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Cheese dish

Cheese dish

  • Place of origin:

    Gateshead (made)

  • Date:

    1883 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sowerby Ellison Glassworks (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Press-moulded glass

  • Credit Line:

    Given by M. J. Franklin

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125b, case 2 []

Object Type
Wedge-shaped cheese dishes and covers provided a hygenic storage and serving dish for sections of cheese cut from a full round. They were one of many types of dish designed to suit a particular food. Extensive glass table services became increasingly popular towards the end of the 19th century. Cheaply made, in pressed glass, such sets, which were often elaborate, became widely available. The grandest examples of cheese dish were fully cylindrical covers fitted on a circular platter and designed to hold a complete Cheddar or Stilton.

Materials & Making
The technique of press-moulding glass with the aid of a hand-operated machine was first perfected in the United States of America in the early 1820s. It took only two people to shape a measured quantity of hot glass in a heated metal mould. By simply depressing a lever, a metal plunger was lowered into the glass, forcing it into the patterned mould. By the 1830s this method had spread to Europe and Britain, giving rise to stylistic changes and revolutionising the availability of glassware. The technique made the mid-to late 19th century the first period of true mass production. In the 1890s the introduction of steam-powered presses improved quality while cutting costs even further.

Sowerby & Co. already had a long history when John Sowerby moved the factory to Ellison Street, Gateshead, in around 1850. He died in the mid-1870s and was succeeded by his son John George Sowerby, who introduced a wide range of coloured glass and continued the expansion and development set in motion by his father. Although the setting up of other Sowerby works by cousins of J.G. Sowerby in the late 1880s subsequently complicated the story, the Ellison Street works became enormously successful, and opened offices in Gateshead, Birmingham, London, Paris and Hamburg. In 1882 it was recorded as 'the largest pressed glass manufactory in the world'.

Place of Origin

Gateshead (made)


1883 (designed)


Sowerby Ellison Glassworks (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Press-moulded glass

Marks and inscriptions

Marks: maker's mark of a peacock head, moulded; diamond registration mark


Height: 22.4 cm, Width: 30.4 cm, Depth: 20.8 cm

Object history note

Manufactured by Sowerby & Co., Ellison Glassworks, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

Descriptive line

Cheese dish

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Covered dishes for serving small pieces of cheese became common in the second half of the 19th century. The covers preserved the enticing smell of the cheese and prevented it from drying out. The wedge and the triangle were the most popular shapes, in ceramic or glass. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Design registered in 1883


Glass; Food vessels & Tableware; British Galleries


Ceramics Collection

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