Sowerby Green Wrythen Glass ?


This page will introduce further information about a green, wrythen range of glass that was possibly made by the the Sowerby Art Glass Studio.


  • Picture from BRITISH GLASS 1900-1914, copyright and thanks to Stourbridge Glass Museum and Mr. Charles Hajdamach

A picture from the book 'British Glass 1800-1914' by Charles R. Hajdamach. The picture is on page 257 and shows a group of glass from the Dudley glass collection at the Stourbridge Glass Museum.


On page 267 Mr. Hajdamach refers to the three pieces of Sowerby glass shown in this picture. The green jug is captioned, 'possibly from the Sowerby art glass range'.


Writing about Sowerby Venetian-style glass and referring to the jug he says, '.. more fanciful ware was also made with a variety of decorative techniques which included applied prunts and trailed and pincered collars on to wrythen moulded shapes'.


  • Northern Spirit Exhibition, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle
  • Sowerby green wrythen handled goblet
  • Sowerby green wrythen handled goblet
  • Sowerby green wrythen handled goblet, pattern

The first picture shows a display of Sowerby Art Glass from the Northern Spirit Exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. The third object from the left is an unusual dark green wrythen mug. More information about the mug is available on the Tyne & Wear Archive and Museums website, item number H6137.


The second and third pictures shows one of these mugs in more detail. The mug, and several other objects, were a bequest to the museum from Mrs R Spence Watson. Mrs R. Spence Watson is probably Elizabeth Spence Watson who died in 1919. Elizabeth was the widow of Robert Spence Watson (1837-1911), who was a close friend of John Sowerby, the father of John George Sowerby. A total of nine pieces of glass were included in the bequest as well as a number of paintings and drawings. Seven of the pieces of glass, including the wrythen mug are in the display from the Northern Spirit Exhibition shown in the first picture.


The mug is made from a dark olive green glass which does not react to UV light. The description of this item on the museum website states: "The rippling surface effect on the glass is known as 'wrythen ribbing' and is a decorative technique seen on a number of forms in this range". This implies that this was not the only item made in this fashion but that there was a range of glass produced. The wrythen lines are very fine giving the bowl a beautiful 'criss-cross' effect when viewed from the side.


The fourth picture shows this fine wrythen effect, this is a feature of all glass in this range, as is the colour and common use of a ground and polished pontil.


Green Wrythen Glass Gallery

Pictures from my collection.


Picture 1: A mug similar to the one exhibited in the Northern Spirit Exhibition at the Laign Art Gallery. The mug is 17.5cm tall and has a ground and polished pontil. The construction is unusual, the base of the wrythen bowl being elongated and drawn up to form a handle, a stem and foot have then been attached.


Picture 2: Two tall, possibly ale, glasses, 16.5cm and 18cm high. Wrythen body and heavy solid foot, both have polished and ground pontils.


Picture 3: Wrythen bowl 12.5cm in diameter. 8 plain spherical prunts, crimped ruffled collar around the bottom of the glass, ground and polished pontil.


Picture 4: Pair of roemers, 12cm tall with wrythen bowls and base. There is a crimped ruffled collar between the bowl and base.


Picture 5: Wine glass, 15cm tall with wrythen conical bowl and plain base. There is a spiral stem with a crimped ruffled collar between the stem and bowl. There is also a plain ring collar at the bottom stem.


Picture 6: Pair of wine or jelly glasses, 13.5cm tall. Bulbous plain bowls 9cm wide with cut and ground rims. Wrythen base and spiral stem with two plain ring collars at the bottom and one at the top with crimped ruffled collar between the top ring collar and the bowl.


Picture 7: Wine glass, 17cm tall. Bulbous plain bowl 8cm wide with cut and ground rim. Bowl is wheel engraved with grapes amd vine leaves. Wrythen base and spiral stem with two plain ring collars at the bottom and one at the top with crimped ruffled collar between the top ring collar and the bowl. I have also seen a version of this wine glass where the bowl is engraved with the owners initials.


Picture 8: Small 'Liqueur' glass, 9.5cm tall. The same shape as the glass in Picture 7 but much smaller with a 4.5cm wide bowl.


Picture 9: Shows the detail of the engraved grapes and vine on the wine glass in picture 7.


Picture 10: Shows the difference in sizes between the glasses in Pictures 6, 7 and 8.


Ale Glasses

Picture 1: Ale glasses as pictured above, small and large.


Picture 2: When I bought the smaller ale glass I noticed that, after the pontil had been ground out and polished, a small bevelled hole about 1cm deep had been made in the center of the bottom of the glass. I asked a number of people and no one could work out what it was for.


Picture 3: Later I bought the second, larger glass. This one had the same depth hole with a larger bevel.


Picture 4: Then I worked it out. Looking at the base from the side the bevel is magnified and looks like a large 'indent' in the bottom of the base. This is not so obvious in the smaller glass as the base is not so deep and the bevel is not so large. An unusual and a very clever illusion.



The green colour of the jug in the Hajdamach picture is darker, the lighting used in the picture may have been different, but it has enough similarities to say it is 'from the same glass range'. All the pieces in the Wrythen Glass Gallery have been photographed using the same lighting and look to be made from the same, or very similar, green glass.


While researching and purchasing this glass I have seen it variously described as Bohemian, Venetian, German, Scottish, James Powell, Villeroy & Boch and made at a number of different dates. Given the provenance of the mug, the similarity of the wrythen decoration, crimped glass collars and colour, I believe that all these pieces would certainly have originated from the same manufacturer and that may well have been Sowerby's in the late 1870's.

Again, I would be interested to hear from anyone who has any of this type of glass or more information about it.