Mirrors at the Vauxhall Glass House

Not too many years after Sir Robert Mansell’s glass houses pioneered various techniques in English glass making, the Duke of Buckingham began to use similar methods at his factory in Vauxhall.

Monopoly rights having lapsed between 1649 & 1660, during Cromwell’s Protectorate. So in 1663 the Duke of Buckingham, having failed to gain a monopoly for manufacture in England, managed to assure an import ban on most specialised glasses. This allowed him to invest heavily in glass-making at his Greenwich and Vauxhall factories.

Due to competition from George Ravenscroft, who invented lead crystal, or ‘flint glass’ by substituting some of the potash for lead oxide, Buckingham was forced to close his glass house at Greenwich.

However, his Vauxhall factory was hugely successful. He employed Venetian craftsmen to make mirror glass of sizes up to 1metre (which was huge at the time) using an amalgam of tin and mercury to create the reflective surface. This practice continued at the Vauxhall factory until around 1780.

By the early 1800s, German scientist and inventor, Justus Von Liebig, had created the modern process of silvering that is still used today, the only difference being that we no longer use silver, aluminium is more common. The process however, is still widely referred to by the name silvering due to the success of the technique he invented.

Keep an eye on our upcoming blog posts to find out more about the history of mirrors and the mirror making process.