RETRO: Glass’s sparkling past

The Mayoress of Rotherham, Mrs Beryl Billington, shown the glass furnaces by David Clark, Chairman of Beatson Clark Limited, during the civic visit - 26th April 1988
The Mayoress of Rotherham, Mrs Beryl Billington, shown the glass furnaces by David Clark, Chairman of Beatson Clark Limited, during the civic visit - 26th April 1988
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News that an amazing £90m training academy, made entirely of glass, is to be built on the old Sheffield City Airport runway recalls the long history of the industry in the region.

The lozenge-shaped structure wil house an academy being built for British Glass, the Chapeltown-based trade association for the industry.

Industrial glass manufacture in South Yorkshire dates back at least 260 years but glassmaking has a long history locally. Evidence was found at Templeborough Roman fort in Rotherham.

A 60ft high conical glass kiln in Catcliffe, Rotherham preserved as a monument dates back to around 1740.

Beatson Clark in the town has been operating since 1751 and still makes packaging for the pharmaceutical, food and drink markets at its Greasborough Road factory.

The firm’s Stairfoot Works in Barnsley was built in 1931.

Another major container manufacturer, Rockware Glass, was taken over by the Ardagh Group which has works in Wheatley, Doncaster and Monk Bretton, Barnsley. The group also took over Barnsley’s Redfearn Glass.

In 1969 The Star reported that Rockware had just opened the £4.5 million Wheatley plant which was capable of producing 1,100 containers a minute on 11 non-stop production lines.

One line was permanently occupied making milk bottles, which seems amazing now as many of us buy ours in plastic or cardboard containers, rather than getting it delivered by the milkman.

In 1969 Beatson Clark was also planning modernisations to its Barnsley factory and looking at an extension to the Rotherham plant.

The increase in the number of disposable bottles was good news for the industry at the time, which wasn’t a big fan of pop bottles with a deposit on them that could be returned and reused.

By 1988 The Star weas reporting there was “not a lotta bottle left for glassmakers”. At that time there were 7,000 workers in the glass container industry in Yorkshire and jobs were being axed.

Five years later CTS in Swinton was set for closure with 480 jobs set to go.

In 1988, Demaglass announced 90 job losses at its tableware divison in Chesterfield and 70 to go at tis lighting and pharmaceuticals plant in Doncaster.

By March 2000 more than 1,200 jobs were under threat as Dema Group called in the receivers. Half the jobs were saved by a buyout of Demaglass in Chesterfield.

However that, too, went and the site is now the new home of Chesterfield FC.