Whitefriars glass for sale in the UK today can be found in a great many places. These include both online and offline. Much will depend of course on the type and from which era you preferred. Someone new to collecting Whitefriars will be more than likely searching out different items than those who are seasoned and more selective.
The great thing about collecting attractive items is the amount of items available for sale to collectors. Not like some other areas where items become scarce very quickly due to the high numbers joining in the hunt.
What we need to bear in mind is that items were produced at this glassworks for a long period of time. Nearly 150 years in fact, see Whitefriars Glass. 150 years provides a large range of styles to choose from for collectors. It allows them to concentrate on one or two eras only if they so wished.
Examples are available that will suit those interested in Victoriana, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, Mid Century Modern and Studio Glass.
Whitefriars Glass Prices
The prices of Whitefriars glass for sale took a leap in 1996 due to the publication of the two informational Whitefriars books. That and the Manchester City Art Galleries exhibition. They were all announced with the usual press releases that reached out to educate not only the collecting community but also the general public.
Now armed with this new information people were checking out their ornaments and drinking sets used in their home. Even storage boxed containing passed down items from relatives were being checked. Checked to see if they contained any of examples made by Powell & co the owners of Whitefriars.
Yes I purchased both books as soon as they came out as well as visiting the exhibition in Manchester. The Lesley Jackdson version is still to be found quite easily although the main version by Wendy Evans , Catherine Ross and Alex Werner is more difficult to find.
The, Whitefriars Glass James Powell and Sons: Glassmakers of Whitefriars 1834-1980 version is the bible on this type of glass. At the time of writing there is a copy available on Amazon at the above link.
Being known locally as a collector of antique and vintage glassware, many times I was approached by people asking if the piece they owned was made by Whitefriars.
Those still having an original label were obviously the most helpful in identification. Although not always the most interesting to the more experienced and choosy collector. Some funny examples would be brought to me to examine such as colourful pressed glass items which of course was never produced by Powell.
I found that for those individuals who did some of their own research, the greater the chance of the piece actually being authentic. Certainly with the pieces I was asked about. Nevertheless, those same pieces were always there in the home without much interest given to them for years prior to this rise in interest.
You know what they say about an ill wind! It was good for those luckily enough to unearth a real prize and receive an honest price for it. It put these items out into the market which the avid collector could eagerly snap up.
For years collectors had previously been happily picking up examples at really cheap prices. The downside of this exposure was fiercer competition which resulted in higher Whiteriars glass prices.
Whitefriars Glass for Sale at Auction
Visiting general auction rooms used to be a great place for picking up a good selection of pieces and at reasonable prices. Not so good today. As the amount of Whitefriars glass for sale at auction houses has gradually decreased over the years. Especially so, the more collectable items which can be pricey when they do crop up.
This is just par for the course and at least pieces could be handled and personally inspected for any damage. It can be time consuming and very disappointing when there is nothing of interest for auction that day.
Many of these auctioneers will help by letting you know when they are expecting pieces in the saleroom, to suit your collection tastes.
Whitefriars Glass For Sale In UK eBay
Using online auctions and using a search term such as Whitefriars Glass for sale UK can be an option. Although some purchases can cause a lot of disappointment and hassle when items are not described properly. Trawling through them can be tedious. Especially when you have to review each item in turn to check condition and the sellers terms of sale.
Life could be made much easier if there were separate categories for perfect items and those with damage. What would also help is a prominent star rating system, seen prior to clicking through to the item. Good ratings could be given to sellers who historically provide accurate descriptions and a clear sensible returns policy.
Prices of collectables always fluctuate depending on demand. Even the coveted Banjo Vases produced in the later years by the company have become a little more affordable recently. Certainly for the more common colours with prices ranging from around the £1000 to £1500 mark or even as low as £750.
Other textured pieces by Geoff Baxter are still much the same price with the larger less common pieces costing more. Smaller textured versions and much of the more reasonably priced examples would be great for anyone beginning a collection.
Rarer Arts and Crafts Whitefriars on Sale
The earlier Harry Powell glass when found for sale are as you might expect more expensive. Especially the in straw opal, threaded pieces and anything with metal mounts, (not just silver).
Not surprising as they seldom appear nowadays in provincial salerooms. Specialist fairs and the larger auction rooms are the best places to find items on sale from this era.
Single wine glasses with Roman style shallow cutting and poppy head versions can still turn up and are not always recognised as being made by Whitefriars.
I don’t suppose that Whitefriars glass of James Powell was ever so popular and as big a name among glass collectors as it has been over recent years. Recognition of the good quality Whitefriars glass of Harry Powell and the more in demand and unusual modern Whitefriars glass of Geoff Baxter are of course the main reasons for this popularity.
The elegant Harry Powell pieces of the last century were always eagerly collected by those who appreciated and knew how to recognise them. Probably the recent popularity is more due to the designs by Geoff Baxter being so radical and the high prices being paid by dealers and collectors to acquire these pieces today. It would be interesting, if it were possible, to hear the thoughts of James Powell who originally acquired the company back in the early 1800s.
Most families, certainly those living in the UK will have had a piece of Whitefriars in their homes over the years without ever realising what it actually was. The image opposite is an example of a modern piece which could easily have been given as a wedding present in the 1960s and 70s.
Very few would have been privileged enough to have owned a Geoff Baxter Banjo vase or the larger version of the very distinctive Drunken Bricklayer vase. Although Geoffrey Baxter designed many other less well-known pieces as did the many other designers who worked at Whitefriars, they don’t command the same prices as these larger textured pieces.
The James Powell factory produced a lot of glassware and had a long history of glassmaking prior to its eventual closure in 1980. Glass as a material is well known for its brittleness if mistreated or dropped and it’s surprising how many of these older pieces are still being used or displayed in homes today. Possibly a testimony to how well they have been loved and appreciated.
Let’s go back about 200 years or so and look at a brief history about how this large important manufacturer first got started.
James Powell & Sons Takes Over Whitefriars Glassworks
Most serious collectors of Whitefriars glass are well aware of the story behind the Powell family who acquired the works in 1834. Therefore, this post will only touch on the main points of the history of the company. Hopefully it will help those unfamiliar with the company’s history and those new to collecting Whitefriars glass to learn some of the basics.
The history of the original glassworks in the Whitefriars area of London is a bit sketchy although the “Whitefriars Glass book – James Powell & Sons of London” goes into the topic in great depth.
James Powell acquired the company from the then owner William Holmes in 1834 and the records they have kept over all those years have provided us with a great insight of their glassmaking activities. Their pattern books allow us as collectors, to attribute many unknown pieces as being items made by Whitefriars.
Anyone can admire the beauty of a well-made piece. None more so than the avid collector who will continually be on the lookout for that missing piece to complete a collection. If there is such a thing as a completed collection to a glass collector!
Thanks to the Powell records it has made Whitefriars one of the most collected glassware’s, certainly in the United Kingdom. My introduction to this hoard of information was the visit to the Manchester City Art Galleries in 1996. Here we were treated to a huge display provided by, former workers, from museum collections and of course the Powell factory archives.
This is a more condensed version of the larger London Museum book, but the photographs have proven priceless and are my memories of the examples viewed at the exhibition.
Although it would be impossible to display all Whitefriars pieces together in one place the book acts as a great reference for checking out, if a piece is Whitefriars or not. Viewing the numerous examples and colour variations can help avoid making costly errors in your purchases.
Apart from the stained glass, much of the items produced at Powell and Sons was mostly indistinguishable from other wares produced in the country. That was for around the first 30 years of its existence until the international Exhibition of 1862 took place. The exhibition allowed the Powell family to display a huge range of their wares including their new Venetian range made in an opal glass.
Critics of the time liked this new range although they felt that it lacked the colour of the original Venetian glass. However, it was a start to producing better designed items.
Whitefriars Glassware by Harry PowellDesigners at Whitefriars around this time were. Philip Webb, T.G. Jackson, Joseph Leicester and of course Harry Powell. Harry was the son of Nathanael Powell and grandson of the founder James Powell. Harry went on to produce most of the designs for the company for about 40 years.
From 1880 until 1919 he was exceedingly industrious. His designs of lighting and tableware’s in the Arts and Craft style were some of the best produced in the whole of Europe.
Many Venetian inspired vases in a straw opal and blue opal glass were made. Latticino threading, internal trailing, external trailing decoration and even metal mounts were all used in his designs.
The beautiful “Glasses with Histories” series so much associated as being designed by Harry Powell were actually started by his elder cousin James Crofts Powell. James while visiting Dutch museums made drawings of these historical pieces. They were exhibited in 1889 as the “Twelve Reproductions from Studies in Holland by Jas C Powell”.
The First World War was more or less responsible for bringing to an end the Arts and Crafts era and Harry Powell died in 1922. Before his death however he had made plans for the factory to be moved to Wealdstone where it remained till its closure in 1980.
The Final 60 Years of Whitefriars Glass – The Move to Wealdstone
Some of the more popular designs from the Glasses with Histories range were still being produced well into the 1920s and the 30s. Obviously there was still a demand for these beautiful pieces. Opposite is a Woodchester vase designed by Harry.
The journeys of Harry Powell and James Crofts Powell to museums in the UK and Europe resulted in numerous designs being produced. Although, I believe that not all designs were reproduced or, have not yet been seen.
Things at Whitefriars slowed in the 1920s which is not surprising. Apart from the war recovery, there was also the move to the new factory at Wealdstone and the loss of the exceptional designer and workaholic Harry Powell.
They continued to exhibit and showed their wares at the, Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris. Here they manged to pick up a gold medal. It was probably at an, Exhibitioner in Leipzig in 1927 that their shapes in a simpler modern style were first seen.
The variety of examples produced in the 20s, 30, and 40s were many. They were streaky colours, wave ribbed, cloudy, cloudy striped, cloudy lattice, threaded, threaded ribbed, ribbon trailed and optic ribbed. Applied decoration of tears, spots, heavy ribbon trailing, swags, bubbled ribbon trailing were all used to decorate vases and bowls and on some lamp bases.
Plain vases were also produced, some with a rigaree foot ring. An interesting range was the lotus flower shapes that had vases and bowls representing the various stages in the flower’s life.
Tom Hill glass blower and designer was the first to produce really heavy thick-walled pieces for Whitefriars. These were a stark contrast to other finer examples he designed which included bowls with ribbon trailing applied.
The 1930s saw the return of cutting at Whitefriars. New geometric abstract cut patterns were designed and cut into a good selection of vases and bowls. Designers of these pieces were, William Wilson, Barnaby Powell and Albert Tubby. The former two in this trio were responsible for most of the designed during this period.
Stylish sherry sets, wine sets, cocktail sets jugs and tumblers and other tableware were also produced at this time, some with fine cutting and trailing.
In the 1940s and 50s thick walled pieces similar to those produced by Tom Hill in the mid-30s were again in production and designed again by William Wilson and Barnaby Powell. This time in a variety of shapes. Some with applied decoration, some with bubbles and other heavy vases and bowls with deep cut patterns.
Another relatively unknown designer emerges at this juncture 1954- 57 who also has designed contemporary bowls and vases with cut decoration. Who was he? Yes, none other than an old friend we spoke about in the very first paragraph of this article, Geoffrey Baxter.
Introduction to Whitefriars Glass of Geoff Baxter
Cut glass, Geoffrey Baxter. I know, cut glass might not be the very first thing you expect to be designed by someone who produced some of the zaniest glass designs ever produced in the UK. Remarkable people can do remarkable things and Geoff Baxter was surely a remarkable man.
These cut examples are only a small fraction of the designs by Baxter. Other items include, cased pieces in what we now call molar vases and bowls with pulled up rims. Some were quite similar to items being produces on the continent by Paul Kedelv. Certainly, more restrained than those created by Kedelv, in true British tradition.
Other examples of Whitefriars glass by Geoff Baxter include, vases and bowl with a white enamel edge, soda glass vases in varying shapes, sizes and colour. And a wide range of other attractive cased designs in new modern colours.
Harry Dyer and William Wilson designed an unusual range of lamp bases and vases in a heavy knobbly cased glass and others in streaky colours in different shades.
Then in 1966 Geoff Baxter created designs for his textured glass range and I’m certain you have heard the story, “While working at home in his garage”. These prototypes were to be viewed by William Wilson the chief designer at the time, on his return from holiday. It is said that Baxter was more than a little relieved to get the thumbs up for production of his designs.
Those first few textured examples were soon to be expanded upon. They became the range of stunning pieces we all dream about owning today. If we only had the foresight to pick them up either brand new or second hand before the prices rocketed.
These textured shapes, from the bark vases to the more dramatic banjo vases, every one of them has that fresh new design look. Good designs always seem to look modern and as if they could have been produced today. Just like some of the Christopher Dresser designs, I believe these Baxter pieces will stand the test of time and be modern looking for generations to come.
Geoffrey Baxter went on to design other pieces with contrasting applied spots and ribbon trails and vases which were decorated with applied strapping in a random fashion. He also designed a new range of streaky glass vases and a range of paperweights.
Peter Wheeler an assistant to Geoffrey Baxter designed a range that was termed Studio Glass. Some were white lined with vertical stripes created by using silver chloride and then cased in clear. Another was the Peacock Studio range created using kingfisher blue and twilight with random strapping applied to the top areas. Silver chloride was again added to the strapping which altered the strapping colour. These designs were only in production for a year or so.
Thanks for Remarkable People and Remarkable Glass
As I mentioned earlier Geoffrey Baxter was surely a remarkable man. His large range of modern unusual designs will be testament to that. It’s probably quite easy for us to accept that he was indeed remarkable because he is of our time and we can relate to so much of what he did. But so, to were others in the Powell organisation.
James Powell, remarkable for having the insight to acquire the Whitefriars Glassworks. Remarkable for running a company that kept so many detailed records that we can use, study and enjoy today.
Harry Powell another remarkable man, who did so much for the company and left us with some truly beautiful examples of handmade Arts and Crafts glass. This at a time when all around them were mechanising and pumping out pressed glass items in their thousands. How many times, especially when times get tough, might the minds of those in charge of the business considered radical changes? I suspect they may have had thoughts about moving over to these new modern mechanical methods of the era.
The time-consuming art of producing each hand blown item by a chair (gaffer and team) would have been expensive compared to the mass produced pressed glass.
The remarkable workers. Those in the chairs and other members of staff who stuck to the task through those more difficult bygone eras and their families who depended on them.
The remarkable creators of the books “Whitefriars Glass book – James Powell & Sons of London” by Wendy Evans, Catherine Ross and Alex Werner. The “Whitefriars Glass book – James Powell & Sons of London” by Wendy Jackson.
To the organisers of the event held in the Manchester City Art Galleries in 1996 who put on such a remarkable display. Not forgetting the contributors who amassed around 900 pieces of Whitefriars from 1860s to the 1970s.
Thanks also goes to Rodger Dodsworth of the Glass Cone and Broadfield House Glass Museum for the invitation to the Whitefriars glass event during my membership. All of those people mentioned above in my view, are truly REMARKABLE!!!
If, like myself you are a collector of art glass items then you will no doubt be well aware of the beauty of Murano Glass produced on the island near Venice. Or perhaps you have just arrived on this page to learn how to identify Murano glass.The answer to this is not a simple one and there are a few factors you will need to take into account.
Quality, I would say should be the main criteria, so let’s look at what constitutes quality. Experienced collectors will have learned what quality means due to handling so many pieces on possible visits to Murano, browsing in stores, visiting antique fairs and specialist fairs.
It’s over 700 years since the glassmakers in Venice had to move to the island of Murano to avoid causing a fire in Venice.
700 years is a long time and as you would imagine there wouldn’t be very much that they would not have learned over all this time.
The culmination of these handed down skills, new challenging technics learned and the competition between one another during this period, probably go a long way in making the items so unique.
These skills and techniques, which I lay out below, when carried out to a high level are a sure pointer to what are authentic Murano items.
The 3 Steps in Murano Glass Identification
There are clues to look for in the identification process. Sometimes the type of metal used or even the style can be recognized as being made by a certain maker.
There are signed pieces certainly which help in the identification, although these are few and far between and not really the best answer. Probably the specimens found which still have their paper labels intact will be the most helpful in learning how to identify Murano glass.
Just keep in mind that signatures and labels when present shouldn’t be the only criteria in determining where a piece was made. Fake signatures and labels can be added to an item at any point by those trying to deceive and they should only serve to verify your thoughts about the source of manufacture.
Experience is always the most reliable method when attempting to identify examples. For those who are just starting out the following three features to look for when assessing whether a piece is Murano or not should help.
Even if it turned out after purchasing the item it had never been near Venice, if these qualities were still present you would still have a very noice piece anyway.
How to Identify Murano Glass – My 3 Tips
Determine the technical difficulty of making the piece.
Has it been created with a lot of care and attention?
How good is the quality of metal used?
What we need to understand is that the leading makers of glassware throughout the world, not just Murano, have a reputation to look after. If they don’t do this properly by creating quality items then consumers would stop buying and the eventual closure of the firm would be inevitable. Just like any business, quality needs to be maintained if they are serious about remaining in the marketplace.
Does the Design Include High Technical Skills to Recreate the Item?
Design plays a large part of how successful a product line would be in the any industry. Very often the artisan will be creating their masterpieces from drawings provided by designers of note.
When the design of a piece requires a lot of delicate work, final polishing to a high quality finish or the need to get the colours perfect, certain skills need to be in place to get these things right. That’s very often where the fake falls down and you should be able to spot the difference.
All of the top company’s in Murano have shops or outlets stocking their wares and browsing these stores will educate you on what quality looks like. If you ever visit these outlets, especially the better shops, ask if you can handle the pieces. Depending on the store you visit, you may well be able to just walk around freely examining pieces as you go. Most of all look closely at the item and imagine how difficult it would be to create and do it well.
Has the Piece Been Made Well with no Flaws?
Let’s say you are visiting an antique fair and your eye catches a stunning vase. The dealer is selling the vase as a Murano vase but as yet, you’re not too sure how to identify Murano glass. This is a very common problem mainly due to the fact that the majority of items were never marked. Even most of the pieces that would have had a makers label will have lost their labels through constant washing.
If the price is very expensive then I would personally look for quality of design and very good craftsmanship being present. If you find that these qualities are not present and you question why the piece is quite roughly made, don’t accept excuses like, “Oh the glass is old”.
Even old glass made by quality craftsmen was very well made. Quality is quality and that’s why these pieces are sold at premium prices. Roughly made items are not quality and the good glasshouses would rather smash the piece if it didn’t come up to their high standards.
Remember these artisans have their pride and the last thing they would like, is the word out about a bad range of wares they have produced. The island in the Venetian lagoon isn’t very large and their reputation is important to them as it has been over the centuries.
What is the Quality of Metal Used?
If the item I was examining was rough to the touch with unfinished edges and just altogether looked like it was poorly made, I would not consider purchasing it. It may have looked like something that interested me from a distance but this closer examination would have made up my mind.
There are many look-a-like items available, some made in a similar fashion but by a lesser maker, without the real skills and using cheaper materials. At the time it was made it was never meant to deceive as it would probably have been targeting a market with less disposable income.
The problem arises when these items appear for resale on the secondary market and those new to collecting who have never handled the better quality version become confused. Often after seeing attractive items in books and auction catalogues these images can stick in your mind and when something similar crops up the brain can be tricked into believing it is the same.
Of course not every piece will have all the above qualities. They will still be Murano pieces but made using less time consuming artistic skills. These bowls, vases and animals can still be well made in attractive colours and indeed still be very collectible, which they are. If starting out in building a collection, these pieces would make an excellent start in understanding more about this glass type.
Collectors Need to Know How to Identify Murano Glass
There are many techniques and terms used when describing venetian glassware. The more common terms you will come across in alphabetic order will be, Bullcante, Cased, Gold Leaf, Latticino, Millefiori, Silver Leaf and Sommerso.
There are many more but I think they could be better served if covered in another post. As would some of the better known makers.
Signed pieces made in Murano have been produced although they are in the minority. Stuck on labels have been a big help to identify Murano glass when still attached to the item. But even identifying these stickers is another skill that needs to be acquired to find out which company used what label.
If you intend to build a collection of the better pieces, bear in mind the points you have learned here in how to identify murano glass. Look out for pieces that would need high technical skills to produce. Satisfy yourself that it has been created with a high degree of skill and is made in a good quality metal.
If not it could still be Murano made remember, but perhaps not by any of the leading companies. Or a simple souvenir piece made quickly for the tourist market and not a serious piece of art glass.