A revisit to a timeless classic...Chance Brothers and Company was a glassworks originally based in Spon Lane, Smethwick, West Midlands (formerly in Staffordshire), in England. It was a leading glass manufacturer and a pioneer of British glassmaking technology.
The Chance family originated in Bromsgrove as farmers and craftsmen before setting up business in Smethwick in 1824. Situated between nearby Birmingham and the Black Country in the agglomeration of the Midlands industrial heartland, they took advantage of the skilled workers, canals and many advances that were taking place in the Industrial West Midlands at the time.
Throughout its almost two centuries of history many changes have affected the company which, now privatised, continues to function asChance Glass Limited, a specialised industrial glass manufacturer in Malvern, Worcestershire at one of the former small subsidiary factories. The social and economic impact of the company on the region is the subject of a project sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Anyone who has driven down the M5 will have seen the former Chance Bros glassworks. Arguably one of the most historically significant industrial sites in the West Mids, this ramshackle collection of buildings produced the glass for such famous landmarks as Big Ben's clock face (I know only the bell is called Ben, the tower is actually the Queen Elizabeth Tower before anyone picks up on it) and the Crystal Palace. On the less notable end of the scale, that speckled glass in your nan's bathroom window was also probably produced here...
Raddog and I first went mooching here almost a decade ago, and quite unbelievably almost nothing has changed in all that time. CatV and I have had a couple of sessions of poking about over the past few months and there is still a huge amount to see.
The main body of the building is used for something although quite what is unclear. Whatever it is requires a dog that any big game hunter would proudly display on his wall in between a lion and a bear. Part of the office is very derelict, and despite having a whole wall removed at sometime in the last decade, paperwork from the turn of the last century can still be found blowing around upstairs.
The real gems are to be found below ground. Many of the former glass kilns are still intact, almost as they were left from the last firing. A whole selection of wooden moulds for bending curved glass are still scattered around along with racks of various unidentifiable objects from the glass makers trade. The kilns are a real warren and there is some quite beautiful brickwork hiding away down there.
Some of the other buildings are still standing although in a terrible state of repair, and although largely empty there are still a few signs and bits of paper knocking around if you look hard enough.
The factory drew it's own water from the canal and it's pumping station remains intact. Next to it sits an old air raid shelter, still complete with fire watcher's duty board and assorted fag packets from 1940 - 80 left over from the various lolligaggers who used it as a hidey-hole!
Assortment of pictures from the past ten years...
It took about a year for all the thorns to grow out of my palm after I did this!
Down the road from the works is the park donated by Chance... Way to look after the park keeper's lodge Smethwick!!