Boulton and Mills

History of Boulton and Mills
Source: The antiquarian

History of Audnam Glassworks - Pre Boulton and Mills, 1716 - 1861

In 1716, Henry Bradley built a glasshouse near Jacob’s Well Glasshouse.  Henry’s business did not go well and in 1727, he was declared bankrupt. The property was surrender to John Ward who became Baron Ward at a latter date. Baron Ward leased the glassworks to Michael Grazebrook.

Michael Grazebrook died in 1756 at the age of 69 yrs. He left his entire estate to his widow Elizabeth and his son Michael Grazebrook. His son Michael only lived to age 42 yrs. dying in 1766, five years before his mother who died in 1771. Michael left his estate divided equally between his two sons Thomas Worrel Grazebrook and Michael Grazebrook III. Their mother Sara continued to head the firm for many years although her sons took over day-to-day operations in approximately 1785. The two brothers assumed total management of the glassworks upon their mother’s death in 1799. The firm operated as T. & M. Grazebrook.

Thomas died in 1816; his brother died in1821. The grandchildren continued to operate the business through the Great Depression of 1842. The 1858 strike and the ensuing company lockout brought an end to the 112 years of glasswork history.

Audnam Glassworks – Boulton and Mills, 1861 to 1926

William Webb Boulton, son of Richard Boulton, was a farmer married to Jane Webb, whose mother was the sister of Edward Webb. William Webb Boulton asked his second cousin Fredrick James Mills to join in a partnership operating the Audnam Glassworks. Fredrick James Mills quit his partnership in Richardson, Mills & Smith at Holloway End Glassworks to join Boulton. On August 13, 1861, the firm of Boulton and Mills was formed.

Under new management, the glassworks immediately changed the style of glassware they produced. Boulton and Mills began making contemporary glassware in the prevalent style. The firm was noted for flower stands. On January 25, 1871, the firm registered their first design for a flower stand with a mirror base. The same year the firm employed 71 men, 31 boys and 7 girls and was about the same size as when the company operated 12 years earlier. Mr. Boulton enjoyed collecting paintings and purchased them when profits allowed. He eventually acquired a large collection of paintings.

A continuous registration of flower holders were developed and documented by Boulton and Mills.  In 1873, they registered plateau centerpieces decorated with long leaf-shaped components. Philip Pargerer of Red House Glassworks was also making these types of pieces. These centerpieces were typical in their use of fern leaves usually placed alternately with the flower holders or basket supports. An example of this was registered by Philip Pargeter in 1873, where the fern leaf components were arranged in a circle around a solitary center flower holder.

In 1877, William Webb Boulton and his partner Fredrick James Mills renewed their partnership. In 1879, Boulton and Mills submitted a patent for Vasa Murrhina glass. This type of glass has a transparent body of glass in which pieces of colored glass and mica flakes are embedded. This process is very similar to frit glass in which colored glasses or enamels, powdered or crushed, are spread on a marver. Then a gather of glass is rolled in this powder while in a semi-molten state and may be plunged into water and cracked.  Next it is reheated, blown into a mold, pressed or cut as normal. Finally, a thin layer of flint is place on the surface of the decorated glass.

In 1880, the partners began restructuring the business. First, in 1881 the partners relinquished control of the works by promoting their traveler (salesman) Oswald James Meatyard to Works Manager. Next, they appointed a commission agent in France in 1883 and hired a new traveler salesman, Francis James Shea.  

The Venetian style of glass was very popular at this time. In an effort to supply English demand, William Webb Boulton patented Improvements in Decorating Glass with Stripes and Nacre de Perle in 1885. Nacre de Perle was a form of Mother of Pearl satin glass. This is the first known patent to give name to a specific type of MOP satin glass.

The lease on the glassworks expired in 1888. Frederick James Mills retired and later died in 1908 at the age of 73 yrs.  At the time of his retirement, William Webb Boulton brought his sons Harry Boulton and William Boulton into the business. William Webb Boulton died in 1892. His estate was estimated at £9,367.  His 75 paintings he collected netted £3,700 while the capital in business equaled £6,000.  His widow, Jane Mills, was accepted as a partner in the business with her sons Harry and William Boulton. In 1903, Jane Mills and Oswald George Meatyard left the firm in the hands of Jane’s two sons. George Meatyard died in 1906.

In 1911, Richard Harry Boulton and William Webb Boulton made an agreement for five years and the firm continued trading as Boulton and Mills. Again in 1920, the partners renewed the lease on the Glassworks with the trustees for Lord Dudley. Richard Webb Boulton died in 1922. Upon his death his son Howard Gilbert Boulton MC succeeded him in the business.  He formed a LLC partnership with Howard and his uncle William Webb Boulton. Two years later in 1924, William Webb Boulton decided to leave the partnership. He sold 2,750 £1 ordinary shares to Howard Gilbert Boulton for £1,000. The next day 2,745 of these shares were sold to Charles Herbert Thompson for the same amount.

Unfortunately the firm now lacked the imagination of its Victorian founders. It had lost direction and its creativity and without these it feel victim to the Great Depression and closed all operations in 1926. The glassworks sat vacant until 1928 when it was demolished.

Caveat:  The following examples are based on designs registered by Boulton and Mills. However, there is no guarantee that the company that registered these designs actually made the item.  A good example is the designs registered by Samuel Clarke.  Clarke registered several fairy lamp designs, yet never actually produced any glass. With that caveat, it is a reasonable assumption that Boulton and Mills actually made the the designs registered under their name since they were a well established glass manufacturer.

Pottery Gazette Diary 1888
Notation reads:  "All these shades are Registered Number 50725"

Rd 50725 June 10, 1886

Rd 59136 October 19, 1886