Torrington in north Devon, England,
Dartington Crystal manufactures crystal glassware
using traditional Swedish glass blowing
The company was founded by the Dartington Hall Trust
, a charity which
aims to assist the economic regeneration of rural areas through
business, education and the arts.
In the early sixties the trust had become concerned that north
Devon was becoming depopulated as a lack of job opportunities
forced people to move elsewhere to find work. The glass-making
factory was intended to be a solution this problem, conceived as a
centre of employment giving local people a reason to stay in the
To achieve this vision the trust recruited Eskil Vilhemson, a
Swedish glass manufacturer, to be the company's Managing Director.
A team of
Scandinavian glass blowers came with him to Torrington, some of whom are still there to this day, and the
factory opened in June 1967 under the name of Dartington
A year later in 1969 more glass blowers
followed, one Italian and a couple from Denmark.
The company thrived from here growing into a worldwide brand
recognised for its quality and design led manufacturing. Frank
Thrower, the company's designer created some of the most important
glassware designs of the 20th century, many of which are still
produced by the company to this day (Sharon, Exmoor and Dimple date
back to the late 1960s and early 1970s).
A 46cm high replica FA Cup at
Demand outstripped production in the 1970s and the factory had to
be expanded. By the 1980s the modern image of Dartington had
attracted the attention of Wedgwood who took up a large stake in
the business, allowing for further expansion.
Sadly, in 1987, Frank Thrower MBE died of cancer, but the business
still boomed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The business
underwent a management buyout
1994 from Rockware. But the business was taken over by US giftware
giant Enesco in 2004.
Dartington Crystal underwent another Management Buy Out in April
2006, safeguarding many skilled jobs in the area. Dartington
Crystal brought Scottish-based Caithness Glass out of receivership
in October 2006 and also owns Royal Brierley Crystal which is based
in the West Midlands.
Pair of crystal glass slippers
presented to the City Of Plymouth by the Plymouth Committee of the
British Olympic Appeal and Mr & Mrs M.
Hockin to mark the occasion of Her Royal Highness the Princess
Royal attending the British Olympic Appeal Gala Ball on 15 July
Today Dartington Crystal is the major employer in Torrington and a
very important to the South West, some Dartington Crystal is still
produced in Torrington meaning the factory is the only working
hand-made tableware producing crystal factory left in the UK,
however, the company also sources ranges and items of (especially
machine-made) crystal from overseas.
Dartington is also a major tourist attraction for the area, over
250,000 people visit the site each year to see the unique Factory
Experience, Visitors Centre, extensive Glass Shop and
Dartington Crystal celebrated its 40th Birthday in June 2007.
Dartington Crystal's most famous products date back to the 1970s,
Frank Thrower's Scandinavian influenced designs such as Sharon,
Exmoor and Dimple set Dartington out from the others who
concentrated on the now seemingly 'old fashioned' cut crystal
styles. Indeed, this has given Dartington a modern and contemporary
image which has kept it ahead of others, and makes it much easier
to sell in the modern market. Today's most popular ranges include
Wine Master, Florabundance as well as Sharon, Exmoor and Dimple
which are still made today and are just as popular as they were in
the early years.
New lines for 2008 include:
- a premium series of wine glasses
designed to suit different types of wine, all made at Torrington
and sold in a unique Wooden box.Armchair Spirits
a new collection of Spirits glasess made in Torrington entitled
'Swirler', 'Sniffter' and 'Sipper'. This range has already proven
popular winning the Made in UK gift of the year at the Summer 2008
show at the ExCEL exhibition centre recently.Adore
- contemporary premium gift ideas for Women including a ring stand
and perfume bottle, as well as others. This range is designed by
Art Glass designer Sarah Peterson and made at the Torrington
The company is also known for its personalised, corporate gifts and
special commissions including an FA cup replica used in the
celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Sunderland's FA Cup triumph
over Leeds United. This replica can be seen in the Visitors Centre
at the Torrington site.