Colin Brain

Colin is an engineer by training. He
served a six-year apprenticeship, has a
Master of Science degree, a Diploma in
Engineering Management and is a
Chartered Engineer. In 2002 he was
elected a QinetiQ Fellow for his work on
system engineering verification (have we
built the thing right?) and validation
(have we built the right thing?). In 2004
he founded his own specialist company
which worked internationally for 10
years. Colin has recently completed his
four-year term as president of the
Association for the History of Glass and
writes and lectures on a variety of glass-history
topics, particularly the
development of British Crystal glass in
the sixty years 1642-1702. Colin and first
wife Sue had three papers on this topic
published in Glass Technology. Sadly
Sue died of cancer in 2016 and did not
live to see the last one in print. Colin’s
second wife Sylvia, who was helping
write the fourth paper, sadly died of
motor neurone disease in February 2018.
From Sand to Splendour: some insights
into historical glassmaking materials

Colin Brain
Private researcher
10 College Street, Salisbury SP1 3AL

In these days of almost instantaneous communications it is difficult to comprehend how glassmakers 300 years ago managed
glass-making raw-material supply-chains that were sometimes thousands of miles long. Some potash came from America, some from Russia and Sweden; saltpetre from India and Borax from Nepal. This paper looks at how a variety of these raw-materials were sourced, processed and used historically in Britain, particularly in the 17th-century which saw the birth of the first recognisable British fine glass industry.

The chosen examples focus mainly on: sand, flint, clay, potash, saltpetre and several lead compounds. Where historical evidence allows, the paper aims to present a process view, looking in turn at the: extraction, transport, selection, preparation and use of these raw materials. Through this there will be a common thread of how the raw material supply business was organised and its
this development over time.

The paper draws on a variety of sources, some of which are illustrated here, for example: manuscript sources, archaeology, surviving structures and practical experimentation.