The Grade I Listed Catcliffe Glass Cone in Rotherham was built in about 1740 and is the oldest remaining structure of its kind in Western Europe. It is one of 4 similar structures that remain in the UK.
The cone formed part of Catcliffe glass works, which was established by William Fenney in the eighteenth century. The works passed into the possession of Henry Blunn (date unknown) before being closed sometime between 1884 and 1887.
It is said that prisoners of war were housed here during the First World War and during the 1926 industrial disputes, the cone was used as a canteen for feeding children.
Glass making is an ancient craft and can be dated back to ancient Egypt. The industry increased in Western Europe around the 16th century when Industrialisation was on the increase.
At the beginning of the 19th century, there were dozens of glass cones in the industrial areas of England. The unusual cone shaped buildings were developed due to shortages of timber fuels and so glass factories had to use coal to power their furnaces. The buildings would have a furnace in the centre and an underground flue. Fumes would be expelled through the apex of the tapering shell. The structure and the underground flue system was to increase the draft.
Glass cones fell into disuse when the Pilkingtons factory in St Helens, with it’s modern production techniques concentrated the industry, becoming the centre of the glass industry in Britain.
Other glass kilns in the UK are: Alloa in Scotland, Leamington and Stourbridge.
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New Scientist, 4 Jul 1974.
Conservation and Restoration of Glass, Sandra Davison, R.G. Newton