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Decorative Treatments of Whitefriars Glass

Although Whitefriars made standard heavily cut domestic glass and tableware in order to supply the market demands, it is their plain and decorated designs for which they are renowned and collected. Although techniques of decorating glass have been used for centuries, and were in use by many other British companies, they formed a much more important component of the overall Whitefriars catalogue, from Harry Powell’s time onwards. The company made not only domestic glass, but also commercial / industrial wares and stained glass windows for churches. These different sides of the business were always useful for new glass colours, designs, and inspiration, as well as providing a balance during regular economic cycles. This article lists the different decorative techniques, with examples, in order to assist the collector to appreciate the range of Whitefriars designs, and to distinguish them from those of other companies. I’ve divided the list into a). decorative techniques applied to the gather of glass, mostly stylistic characteristics and moulding and b). decorative techniques added to the gather, which includes threading, trailing, cutting, engraving etc. Note that techniques reappear at various times over the history of Whitefriars as designers reinterpret the original historical source, or a previous designer’s work. Click the images to supersize. All photos from the author’s collection unless specified.

General characteristics of Whitefriars glass.
Whitefriars glass was always hand-blown, frequently into a mould, either for shape or decorative effect, but was never machine made. Due to this, they will normally have a ground and polished pontil mark
on the base.

Ground & polished pontil mark
Ground & polished pontil mark
The pontil was ground so the rough edges (where the pontil rod had been snapped off) would not mark furniture. Very occasionally the pontil will be left rough, to imitate historical glass, but these are rare. Some later cased patterns will have flat bases. Note that after the 1850s drinking glasses rarely have pontil marks, following the invention of the “gadget”, a device which gripped the glass, and reduced the time and effort involved in its making.
Heat treated lip
Heat treated lip
The lip will normally be heat treated (to remove any evidence of the shears when the glass was cut from the blowing rod), but some later shapes have ground rims.
Folded rim
Folded rim
The feet of more important, earlier glasses and centerpieces may have a folded rim which helped to strengthen the glass, and reduce chips.
Flattened merese
Flattened merese
Early drinking glassware sometimes used a flattened merese in the stem
Decanter stoppers
Decanter Stoppers

Decanter stoppers were frequently hollow. Whitefriars glass was almost never signed, only commemoratives normally had a diamond point signature etched on the base.

Drinking glasses are always well balanced between bowl and stem/foot, which you’d expect from a family of wine merchants ! Air was used in the stem in a number of forms, from an air bubble in commeratives and the Embassy suite, to a blown knop an air twist and sometimes extended to a full blown stem
Air Bubble
Air Bubble
Blown Knop
Blown Knop
Full blown air twist
Full blown air twist
Full blown stem
Full blown stem
Twisted Stem
Twisted Stem
Moulding
Optic Moulding
Optic Moulding
Moulding can be applied either early in the blowing, so as to give a surface decorative effect, or later, to give the final shape to the piece. On early to mid period pieces the body of the glass, and sometimes the foot, may have faint optic moulding, a ribbing left by a mould at the early stage of blowing, and looking like ripples on water.
Optic Ribbing
Optic Ribbing
Later pieces from the 1920s and 30s onwards may have pronounced horizontal optic ribbing (following Scandinavian designs), which can be felt as distinct undulations in the thickness of the wall of the piece.
Until Geoffrey Baxter, moulding for surface texture may be straight ribbed, wrythen, pea moulded , diamond or wave-ribbed (swagged like drapery folds. Controlled bubbles could also come into this group, since the first gather of glass was blown into a mould with small spikes, to create indentations into the surface. When the gather then had extra glass added, these indentations became bubbles of trapped air This is separate from the small bubbles appearing naturally and randomly in glass. These were discouraged as a sign of inferior blowing, unless in ranges like the cloudy glass, which were naturally bubbly.
Spiral
Spiral
Pea moulded
Pea moulded
Diamond Moulded
Diamond Moulded
Wave Ribbed
Wave Ribbed
Controlled Bubble
Controlled Bubble
Lobed Series
Lobed Series
The lobed series of vases, designed by James Hogan in the 40s, and William Wilson in the 50s had the base of the piece pressed into a cruciform dip mould prior to blowing.
Knobbly range
Knobbly Range
The knobbly Range from the 1960s had an ‘S’ shaped tool pushed in to the surface of the gather. After the initial surface or base effect is created, the piece can be blown to any shape the designer wants.
Textured Range
Textured Range
When Geoffrey Baxter developed his ‘textured’ range in 1965, a whole range of moulds were used, with effects taken from bark, wire, tin tacks etc. In these designs though, the surface texture of the mould is integral to the overall shape of the piece, i.e. the mould gave overall shape as well as surface texture.
The majority of these moulding styles were also used by other companies (probably the only one unique to Whitefriars was the knobbly range), and therefore should be used in combination with the shape and colour of the piece to identify its maker. Wave-ribbing for example, was probably ‘borrowed’ from Webbs, while diamond-moulding was a common Victorian decorative style.
Applied hot decoration
Bosses
Bosses
Prunts
Prunts
Methods of applying decorative effects to the glass were limited only by the designer’s imagination, and the skill of the chair. In both areas, Whitefriars was very well served.
Prunts & bosses). Originally a Venetian style, prunts are a small blob of glass applied to the outside of the bowl. These can be the same colour as the rest of the glass, or contrasting. They can be plain, or be moulded to resemble rasberrys. James Hogan revived the technique with larger blobs of glass in the early 30s.
Ribbon Trailing
Ribbon Trailing
Trailing, This technique was used by Whitefriars for many years, from early Philip Webb designs, to the well-known (and common) ribbon-trailed series of the 1930s onwards. Used by many firms including Stevens & Williams, who invented a machine to apply trailing to the gather, enabling a very fine, consistent and close application of the trail. All Whitefriars trailing however was applied by hand, although some of the early finger bowls and vases have trailing which resembles that applied by machine. The trailing could be in the same or a contrast colour, and in vases designed by James Hogan in 1934, the trailing was also bubbled. Care had to be taken that the two glasses had compatible handling and cooling characteristics.
Opaque white trailed glass
Opaque white trailed glass

Baxter’s experiments with opaque white trailed glass (which had originated from the thermometer making side of the business) in the 60s gave many problems, and were eventually abandoned.

 

Chain link
Chain link
Chain link, A variant of trailing, where the trail is crossed over to give a wire mesh effect. Used by Harry Powell for a range of shapes designed in the 1900s, and continued in production till the 30s, these are mostly blue on sea-green bodies Unique to Whitefriars.
Random strapping
Random strapping
Random strapping, Another variant of trailing used in the 1960s and 70s, the strapping is deliberately ‘messy’. Unique to Whitefriars.
Rigaree ring
Rigaree Ring
Rigaree ring, This historical revival was a Whitefriars trademark, and involves a thicker trail of glass being applied, then a notched surface given to the trail with a knurling tool, similar to a pastry crust. Introduced by Harry Powell, it was used on many shapes, normally in a horizontal ring, but sometimes also a vertical ‘tear’. Only used by Whitefriars at this time, but do not confuse older German or continental glass because of it.

Tears
Tears, One of the most notable of Arts & Crafts designs, the tear wineglasses and vases had a vertical trail of same or contrast coloured glass applied to the outside of the body. The technique was revived again by James Hogan in the 30s. Also used by Stuart's and Gray-Stan, although theirs tend to ‘flatten’ at one end.
Metal stands
Metal stands
Metal stands and strapwork. These varied from a metal stand to hold the glass jug or vase through to intricate pewter or silver straps. They are characteristic of the Arts & Crafts or Art Nouveau periods, and were made by WAC Benson or the Guild of Handicrafts, in conjunction with CR Ashbee (a noted silver designer). The technique was also used by other companies.
Gold foil
Gold Foil
Gold, silver & mica inclusions, An old Venetian technique, this involves rolling a gather of glass in either gold foil or mica scales on the marver. The gather is then cased in additional glass, and blown. If foil has been used, it shatters when blown, producing a suspension of gold fragments in the flint glass. A popular effect, and one that remained in the company’s catalogues for decades. Mica or platinum were more rarely used. The marvering of enamels into the gather was done also by other companies and several of them, including Stevens & Williams, used gold and silver inclusions (although the foil was more usually left solid, rather than blown / shattered as at Whitefriars).
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