This is my blog, intended to provide information relevant to the history of Edinburgh in the Georgian period. I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Leith Glass Industry

Leith was Edinburgh's port and the main location of the area's industry during the Georgian period. The main imports prior to the 1790s were wine and spirits, and Leith was the import point for great quantities of claret in particular, for long the favourite wine of the more prosperous classes in Edinburgh. It has been claimed that the Scottish Enlightenment was greatly encouraged by the wines of Bordeaux! The wars against revolutionary France greatly interfered with this trade, and Leith businessmen turned to other sources of profit, manufacturing in particular.Wood imported in great quantity from the Baltic fed a healthy shipbuilding industry, iron from Sweden was turned into household items such as pots and pans, rope making was significant and sugar refining was also carried on. One of the most important Leith activities in this period, however, was the glass industry.

In 1780 there was only one manufacturer of glass in Leith, and only coarse green ware of the kind used for wines and spirits was produced. By 1792 the domestic market for quality glass seems to have suddenly increased, probably due to imports from Europe being disrupted by war, for there were now six glass companies in Leith, some developing highly finished items such as white glass windows and looking-glass fronts. As the workers developed their skills even luxury items were produced in quantity; engraved and cut glass for household use such as chandeliers, decanters, drinking goblets and lamps. By the end of the century Leith was one of the country's leading producers of high-quality finished glass goods. The works of the Glass House Company at Leith were advertised as for sale in the Courant of 1813, which stated that they were valued at,£40,000, with a valuable steam-engine of sixteen horse power, valued at £21,000.

The glass manufacturers have deserted Leith long since, along with much of the other industry, but awareness of their former importance to the port is preserved in the name Salamander Street, where the remains of the furnaces used in glass production can still be seen.


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