Latest Glasshouse Information

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CHAPTER 4, Page 19. The history of the Crutched Friars monastery.

The House of the Crossed or Crutched Friars was founded in 1282 or 1298 south of the eastern part of Hart Street (map p.18) now called Crutched Friars. Under Henry VIII the building was surrendered in 1538 by six friars (presumably the only occupants?) and the site granted to his poet and supporter, Sir Thomas Wyatt (d. 1542). It was probably just prior to the death of Wyatt's son (1554) that Edward VI, in 1549, brought over the eight Muranese glassmakers under Casselari. Although many of the glassmakers returned to Venice Casselari continued to make glass there until 1569. (Some of the departed glassmakers were probably replaced by a new group brought over by Queen Mary.) Verselini took over the glasshouse the following year (1570) which flourished until it was burnt down in 1575. The Crutched Friars glasshouse was rebuilt but the date when it restarted producing glass is not known. Verselini also established another glasshouse in Broad Street and possibly one in Greenwich although now doubtful as the Crutched Friars glasshouse was rebuilt. Verselini retired in 1592 when the glasshouse probably closed.In 1720 the site was partly covered by the new Navy Office that from 1793-96 became Trinity House (particularly associated with the control of lighthouses and other non-government buildings). Trinity House was bombed in December 1940 but the impressive front retained in the sensitive 1952/3 rebuild.

Trinity House today.Trinity House today.

CHAPTER 9, Page 64. Charterhouse and Glass House Liberty.
From British History on Line.
quoting:- A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark, by John Noorthouck, published in 1773.

Between St. John's-street on the west, Goswell-street on the east, and Long lane on the south, stands the Charter house, originally purchased for the burial of those who died of the plague in the year 1349, and which is now extra-parochial. Here Sir Walter Manny founded a Carthusian monastery, which, by the corruption of the French term Chartreux, obtained the name of the Charterhouse.

The buildings, which are extremely irregular, have nothing but their convenience and situation to recommend them. The rooms are well disposed, and the square in the front is very neat, and kept in as good order as most in town. This square and the large garden behind give a free air, and at one and the same time contribute both to health and pleasure.

Adjoining to the Charter-house is Glass-house liberty, a part of the parish of St. Botolph Aldersgate-street, situated in Goswell and Pick-ax streets, thus named from a glass-house which antiently stood there. There was formerly but one government in the parish; but the poor of this liberty increasing considerably, the city liberty separated from them, and obliged those in this district to maintain their own poor.

CHAPTER 14, Page 96. Re Street lighting.

Outline map of the Spitalfields area today. Spitalfields Antique Market is on Thursdays. Best to get there about 7.00 a.m.Outline map of the Spitalfields area today.: Spitalfields Antique Market is on Thursdays. Best to get there about 7.00 a.m.

Middlesex County Records. Calendar of Sessions Book 624 - January 1705.

Information is given to the Court that many streets and lanes in Spitalfields have been lighted both with convex lamps and with other glass lamps, and that great confusion has in consequence arisen, some of the Justices having approved of one kind being used, and some the other. Many of the inhabitants, too, exempt themselves from the penalty of 2/- per night for not hanging out a light by sometimes pretending that they contribute to one kind and sometimes to the other kind. The Court refers the matter to certain of the Justices who are to examine how the streets are lighted - with lamps of any sort, or by the inhabitants themselves with candles and lanthorns. The are to report to the next Quarter Sessions (p.48)
(NB.The required report has not been found so far.)

The alternative lights were probably the Light Royal which are mentioned in a Parliamentary Bill (Nov. 22 1692) to extend the Patent for Convex lights for a further ten years.

"A Petition of Craven Howard Esquire, and others, was read; setting forth, That they being informed a Bill is brought into this House, for granting a further Term to the Patentees of the Convex Lights, with an Exclusion of the setting up any other Light; with a Clause of Conviction, for any Offence, before one Justice of Peace; that there is no Mention made, in the said Patent, of Convex Lights: That the Petitioners are the Inventors of a Light called the Light Royal, being one entire Glass, giving Light to all Places round about, and underneath, without any Darks or Shades (which the other Lights have), and much clearer and more useful; and will be cheaper to the Publick than any Light now in Use; which the Petitioners are about to set up: That the said Bill is to establish a Monopoly and discourage Industry and Invention for the publick Good: and for that the Petitioners do not desire to abridge the said Persons of the Benefit of their Patent, in case it shall be found to be legal (the contrary whereof they hope to prove), they pray to be heard against the said Bill, and particularly against the said Clauses for Exclusion and Conviction. Ordered, That the Consideration of the said Petition be referred to the Committee to whom the Bill for granting a longer Term of Years to the Partners concerned in the Convex Lights is committed."
At a vote on December 30 the Bill was passed in the negative (i.e. rejected) which explains why a mixture of lighting systems appeared to have been used in Spitalfields.


CHAPTER 15, Page 99 et seq. Re John Baptista da Costa.

Altare Glass Museum in the Villa Rosa. For more information see Hebrew History Federation Fact Paper 25 available on the web.Altare Glass Museum in the Villa Rosa.: For more information see Hebrew History Federation Fact Paper 25 available on the web.

How Altare came into being as a glassmaking centre has been a matter of some speculation. Suggestions involving France and Portugal based on the names of glassmaking families there are now generally discounted following a proposal originally put forward by Edward Dillon in his "Glass" (1907, p. 174) that a Middle Eastern origin should not be neglected. The scanty evidence suggests an involvement with returning Crusaders in the 12th century. (see Anita Engle, Readings in Glass History vol. 12). The first glassmakers there seem to have made window glass by a cast process and also mirror plates (presumably by the same method). As set out below the da Costa family appeared not to have arrived in Altare before the 16th century although their family goes back to at least the 10th century. Glassmaking development in Altare seems to parallel and interact with that of Venice although restricted in the scope of on-site production.

The involvement of J.B. da Costa with Ravenscroft in the discovery of English lead crystal is fact. Knowing how the two came to meet in the first place, although of secondary importance, could aid our understanding of Ravenscroft's motive in employing him. In my book (p.101) I suggest that he came to London to visit his rich banker relatives. One might add to this speculation that he was seeking finacial support for an investment he had with Jean Guillaume Renier in the Rotterdam glasshouse where they had worked together. Renier is a name that crops up in Anita Engle's account of the Altare glassmakers and it is possible, or even probable, that he also was from that town.

However, a section in the Hebrew History Factpaper No. 41 by Samuel Kurinsky suggests another possibility. Kurinsky writes:-
"Nonetheless, the Universitá d'Altare (the controlling body of the glassmakers), as the community continued to be called into modern times, ostensibly Christian, continued to serve for the next century as a refuge and as an "underground railroad" for Sephardic glassmakers seeking a place for themselves in the Diaspora. Among these immigrants were members of the da Costa family, and they grew to prominence in the community's council. In the mid-sixteenth century, three out of the five consoli of the commune were da Costas. The other two were likewise Sephardim: a Ponti and a Raccheti."
In London 'Raccheti' became 'Rackett' and Michael Rackett was a senior glassmaker at the Goodman's Yard glasshouse in the Minories (chapter 20). In 1677 Edmund Lewin was making bottles there and was due to retire the following year when Rackett became Master of the glasshouse (p.141). Rackett now began making white as well as green glass and we might see here an opening for da Costa's expertise. All this happened some 4-5 years after da Costa joined up with Ravenscroft but knowledge of the potential change might have brought him to London.

Yet a third possibility is that the Universitá d'Altare, unlike Venice, did not restrict the movements of their glassmakers with threats but rented them out on a cash basis. It is difficult to believe that this applied to J.B. da Costa bearing in mind his financial involvement in the Rotterdam glasshouse but it could have been part of the overall package with Ravenscroft and could explain why, after the registration of the patent for English lead crystal and a mention of his working at the Henley on Thames glasshouse, he is not heard of again.

CHAPTER 21, Page 146. Re Ratcliffe glasshouse.
Middlesex County Records. Calendar of Sessions Book 602 - January 1703.

Andrew Pires, of the hamlet of Ratcliffe, complained to the Court that he is over-rated by 20/- to the relief of the poor for the dwelling house, glasshouse and premises which he rents. The Court orders the abatement of the 20/-.

Regarding the subletting of the Ratcliffe glasshouse by Mansell in 1620 the Victoria County History of Middlesex states, p. 156, "In 1623 Abraham Bigo had a glasshouse at Ratcliffe and another in the Isle of Purbeck." One or other of the two glasshouses must have been operated by another member of the Bigo family. Might this have been the Jeremiah Bagg who, with Francis Bristow, had an illegal glasshouse in Greenwich closed by Mansell in 1641/42 (see pp. 53 and 62).

CHAPTERS 12 and 21. Re John Bowles and Ratcliffe glasshouse.

At his death John Bowles owned one third of the Ratcliffe glasshouse, the other two thirds probably being shared between his brothers, notably Phineas (see page 80. His will (P.R.O. Prob. 11/516.sig. 150) states "My will and desire is for executors and partners in RATCLIFFE GLASSHOUSE to permit my share to continue, and permit my one third share of my stock to be taken and enjoyed by my wife MARY BOWLES, one third to my children (Charles, Phineas and Benjamin, according to the custom of the City of London, where I am FREEMAN. The other one third to be added to my estate. To grandson WILLIAM BOWLES £100. Granddaughter REBECCA BOWLES £50. Grandson JOHN BOWLES £50. Remainder shared equally to all children except son PHINEAS and daughter ELLIS, THEY HAVING CONSIDERABLE PORTIONS IN LIFETIME. (Phineas' line of descent ultimately emerged as owners of the glasshouse). WILLIAM BOWLES (his brother) sole executor. Wife £20 for mourning."

Kent's 1794 Directory lists "Bowles Geo. & Charles, Glass Manufactory, Cock hill, Ratcliff."