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THE BLACK COUNTRY MEMORIES CLUB

Phoenix Logo

The British Heat Resisting Glass Company

"Phoenix"

Phoenix Logo
In the Black Country glass making was, traditionally, the exclusive preserve of the Stourbridge area where, from the 17th century onwards, many famous firms grew up. But Bilston also had a glass making firm, The British Heat Resisting Glass Co. Ltd., whose products, under the brand name "Phoenix", probably reached more homes than did the fine lead crystal from Stourbridge.

Although the company was of relatively recent origin, and demise, little seems to be recorded about Phoenix glass.  Nor does there seem to be any display of their goods in any public collection.  But all the pictures on these pages show examples of their range of domestic items. Most of their products were in clear glass but only a few are shown here.  As will be seen Phoenix also made many glass items for industrial use but we have not yet seen any of them.

This sketch, from a Christmas card issued by the company in 1938, is titled "The new Phoenix Glass works at Bilston".  Presumably, thought this is not 100% certain, these works were built for the company.

Company Xmas Card

The company was formed by Colonel P. V. W. Jell and made its first piece of glass in September 1934.  Although the official title of the company was The British Heat Resisting Glass Co. Ltd., it was always known as Phoenix.  Their 1938 Christmas card  has seasonal greetings from "The Directors and Staff, Phoenix Heat Resisting Glass", suggesting that from the start the official title was not much used.  

The company was originally established, in Lodge Road, Hockley, not far from Winson Green prison in Birmingham. But the company soon set up a new works in Bilston, on a site in Loxdale Road, north of Pothouse Bridge and bounded on the south by the railway line.  This seems to have happened in 1938. The premises in Lodge Road continued in use for some time. Workers at the Bilston site remember the two sites being in operation together.
Fruit Bowls

Fruit bowls in white glass with sprays of red roses.

Dinner Plate
Dinner plate with a design of fruits
Arthur Satterthwaite, who worked there for some years, remembers the Lodge Road site as still in use in 1952. Others remember that many of the office staff at Bilston travelled there from Birmingham.  The company's 1938 Christmas card is addressed from Phoenix Works, Loxdale Street, Bilston.  This all suggests that Phoenix treated the Bilston site as their headquarters, transferred their offices there in or before 1938 and maintained Lodge Road primarily as a manufacturing operation.

The company was set up to exploit a patent for oven proof glass. It seems to have been a glass like that of the better known Pyrex but made under a different patent, though whether it was the ingredients or the production process that differed is not known. The inventor may have been Colonel Jell, the founder and chairman of the company. The name Phoenix is not totally dissimilar to Pyrex and their trade mark, a stylised phoenix bird, had the same overall shape as the trade mark used by J. A. Jobling of Sunderland, the British makers of Pyrex glass. Many of their designs are similar too. These features suggest that Phoenix were very conscious of whose market they were trying to break into. The title of the company suggests that the company was drawing attention to the fact that Pyrex glass was an American invention and the Pyrex Company was a foreign one.
Dinner Plate

Dinner plate with design of stylised vegetables, thought to have been designed for the company by an art student.

Casserole Dish

Casserole with vegetable design
Casserole

Casserole with stylised pattern

The company made a wide range of domestic ware and examples of this are not too difficult to find today, often enough in people's kitchens where they are still in use. It includes clear glass items and also opal ware items, as well as items with coloured finishes and a range of decorative patterns not all of which would appeal to today's tastes. The company, of course, launched new designs from time to time, and it is known that one design range, called "Golden Harvest" was launched in 1964.

Phoenix are also said to have made glassware for laboratories, though no examples are known. They also made other items in glass including such unusual items as small glass "thimbles" for cows' udders. Arthur Satterthwaite remembers that glass tubes were also made. They were blown by Harry Barton, who lived in Stourbridge and who came in each day, often starting at 6 am. He could blow four tubes into a single length of glass. Such was his skill that, when Accles and Pollock produced a tube which they said was the finest bore tube in the world, Harry blew a glass tube which was fitted inside their tube and sent back to them.

Phoenix Logo
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