The Dr Jill Turnbull Glass Collection
"An important collection, one of devotion, esteem and heritage."
Exhibit is thrilled and honoured to present the private glass collection of Dr Jill Turnbull. A renowned independent glass historian and leading specialist in Scottish Glassworks. Dr. Turnbull entered the study of antiquities later in life which only illustrates the difference that one woman’s passion can make. Without some extensive legwork, minimal attribution could be applied to the Scottish glass companies before her impressive contributions to research and documentation.
Dr Turnbull had already acquired a breadth of knowledge in the related field of ceramics when she became dedicated to acquiring her PhD in 1999 from the University of Edinburgh. She subsequently published her dissertation “The Scottish Glass Industry 1610-1750", and later the book "From Goblets To Gaslights". Jill has assisted in developing collective understanding by working closely with the Archaeological Society and The National Museums of Scotland. She now passes this knowledge on through her talks and papers helping to provide an understanding of the subject matter and inspiration to those researchers who will carry on the work.
This exhibit represents a large portion of the works collected by Dr Turnbull over her many years of study. Most were collected to attribute and document their histories, as such, many of these pieces have been published in Dr Turnbull’s books. Our product listings will provide such details where appropriate. The remaining collection is to be held and donated to Museums in time.
Authors' Note: Jill Turnbull explains in her own words the allure of her research in a video by the National Records of Scotland: View the Video Clip.
400 Years of Scottish Glass
Interior of a crown-glass house, from ‘The crown glass cutter and glazier’s manual’ by William Cooper, Edinburgh 1835.
George Hay, 1st Earl of Kinnoull (Sir George De Haye of Nethercliff) became the pioneer of Scottish glass production after establishing a small glasshouse in 1610 on Wemyss shore, located across the water from Leith, to this day it is known as ‘Glass Cove’. He was granted a patent by King James VI of Scotland & I of England for 31 years and although the company later closed, the Forth estuary’s surrounding area became an important hub of the glassmaking industry, inspiring generations of independent glass houses lasting 400 years.
"Leith Races" by William Reed (1845 - 1881) | In the background you can see the glass cones of the Edinburgh & Leith Glass Company. Photo credit | Museums & Galleries Edinburgh - City of Edinburgh Council.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Scotland’s glassworks flourished and established glassmaking centres nationwide, notably in Edinburgh, Leith, Glasgow, Greenock, Dundee, Perth, Crieff, Portobello, Bathgate, Caithness, Perth, Alloa and Wick. Dr Turnbull’s glassware collection includes a range of works from the most prestigious Scottish glasshouses during this period. The overarching narrative of Dr. Turnbull's work however does not focus on the prestigious wares, instead, she has prevailed in discerning those manufacturers that provided everyday men and women with all that they required in their social and economic lives. Streetlights, window panes and ink bottles are some of the most overlooked essentials of the time, Jill’s enthusiasm for the topic brings an immersive context to these developments that few can provide.
Alloa Glass Works | Photo credit: By John R Hume, 1967. A section of the remaining cone from a survey carried out in 1968 for the National Monuments Record of Scotland (Dr Jill Turnbull’s second book - page 88.)
All of Scotland’s glass cones have been demolished except for this unused but preserved example. Alloa Glass Works was officially founded in 1767 to produce glass bottles, making it Scotland’s oldest functioning glasshouse and now the country's only remaining glass bottle works. The Edinburgh Glasshouse Company had been expanding for a decade when in 1788 they purchased the Alloa Glasshouse and went on to produce wares for Dukes and Lords throughout the land. The site was then expanded further in 1825 after it was taken over by The Edinburgh, Glasgow and Alloa Glass Company. In 1868 it was purchased by Archibald Stuart, and then by Alexander Mitchell in 1873 until finally being taken over by United Glass Bottle Manufacturers in 1955. Upon being surveyed in 1968 the cones had no trace of the original coal-fired furnace or annealing oven as they were outfitted with successive gas furnaces.
The story of the Alloa glass works is one of commonality as most glasshouses have a similarly complex history. The difficulty in 19th-century glass identification is the tremendous crossover between parent and subsidiary companies, takeovers, and cooperations between designers and multiple glasshouses. Extensive pattern books could be passed down so that the next generation of makers may choose to modify well-performing shapes or use similar detailing. Makers' marks didn't tend to be used until the 20th century making pattern recognition a highly valued skill among collectors.
Glass houses that were able to survive the fierce competition of the 19th century had to contend with strikes, economic upheaval and the impact of two world wars during the 20th. Jill’s collection covers some of the most notable companies each with their own fascinating and messy histories.
Glasshouses of The Collection
Edinburgh & Leith Flint Glass Works
Jill Turnbull Collection | Rare Edwardian Edinburgh & Leith Crystal Decanter & Six Matching Glasses c1910 | Marked E&L and illustrated on page 190 of Dr Jill Turnbull's book, she notes “the stopper relates to the 18th century”.
Edinburgh & Leith Flint Glass Works passed from the Jenkinson family to Thomas Webb & Sons of Stourbridge in 1921, however, it continued to trade under its original name until being changed to The Edinburgh Crystal Glass Company in 1955.
Left | Jill Turnbull Collection | Edwardian Edinburgh & Leith Crystal Cream Jug c1910 Catalogue Number 847 | Marked E&L and illustrated on page 182 of Dr Jill Turnbull's book ‘From Gaslights
To Goblets’ as pattern number E753.
Right | Jill Turnbull Collection | Large Edinburgh Crystal Biscuit Barrel c1935 & Edinburgh Crystal Jam Jar c1935 | A Similar example is illustrated on page 189 of Dr Jill Turnbull's book ‘From Gaslights To Goblets’.
Left | Jill Turnbull Collection | Webb Corbett Art Deco Wave Pattern Glass Decanter c1930-32
Right | Jill Turnbull Collection | Six Herbert Webb for Webb Corbett Art Deco Wave Pattern Glasses c1930-32
James Couper & Son’s | Forth Glass Works
Right | Jill Turnbull Collection | Pressed Glass Honeypot by Forth Glass Works, registered 1877 | Recorded in ‘Goblets to Gaslights’ by Jill Turnbull on page 200.
The Forth Glass Works was situated alongside the Forth & Clyde Canal in Glasgow, north of the Woodside area of the city. It was in production for over 50 years with 3 glass cones adjacent to the canal and was the only glasswork in Scotland to specialise in pressed glass; it also produced cut glass, engraved flint glass and medicine bottles. Along this same canal were the Victoria Glassworks, followed by the Firhill Flint Glassworks, the Firhill Glass Bottle Works, and the Caledonian Glassworks, adding to an important glass hub of the west.
Holyrood Flint Glass Works
Left | Jill Turnbull Collection | Pair of Holyrood 19th Century Frosted Glass Milkmaid Candlesticks c1880 | Illustrated on pages 57 - 60, illustration 4.21, of Dr Jill Turnbull's book ‘From Gaslights To Goblets’.
Right | Jill Turnbull Collection | Two Holyrood Glass Obelisks | Illustrated on page 209 of Dr Jill Turnbull's book ‘From Gaslights To Goblets’.
Strathearn Glass Company
Mills, Webb & Stuart was formed by Frederick Stuart In 1853, an orphan who at the age of 11 began the craft of glassmaking in Stourbridge. Stuart & Sons was launched with his seven sons in 1883 upon the first firm's expiration. It wasn’t until the opening of a new factory in Wales and the demolishing of The While House factory in Stourbridge that a new company was formed in Scotland in 1980 called Stuart Strathearn Glass. The original ‘Red House’ glass works standing 110 ft is now a museum where visitors can see the old manufacturing process.
Stourbridge Glass Museum showing the ‘Red House’ glass cone. Photo credit | EncroVision
Dr Turnbull’s collection is one of passion and interest, these works highlight just a few of the everyday items produced with care for a society that appreciated above all else access to the finer things.
Authors Note: If you’d like to visit a surviving glass cone in the wild, there’s also a great example in Catcliffe. You can see a flyover video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yT3Veo04k4
Related Books & Studies of Interest
The Scottish Glass Industry 1610-1750: To Serve The Whole Nation With Glass.
By Dr Jill Turnbull | Published by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2001.
Dr Jill Turnbull From Goblets To Gaslights: The Scottish Glass Industry 1750 - 2006.
By Dr Jill Turnbull | Published by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2017.
Scottish Industrial History - Vol: 23 | Published by Business Archives Council of Scotland.
A special thanks to Dr. Jill Turnbull who has graciously allowed Exhibit to document and offer this wonderful collection.
Article Author | Nicola Smillie