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Flower holder

Flower holder

  • Place of origin:

    Gateshead (made)

  • Date:

    1887 (design registered)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sowerby Ellison Glassworks (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Press-moulded glass

  • Credit Line:

    Given by M. J. Franklin

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122c, case 1

Object Type
These flower holders were one of many types of press-moulded glass container that were cheaply made, and became widely available and popular, in the 19th century. Although described as flower holders, these are as much ornamental novelty items as functional objects. This is one of a pair with C.48A-1983.

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.

About 1765 George Sowerby established two glasshouses, called the New Stourbridge Works, making general goods in Pipewellgate, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. His son John joined him in the business in the 1820s, and about 1850 they moved to Ellison Street, near to the North-Eastern Railway, just as production of machine-pressed glass was beginning to develop. The company made its own metal moulds, and expanded the number of furnaces and the range of products. John Sowerby was followed by his son John George in the 1870s, while other Sowerby relatives joined and then left the company, setting up their own glassworks nearby. By 1882 the Newcastle Daily Chronicle claimed that the Ellison Street Works was the largest glassworks in the world. It made 150 tons of finished goods each week, and the factory worked continuous shifts, 24 hours a day, all year round. In one shift of seven hours each man could produce from 1100 to 1200 tumblers. In addition, Sowerby & Co. was responsible for many new inventions in glass, from types and colours of glass to mechanisms for producing it.

Physical description

One of a pair of flower holders in the shape of shoes

Place of Origin

Gateshead (made)


1887 (design registered)


Sowerby Ellison Glassworks (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Press-moulded glass

Marks and inscriptions

Marked with a peacock head and a diamond registration mark for November 1887, both moulded


Height: 6 cm, Width: 4.5 cm, Depth: 13 cm

Object history note

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

Descriptive line

Flower holder in shape of shoe

Production Note

Design registered in 1887


Glass; Containers


Ceramics Collection

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