In June 1882, Sowerbys Ellison Glass Works of Gateshead published their ninth pattern book. The “fancy goods” consisted mainly of small items, such as spill vases and salts, which were offered in a wide range of colours and finishes. The original pattern book contained twelve pages, with representations of 267 designs.
A facsimile copy was produced in the 1980’s, which was limited to the first eight pages. Although the smaller reproductions occassionally pop up for sale online, the full catalogue can be viewed online
I find the most striking thing, when looking through the pattern book, is the eclectic range of designs. These range from simplistic forms, through artistic representations, to intricate scrolled patterns. At least fifteen items of glassware incorporate the artwork of Walter Crane, a prolific Victorian illustrator.
The wide range of colours advertised seem to have been used selectively with different designs. Whilst it is not uncommon to find the artistic designs in malachite, it is very hard to make out the details. However, the simpler designs work well in malachite glass as the eye is drawn to the swirls of colour within the smooth lines and surfaces. There is a vast amount of the opaque (unable to be seen through) glass around and it is easy to find pieces for sale at relatively low cost. The opaque glass is also referred to as vitro-porcelain.
Sowerby’s produced cased glass with white splodges (marbled), foil (nugget), as well as opaque lime (aesthetic green). Some of the designs shown in the 1882 pattern book were produced in these finishes. However, the following chart describes the colours advertised in the pattern book.
|Opal||Opalascent glass, clear with white tips.|
|Turquoise||Opaque light blue glass. Sometimes called blue milk glass.|
|Malachite||Swirled colour; frequently in purple, green or blue.|
|Patent Ivory Queens Ware||Opaque cream glass, glows under UV light.|
|Blanc de Lait||Opaque white glass, often called milk glass.|
|Gold||Sometimes the glass was covered with gilt.|
|Jet||Opaque black glass.|
|Venetian in several colours||Blown designs with coloured trim, which do not appear in the catalogue.|
|Giallo||A vivid yellow opaque glass.|
|Decorated Opaque Stained Blanc de Lait||White opaque glass which has the design stained in different colours. Usually used on floral designs on creamers & sugars.|
|New Tortoise Shellware||Brown translucent glass with white and dark brown spots, resembling tortoiseshell.|
I have been scouring the internet finding images to recreate the Sowerby Pattern Books, and registered designs, as Pinterest boards. There are sections on the boards for each design I have located images for. The Sowerby boards currently have over 800 pins, sorted over 200+ sections. Additionally, there is a board to showcase the different colours, and finishes, of glass being produced by Sowerby’s.
The board below contains the patterns that were included in the 1882 pattern book.
contains detailed information on Sowerby colours, Walter Crane illustrations and pattern books.
Sowerby Gateshead Glass by Tyne and Wear Museums Service; ISBN 0 905974 27 1