The Glasshouse and the Dixon Family

Richard Dixon (senior) was born in Stourbridge in 1665 where George Fox had built the first glass furnace around 1650. Richard learned the art of glass making at Fox’s glass works in Stourbridge.

Fox had moved to Sheffield in 1670 to build a large glass house to produce glass for the Master Cutlers Company. In 1690 Richard, his wife Elizabeth and two sons moved to Sheffield to join George.

When George died in 1699 Richard bought up the lease for Thorpe Farm Whittington in 1702 and built his own glasshouse and furnace. The site was placed well for access to coal, ironstone and building stone. Sand was brought in via the main Whittington – Eckington Road.

Richard began producing glass from around 1710 and he used his considerable skills to produce bottles in a range of sizes and shapes. The company was just beginning to grow when Richard died in 1727.

Richard was succeeded by his son, also called Richard and assisted by his younger brother William.

In the early days of glassmaking it was a hazardous business and Richard died aged 46 in 1736 and William died 7 years later in 1743.

Richard had 2 sons and the youngest, also named Richard took control of the glasshouse whilst the eldest Gilbert became clerk to The Master Cutlers Company in Sheffield. The link proved invaluable and lasted for 26 years until 1769 when Gilbert took control of the company on the death of Richard with his young nephew John Dixon.

By this time the Dixons owned two collieries at Hundall and Whittington, a stone quarry and an iron stone mine. Gilbert carried on building the company until his death in 1777. At this point John Dixon really built up the business and by 1779 was said to be producing the finest cut glass in the north of England. Glass was being sold to some of the finest families including the Sitwells at Renishaw Hall.

The business was able to prosper with the opening of the Chesterfield to Stockwith Canal in 1777, John made use of the canal for the next 40 years to transport coal, glass and ironstone. In 1778 he was appointed resident engineer and was responsible for the construction of branch lines to feed, quarries, mines and factories.

In 1796 he built a road from the glasshouse down to the canal where he built a wharf for the barges to tie up and unload, he later built a narrow gauge railway to link to the canal which became known as Dixon’s Wharf.

John became a wealthy man buying up land in Whittington and surrounding areas as it became available. John became Lord of the Manor.

John died in January 1816 and in his will he left the majority of his estate to Henry Offerton, who later changed his name to Dixon.

Henry was responsible for developing Whittington Hall and its grounds.

No one is sure when the glasshouse ceased production but it is thought to be around 1810/12.

For a much more detailed account of the Dixon family and the Glasshouse see the excellent booklet by Trevor Nurse ‘HISTORY OF WHITTINGTON GLASSHOUSE AND WHITTINGTON HALL’ March 2003.