During the late 17th century a remarkable structure developed in Britain – the glass cone. These conical buildings dominated the local landscape, defining the area from Stourbridge to Dudley. The Red House Glass Cone was completed in 1794. It is one of only four cones remaining in Britain and is the most complete example in Europe – the other three are located in Scotland, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield. In acknowledgement of this, it is Grade 2 * listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Cones were designed to draw air into the furnace. Underground tunnels that led to the furnace sucked air in, which would increase the ferocity of their heat. It also provided a large work space for the glassmakers. There were many cones across this area, but the densest concentration was in Amblecote and Wordsley.
Even after technology advanced and the cones were no longer needed to act as chimneys, the buildings were still used for glassmaking until many eventually fell into disrepair, were demolished or simply collapsed.
The Red House Glass Cone was built between 1788 and 1794 by Richard Bradley. He died in 1796 and the site passed through various owners and leasees, Hodgetts and Davies, Elizabeth and William Hodgetts, Phillip Pargeter. In 1881 Frederick Stuart leased the site.
Although production had ceased, the Red House site was not abandoned. It was utilised for storage and remained unaltered whilst surrounding cones were demolished. In 1966 its historical and architectural significance was recognised with grade II listing. Between 1982 and 1984 the cone was restored and Stuart Crystal opened the Red House Glassworks Working Museum. Sadly Stuart Crystal was failing and they were bought by Waterford Wedgewood plc in 1995. This did not succeed and in 2001 Stuart Crystal ceased production and the factory shop closed in 2009.
The Red House Glass Cone then commenced its next chapter as a heritage site. £1.7million was provided by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Advantage West Midlands, The Heritage Lottery Fund, European Development Funding, English Heritage and Stuart Crystal to restore the entire site.
In March 2002 it opened to provide a fascinating insight into the history and tradition of glassmaking. The public could explore the site and the manufacturing equipment used by Stuart Crystal workers. It created a unique experience that is still enjoyed today.
DMBC Museum Service now manage and operate it. Our mission is to enable people to explore the site and the collections displayed there. These collections consist of objects indigenous to the site, Stuarts Crystal equipment and glasswares acquired from other sources and objects from the wider collections cared for by the service.
This was not Stuarts first foray into glass manufacturing. As an 11 year old orphan, Frederick began working at the Red House Glass Cone in 1827. He remained with glass, selling it or forming companies with members of the Webb family. Stuarts were successful here and renewed the lease in 1885.
Although Frederick died in 1900, the company continued to grow and in 1916 they bought the White House Glassworks, which was opposite the Red House Glass Cone on the other side of the Stourbridge to Wolverhampton Road. In 1920, after operating there for 39 years, Stuart & Sons Ltd bought the Red House Glass Cone.
The Stuart Crystal name first appeared in 1927. 1936 was the final year of glassmaking inside the cone, with production only continuing at the White House site. Stuart Crystal still utilised the Red House site, but not for its original purpose.
Today you can explore the Cone's 200 years of glassmaking history with the aid of film, audio guides and exhibits. With contemporary glassblowing and cutting on site, the Cone continues to be a site of artistic design, innovation and history.
The Red House Glass Cone has been accredited by VAQAS for the past 4 years and has won the following awards: