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Whitefriars History Part 2
During the mid 1960’s the designer Geoffrey Baxter who had joined the factory in 1954 directly from the Royal School of Art, began experimenting with a completely new approach to glass design, the idea was to create a completely new style of glass suitable for the swinging sixties,a "groovy baby" style, the hallucinogenic sixties had arrived.
  Geoffrey Baxter
Baxter working on the textured range
Ply-wood, nails, pieces of bark, bits of wire, and all manner of materials were used to create prototype moulds. The moulds were re-made in more durable cast iron. They had to be made in 3 parts due to the complexity of the designs. The same moulds were usually used for the entirety of the production run, so by looking at how defined the texture on the piece is, its possible to estimate how early the example. Due to the fact that moulds wear with age. However the temperature of the mould at the time of blowing also has an effect on the crispness of the finished piece, i.e. glass flows more readily into a hot mould.

This new glass was to become known as the Textured range, and was released in 1967 initially in three colours, cinnamon, indigo, and willow. More colours such as tangerine (a new colour developed by Whitefriars) and blue were added two years later, mainly from demand by retailers. In 1963 the factory changed it's name to "Whitefriars Glass Ltd" and re-designed its logo to the stylized monk at the top of this page.

Banjo vase
Studio Range
Also released in the late sixties were the Studio Ranges, these were designed by the likes of Peter Wheeler, a young designer at the factory. Produced only for a couple of years as they were expensive and difficult to manufacture. These were the only examples of Whitefriars that were regularly signed. (They had whitefriars and the date engraved on the base)
Example of the Textured Range Examples of the Studio Rang  
  The factory sadly hit hard times during the next decade, mainly because their parent company Zeal’s, switched orders for industrial tubing to the American owned Corning. Whitefriars made their tubing by hand and could not compete with Corning’s machine made counterpart. Tubing had represented about a quarter of the overall gross production so this had a very damaging effect on the fortunes of the company.
drawing Tower
The Thermometer Tower
 The old thermometer drawing tower, used to pull out tubes for clinical thermometers by gravity was made redundant by, the invention of the digital thermometer. So it was converted to draw millefiori canes for use in high quality paperweights which became increasingly popular during this period. Especially for the Queens Silver Jubilee in 1977.  

Whitefriars continued to make textured domestic glass, notably the new Glacier range of 1972, limited edition paperweights and traditional cut glass, for the rest of the seventies, but sadly the stained glass studio closed in 1973 due to lack of demand.

Textured range
The Textured Range
The Glacier range
The Glacier range

The sad but inevitable end came in 1980 when the factory closed, Interest rates, high fuel costs plus the fact Britain was in the tight grip of a recession had all played their part in the demise of the factory. The furnaces were extinguished, staff laid off and factory was quickly demolished to make room for new developments. The records and contents of their museum were given to the Museum of London, (where they can still be viewed by appointment). The trademark "Whitefriars" was purchased by the Scottish glass maker Caithness, which they still use today as part of their paperweight range.

Geoffrey Baxter sadly died in 1995 but its heart warming to know that before he died the momentum had already begun for his glass to gain it's now cult status. His glass had become collectable and he was well aware of the historical importance of his designs before he died.

Whitefriars glass has over the last fifteen years had somewhat of a revival especially the textured ranges by Geoffrey Baxter which have increased in price tenfold.

As for the earlier pieces, they too are becoming extremely collectable and more difficult to find, but I think they are yet still to achieve the status they truly deserve .

This leads to a fantastic opportunity for collectors, to gain a world class collection, for a relatively small investment. The North American and Japanese markets are yet to discover this wonderful glass, I think that when they do, prices are likely to rocket!. My advice would be to, buy glass from between the wars, especially the simple designs with geometric wheel engraving, ribbon trailed pieces, which can be bought on ebay quite cheaply and of course any pieces which obviously represent the period in which they were designed.

Finally this brief history, is indeed brief. I have just scratched the surface on the merits of this company. It is work i.n progress, if you would like to contribute anything, please Contact Me

Further reading  
Whitefriars Glass, The Art of James Powell & Sons
by Lesley Jackson, Published by Richard Dennis.

This book is an invaluable resource. Contains hundreds of pictures.

Whitefriars Book
Whitefriars Glass James Powell & Sons
by Wendy Evans, Published by The Museum of London.

This too is a must for any serious collector. Fascinating insight to this factory.

(Unfortunately out of print but you may get a second hand copy from Amazon or ebay. Or if enough people enquire at the Museum of London they may re-print!)


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