Archiver > ENG-BLACK-COUNTRY > 2000-02 > 0951694341

From: "Dave Ogden" <>
Subject: Chance's Part 5
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 23:32:21 -0000


A plan of the site in 1810 used to hang on an office wall at Chances and was
particularly informative, as notes on the map in Lucas Chance's handwriting
indicated the dates when various portions of the land were acquired by the
firm and the names of the persons from whom they were purchased.
The farm house was close to the brook and the names of the fields indicated
the purposes for which they were used.


The founder of the original glassworks on the site was Thomas Shutt, who
purchased about fifteen acres in 1814. It extended from the old canal to the
turnpike road (now known as Oldbury Road), the width varied at several
places. The land that Thomas Shutt bought included the fields or part of
fields bearing the names of Sling, Broad Leasow, Upper Moor, Little Moor and
Spon Meadow. Shutt built the original glass house and production of Crown
glass began in 1815. He formed a partnership with Joseph Stock and Thomas
and Philip Palmer, and from 1816 the works traded under the name of "The
British Crown Glass Company.
With the death of Thomas Shutt in 1822 at the age of 59, the main driving
force behind the company was extinguished. The remaining partners decided to
sell their interests and so a buyer for the firm was sought. This culminated
in the sale of the business to Robert Lucas Chance. He found the required
capital of £24,000 and two years later the enterprise that would eventually
employ 3,500 people began trading on the Spon Lane site. (1)


The excitement that filled Lucas as he set forth in this new venture was
relayed in a letter to his brother Henry, a Barrister "I have every reason
for thinking that the concern will realise the most sanguine expectations I
have formed, and it presents a scope for the exercise of my acquirements as
a man of business. " Lucas certainly had courage and foresight, as he took
over his glass firm at a time when British glass makers suffered under
duties and restrictions. Not only was the notorious window tax in force, but
it was a time when excise officers stood day and night over pots, besides an
inspector whose only duty was to see that others were not bribed. (2)
Lucas immediately added a second glass house alongside the original
building, and a third in 1828. The rest of the site remained mainly open
country, although the "Fordrove" led to "The Hall" erected during the period
of Shutts ownership. The Hall was a mansion house with kitchen and flower

(1) Aris's Birmingham Gazette 28r" October 1822
(2) Mirror For Chance - Chance Brothers 1951

Lucas rapidly extended his business which was largely export. Another son,
Frank, was born on 22nd June 1826 at the Highgate residence and another,
John Homer, on 31st July 1827. Meanwhile, Lucas was beginning to find
difficulties in conducting properly the sale of glass in London and it's
manufacture in Smethwick, although he thought little of travelling to
Birmingham by one night coach and returning by the next. He realised that
for the business to succeed, help would be required. It was now that Lucas
again turned his attention to the man he had secured for the Nailsea works,
John Hartley. Lucas's persuasive nature was again evident, and a partnership
with John Hartley commenced on 1st April 1828. It was a move that angered
his relatives at Nailsea. In a letter to his brother Henry, he wrote "I
really see no reason for their being angry, excepting that they have lent me
their pot maker, but then any other house would have done the same. "
John Hartley provided a capital of £4,000 and received an annual salary of
£400, together with a fifteenth share of the profits. Also as part of his
remuneration, he and his family took up residence in "The Hall". In a
further letter to Henry he wrote of his satisfaction with his working
relationship with Hartley. "He (Hartley) is perfectly satisfied, and as he
places the most implicit confidence in me, the engagement is in every
respect everything I wish ", and perhaps the most profound words penned to
his brother "I have so often been disappointed that I dare not calculate on
anything, but the probabilities are, that I shall establish on a solid basis
a manufactory that will be a credit to the family, and perhaps the
neighbourhood, with an income sufficient to make all my sons glass
manufacturers. " Lucas Chance's hopes and foresight were remarkably
accurate, with both his and his Brother William's descendants being involved
with the company in due course. The style of the "British Crown Glass
Company" was retained and production of crown glass undertaken.


The making of crown glass dates from the late seventeenth century. The crown
method appears to have been used mainly in the Normandy area, from where it
later spread across the channel to England. (1)
The ingredients of sand, potash, lime and cullet (broken glass) were
fashioned together in appropriate quantities for the quality of glass being
made. Each glass house in a works operated as an autonomous unit, under the
direction of a supervisor. The exact mixes were jealously guarded with the
secrets often being passed from generation to generation within a family.
At Chance's these ingredients for the finished product, having been
thoroughly incorporated together, were introduced into the pots in which
they were to be melted. The pots were of the best Stourbridge clay and made
entirely by hand. They had an outside diameter of forty two inches and an
internal diameter of thirty nine inches, tapering slightly at the bottom. A
good pot maker with two assistants could furnish three or four per week.
(1) Two Thousand Years of Flat Glass Making - PiIkington Glass and Salford
University 1983

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