Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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George Davidson and Co

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Teams Glass Works, Gateshead-on-Tyne. London Showrooms: 3 Charterhouse Street, Holborn Circus, EC1. Telephone: London - Holborn 6254. Works: Dunston 149. Cables: "Davidson, Gateshead"

1867 [1] The company was founded by a Gateshead butcher and businessman, Alderman George Davidson, to make glass chimneys for paraffin lamps which were becoming increasingly popular as a means of lighting. The addition of a chimney improved the illumination and reduced the unpleasant smoke released by the naked flame. At that time, most chimneys were made in Belgium. George Davidson bought a greenfield site, built the glassworks from scratch and soon the business flourished, making small bottles and wine glasses.

1878 Production had increased to include such items as biscuit barrels, salt cellars, tumblers, dishes, plates, jugs, mustard pots and comports. Davidson even did a barter trade with his brother Joseph in Australia, trading glassware for butter, wheat, flour, tallow, salt pork and bicarbonate of soda.

1881 Davidson was also exporting salad oil and herrings. Production was halted at the glass works between January and April, due to a serious fire which destroyed warehouses and processing sheds, although the furnaces themselves were not damaged. The company recovered and increased its range of goods by buying the moulds and patterns from the Neville Glassworks, Gateshead, which had been destroyed by fire in 1880.

1884 They acquired more moulds from W. H. Heppell and Co and from Thomas Grey and Co, of Carr's Hill glassworks.

1886 George Davidson introduced the first annual range of domestic tableware, including jugs, dishes, comports, salad bowls, etc., plus water sets of 3 tumblers and a jug.

1887 George won a Gold medal at the Newcastle exhibition for his glassware.

1891 George Davidson died at the age of 68, and his son Thomas took over running the company, which was producing between 200 and 250 tons of glassware per month. In his early days, Davidson was always introducing new ideas and designed about 90% of all new products.

1889 Thomas Davidson had patented Pearline glass, which is clear at the base and turns opalescent towards the top. Blue was the first colour introduced, followed by the acid yellow known as 'Primrose' and finally the clear 'Moonshine'. Pearline was so successful it was copied by many other manufacturers who produced similar shaped products in a variety of colours.

1896 A long association with the Holophane company began when Davidson started to produce prismatic illuminating ware for them. This type of glassware had to be made to a high precision to achieve the desired light distribution.

1910 Thomas Davidson patented a method for producing flower blocks by a method which allowed more elaborate shapes to be created. The Davidson company produced flower blocks using this and later patents until the 1960s.

WWI. During the War, there was little demand for new domestic products so this was concentrated on items such as pavement lights, potted-meat jars, insulators for field telephones, small Bull's eye lenses, ink pots and tumblers for the Navy, Army and Canteen Board.

1920s The company increased the range of glass produced. This now included trinket sets, flower holders, cigarette boxes, ashtrays and hors d'oeuvre sets. Thomas Davidson also pioneered new matt colours of glass for domestic use which included amber, green, blue and black. To cope with increased production, more staff were employed and the number of women working at the plant almost doubled.

1923 Davidson introduced the first of the Cloud Glass colour and glass salad servers. He also started producing Industrial and Commercial glassware such as motor headlamps, imitation coal-fire tops, telephone mouth pieces and book-ends.

1929 Listed Exhibitor. Manufacturers of Domestic and Fancy Pressed Glassware and Specialities. (Stand No. F.20) [2]

1930 Davidson started making Chippendale glass for the National Glass Co. First produced in America in 1907, he soon realised that this was a popular and successful line.

1932 They started making Jacobean and Georgian glassware for Clayton Mayers.

1933 Davidson bought the moulds, trademarks and sole manufacturing rights to the Chippendale range of glassware. They paid £3,000 for the moulds alone. Over the next 30 years they added to the styles and colours in the Chippendale range.

1934 George Davidson and Co became a limited company. The two subscribers to the new company were Thomas Davidson of the Teams Glass Works, Gateshead, and Claude L. Fraser (Thomas’s nephew) of 2 Sturdee Gardens, Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From the start Thomas wanted to maintain control over his family business - both day-to-day running and at shareholder meetings.

1937 Thomas died at the age of 77, and his nephew Claude Fraser took over as Manager. As the post depression economy picked up, demand for glassware improved. Davidson introduced many new lines and colours, winning a Diploma of Merit at the Paris Exposition.

1939 The Japanese started to copy a design and sell it a lower cost in Australia. Davidson decided to register some of the new designs there, to protect that market. 'Smoke' glass was introduced and popular until the 1960s. Although Davidson regarded themselves as makers of domestic glassware, about 40% of their production was for specialist glassware or domestic products for other companies such as Clayton Mayers and Holophane. Davidson had been making illuminating glassware for Holophane since the late 19th century. Other pre-war customers included Cadbury’s Chocolate and John Smith's Tadcaster ales.

WWII. The company produced glassware and other products for the war effort. In the financial year 1939-1940 they made their first loss.

1940 Started making Crystolac toughened tumblers for Clayton Mayers

1941 Enemy bombing destroyed their London Showroom.

1942 An order (The Utility Glassware order) came into force banning production of domestic glassware except for tumblers, jugs, cans and cruets. The order also give them the opportunity to realise some of their existing stock, which helped their financial position for the following year. Despite the shortage of manpower, manufacturing restrictions and difficulty in obtaining raw materials, Davidson and other pressed glass manufacturers were able to work to full capacity.

1942 Crystolac helped Davidson survive the war and the turmoil in the years that followed. In 1942 Toughened Tumblers produced a £14,000 increase in revenue for Davidson.

Davidson’s contribution to the war effort included parts for naval gun mounts, bomb suspension blocks, parts for tanks, brackets for aircraft seats and munitions. Glassware for the war effort included runway lights (able to withstand a pressure of 15 tons per square foot), screens for radar sets, lenses and glass fronts for instruments.

Post WWII. The end of the war saw a slow return to normality and there was an almost unlimited demand for glassware once restrictions were lifted. Exports quickly returned, despite temporary import controls introduced by some countries.

1946 The company estimated that the value of unexecuted export orders amounted to about 4 years work. Production was still initially limited by a shortage of raw materials and labour. However, things quickly improved and turnover rose rapidly. George Francis, a director of Davidson, moved to London and opened a new showroom in Newgate street.

Towards the end of the 1940s, 17 percent of Davidson's turnover came from Clayton Mayers. Davidson were to continue to make tumblers for Clayton Mayers up until the 1960s.

The late 1940s and early 1950s were difficult times for the pressed glass industry. Despite the huge demand for glass, constantly changing regulations, purchase tax rates and restrictions on exports, led to an unpredictable trading market.

1951 National Service was causing a shortage of craftsman. The following year Australia, one of Davidson's best markets, introduced import restrictions. Other countries followed with their own restrictions. These were not relaxed until 1954, although many were reintroduced from time to time.

The British Industries Fair was in decline following the war, the last complete one was held in 1956. The Blackpool Gifts fair become the shop window for the British Pottery and Glass trade. Davidson first attended this show in 1955.

1959 Following the death of Claude Fraser, the company was bought by M. Pollock-Hill, who had been Chief Executive of Nazeing Glass Works, and and J. M. E. Howarth, who had been Chief Executive of Matthew Turnbull.

1960s The continual opening and closing of export markets made it difficult to keep the furnaces going. Higher fuel oil taxes and prices increased costs and made English companies less competitive.

1964 Davidson reintroduced slag glass for the first time in over 60 years.

1966 After a number of management changes, Davidson was finally taken over by Abrahams and Co, who made a variety of domestic and industrial chrome fittings. A new plating plant was built at the Teams Glassworks to create the only fully integrated glass and metal production facility in Europe. The takeover by Abrahams meant that many new lines now came with chrome fittings.

1968 Late that year, the Teams Glassworks was renamed the Brama Teams Glassworks.

1970s/80s The new combined company did well in the export trade, but suffered from the fuel crisis. At the beginning of the 1980s they suffered a major breakdown in the continuous feed furnace which took a long time to correct. This, coupled with a strong pound, led to tax losses.

1986 The name of the company was changed to Brama Davidson Sales Ltd.

1987 The Davidson factory, now known as the Brama Teams Glass works, closed.

1992 The company was dissolved in February.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] Cloud Glass Reference Site
  2. 1929 British Industries Fair p47