Founded 1946, by Geoffrey Beard

Stourbridge Historical Society


An extra meeting of Stourbridge Historical Society took place on 9th May. President Michael Blamire-Brown welcomed everyone and introduced the American speaker James Measall whose talk was entitled The Stourbridge School of Art and the Local Glass Industry 1850 -1905.

James explained that as an Honary Research Fellow at Birmingham University he wanted to study the impact of the Stourbridge School of Art on the Glass Industry between 1850 and 1905. In 1840 a school of design was started as part of the Mechanics Institute whose benefactors included J H H Foley, Lord Lyttleton, a member of the Pargeter family, and Robert Scott a barrister with a strong interest in education. Its purpose was to teach basic drawing. By 1851 a special meeting was held to determine whether there was enough support to fund a separate School of Design. James said that the meeting was attended by the ‘movers and shakers’ of Stourbridge. The first benefactors included Lord Ward, Lord Lyttleton, Robert Scott and James foster. The sums raised fell short of the £2500 required but they did manage to raise enough for a building in Theatre Street. James explained that it would have been roughly where Poundland in the Ryemarket is now situated. An interesting photo of a schedule of classes and fees revealed that the General Evening Class cost 6 shillings per quarter. John Northwood one of the co-owners of J & J Northwood a glass decorating firm was a student.

A register from 1864 -1874 rescued by historian and past President of Stourbridge Historical Society, H Jack Haden, showed the occupation of students in attendance and their ages. James found it useful to verify that Harry Northwood who emigrated to the USA in 1881 and in whom he had a special interest, had been a student at the Stourbridge School of Art. The register showed that his father was a glass maker and that Harry had been a student there at nine years of age and very likely stayed until he went to the USA at 20 years of age. The associated list of Art Masters revealed that they were well educated and highly proficient in their particular field but that they had little connection with the glass or iron industry.  James considered that their benefit to local industry may have been somewhat lacking. The masters would have all had different skills but all worked within the South Kensington Curriculum which was still in operation in the 1930’s. The curriculum included tuition in drawing, shading, colour and design. James showed a photo of James Hill who was an employee of J & J Northwood. He was a multi prize winning student. The photo of his drawings for etchings on glass which was J & J Northwood’s forte were breath-taking. William Northwood also a prize-winning student produced superb designs for cameo work. Another successful student was George Pope an employee of Webbs. All are examples of the school of art benefiting the glass industry.

In 1905 Andrew Carnegie gave £3,000 toward the building of the Stourbridge Free Library and Technical Institute. In the same year between 24 April and 27 May an exhibition was held entitled Stourbridge Art and Industrial Exhibition. Sadly, James had not been able to find out what had been exhibited.

Whilst living is the USA Harry Northwood was involved with several different glass companies and also set up his own company. James showed photos of Harry’s work which was heavily influenced by nature and it is clear that his time learning at Stourbridge school of art contributed to, and impacted on, the glass that he designed and produced and also aided his success.