About us and a brief history of Chance.
Chance Glass Works Heritage Trust was formed in March 2015 with the aim of restoring the buildings that are still extant on the Spon Lane site and enriching their status in being of great historical and cultural significance.
The Objects of the Trust are to promote and procure for the public benefit:
- the conservation, protection and enhancement of the buildings and other assets of cultural and heritage value within a defined area;
- the advancement of education concerning the social, economic and architectural history and heritage of the buildings and the area;
- the physical and economic regeneration of the buildings and the area together with the associated development of new skills and employment opportunities.
The Trust intends to fulfil its regeneration objects by:
- Letting space within the buildings, when restored, on favourable terms to businesses in order to create business training and re-training opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and particularly unemployed people in the locale;
- Providing and maintaining recreational facilities and public amenities in the restored buildings at low or nominal rents or hire fees, including serviced space where community groups may meet and carry on a variety of activities;
- Provision within the restored buildings for education, training and re-training opportunities and work experience, especially for the area’s unemployed;
- Providing and maintaining – and, where necessary, improving – recreational facilities in and around the restored buildings for the wider public to enjoy;
- Preserving the buildings, which are of historic and architectural importance.
Who are CGWHT?
A small collective of enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds who share the common interest of working alongside the current site owners and in forging partnerships with external agencies to redevelop the site as a multi-function facility. The CGWHT team comprises:
- Toby Chance MP (Democratic Alliance South Africa) and Great great great nephew of the founder of Chance Brothers
- Mark Davies (Chair): Proprietor MCD Project Management
- Graham Fisher MBE: Writer & broadcaster
- David Tittle: Head of Design Advice Design South East
- Henry Chance: Member of the Chance family
- Madeline Schofield-Whittingham: Solicitor
- Suzanne Wenczek
- Kieran Dyde
The Trust has also brought together a group of experienced professional advisors.
CGWHT is altruistic and apolitical, with the sole function of rejuvenating this magnificent asset in the heart of the West Midlands conurbation for the benefit of all.
The official ad hoc email bulletin of CGWHT. Available free of charge and without obligation from firstname.lastname@example.org and lodged as archive under The Flash, this site.
An overview of a Midlands glassmaking company that was destined to become legendary throughout the maritime world
In a letter to his wife dated 17 July 1757, after narrowly avoiding a shipwreck, Benjamin Franklin wrote: ‘Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house’.
Chance Brothers Glassworks is of enormous historical and cultural significance. The business was established on 18th May 1824 when Robert Lucas Chance purchased the works of the British Crown Glass Company on the borders of Smethwick and a rapidly-developing Birmingham. His brother William joined him in 1832 and sealed the future for a company that was to become the largest glassmaker in the land and which, in the following decades, produced specialist glass at a scale unprecedented in the UK for clients of every type. In doing so, the company made an invaluable contribution to the development of the UK’s modern economy and society.
image: Wikimedia Commons
The supply of glass for the Crystal Palace, constructed to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, was probably the company’s most famous single project but it was the design and production of lanterns for the first generation of modern lighthouses, to consistent standards of clarity and luminescence, was arguably the company’s greatest achievement. Its development of the Fresnel lens system contributed immeasurably to maritime safety, a field wherein it reigned supreme for over a century and the legacy of which can still be seen in virtually every lighthouse around the globe.
For an indication of this dominance see the extract from Toby Chance’s book Lighthouses: The Race To Illuminate The World under Further Information.
For more than 130 years Chance Brothers was one of the most important industrial employers in the Midlands and its workshops extended across nearly 30 acres southwards from the current site into the North Smethwick area. There are many former employees still alive today who, along with their families, remember vividly the significance of the company and the sense of community and solidarity that it created across the workforce. The site finally closed in 1981 yet its stark remains are still very much extant and no-one can drive along the M5 without noticing the imposing seven storey building directly alongside the canal that dates back to 1847. The view from the New Main Line of the Birmingham Canal Navigations is equally impressive.
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CGWHT gratefully acknowledges the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund