in 1898. In 1906, the General Electric Company purchased the establishment from the Duke of Northumberland and the site was expanded and refitted for the production of light bulbs and tubes. Another refit/expansion took place in 1920, and the manufacture of light bulbs and related lampware (mainly industrial and technological items) limped on through the 20th century. The last glass was produced there in 1997.

Lemington glass cone was the last operational glassworks of its kind, and upon closure all but the giant cone was demolished. A little prior to this, the structure – the largest of the set at 120ft and said to contain 1.75 million bricks – was restored and given protected status. It has since been home to a variety of businesses.

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