Nigel Benson - 20th Century Glass

Pre War English Glass
Post-war English Glass
British 'art' cut glass
Scottish glass
Arts & Crafts Glass
Information and Links
Consultancy, Publications and Services
Events diary - Fairs & Exhibitions
Exhibition Archive

Consultancy, Publications and Services




Nigel Benson is an experienced lecturer who regularly gives lectures, most notably on a range of 20th century British glass topics, but is well qualified on topics covering both Continental and Scandinavian glass, including post-war Czech. He is happy to create fresh lecture topics on request. Unlike many lecturers who refer to notes, Nigel prefers to prepare thoroughly in order to talk directly to the audience with the aim of creating an experience whereby no lecture is exactly the same.

Established Lecture Topics:



An overview of glass produced in the post-war era, concentrating on the UK, Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia and Italy, comparing designers and countries, their influences upon one another and illustrating how design changed to reflect the period.



From the immediate post war years to the beginning of the Studio movement at the end of the 1960’s Britain boasted innovative young designers, many of whom are now fully recognised, while others not. Both are included in this overview of the designs of post-war British glass, which aims to show the progression from the pre-war hangover through to the pioneering work of Sam Herman and his acolytes who formed the first Studio glass outlet in the UK, ‘The Glasshouse’.


A look at the designs of Geoffrey Baxter at Whitefriars and of Ronald Stennett-Willson at Kings Lynn and Wedgwood in particular, but also referring to his designs at Lemington Glass. As suggested by the title both parallels and possible coincidences by these lauded British designers are examined along with some possible outside influences.


FIFTY YEARS OF BRITISH ‘ART’ CUT GLASS, 1920’s to the 1970’s: 

Until relatively recently little was known or written about the progressive, designer cut glass, sometimes referred to as ‘art’ cut glass produced in Britain in the twentieth century. Much has been written about the designers Keith Murray and Clyne Farquharson and, to a lesser extent, William Wilson who worked with Albert Tubby at Whitefriars, or Ludwig Kny at Stuart & Sons, both in the 1930’s to create an acclaimed modern cut glass. However, far less is known about designers of cut glass throughout the fifty years between the late 1920’s and the 1970’s. This talk addresses this, putting the glass into categories to illustrate a way of beginning to identify the works of these unsung designers.



As a collector, Nigel’s initial interest in glass was stimulated by a keepsake handed down from his grandmother; it was a piece of Monart Glass from Perth in Scotland. This began a long association with the work of the company, both through being a collector and, since 1986, a dealer in this firm’s production. A more light hearted look at the work, with reminiscences about buying and selling as well as showing some of the rarer items produced by this well renowned company.


An examination of the type of glass produced at both the Monart and Vasart factories, comparing their work with that of modern studios associated with the studio Movement which began in the nineteen sixties. Reference is made to earlier designers who have also been discussed as precursors to the studio movement and their relevance to the idea. This talk is designed to provoke discussion and thought, whilst arguing the possibility that the Ysarts were indeed early makers of studio glass.

INNOVATION AND INFLUENCE: Whitefriars Glass 1860's -1940: A look at the glass produced at Powell & Sons from the avante garde items made to the designs of Philip Webb and TG Jackson through to the transparent coloured glass produced up to the second World War, examining the innovative work of the firm, as well as its influences upon other companies throughout this period.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY: The Minefield of Arts & Crafts Glass, or, Is It Powell?

Over recent years, particularly since the Whitefriars Glass exhibitions held at Manchester, then London in 1996/7 many collectors think purely in terms of Powell, or Whitefriars, when thinking of Arts & Crafts glass in Britain. Yet there are many other companies who produced glass associated with the style and ethos of that movement. The work of these companies, Kempton, Richardsons, Stuart & Sons, John Walsh Walsh and Thomas Webb, etc., is examined in this talk, with reference to the work of Powell & Sons and how, sometimes, the work of different companies can be confused. 


The main purpose of this talk is to compare Nazeing’s pre and post war art glass wares, and how the colours and shapes differed. There is also an explanation about the thinking behind what is now believed to be a third period of art glass production influenced by their main buyer and wholesaler, Major Elwell, accompanied by illustrations of items from this source.

COMPARISONS IN CLOUDY ART GLASS: The Cloudy, or 'marbled' glass of Powell, Gray-stan and Nazeing:
Being written and photographed.

Being written and photographed.



Writing - Books

Nigel Benson has authored and co-written a number of books as well as acting as consultant on others.

"Collecting Modern Design"

In 2000 Miller's published Collecting Modern Design. Nigel acted as Glass Consultant for this Miller’s Publication. The book is split into four periods covering the 20th century with each period is broken down into the various mediums, including glass. Each section gives a brief history outlining the influences that created the type of glass being produced at the time, starting in the early part of the 20th century and finishing with the Studio Glass Movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Necessarily, because of the form of the book, the content is primarily an overview of the subject, but the glass sections were conceived to be read as a continuous section, giving an insight into the pertinent points of glass design through the 20th century should the reader wish to read those sections alone. Nigel was also responsible for selecting the items that represented each period from specific sources that had not been used in other publications at the time.

"Millers Guide to Collecting '50's & 60's Glass"

Also in 2000 Miller's asked Nigel to write a book in the Miller’s Collector’s Guide series. The resulting book Glass of the 50's and 60's covered collecting glass of the 1950’s and 1960’s from across the world within the tight format of the series. One aspect of the book was that glass was to be available, and at a price that any collector could afford.

The brief also required that, if possible, glass that had not been generally acknowledged by collectors be selected as a precursor to future collecting. Although it was also necessary to include some of the more sought after work by designers as a goal to achieve.

The text and captions were written by Nigel, who also selected all the items to be photographed and commissioned specially by the publisher. This pocket sized 64pp book has been received well and is now sold out.

"Art Deco To Post Modernism, a Legacy of British Art Deco Glass"

In 2003 Nigel Benson and Jeanette Hayhurst (a fellow glass dealer) held a groundbreaking exhibition on cut glass, entitled Art Deco to Post Modernism, A Legacy of Britsish Art Deco Glass. The exhibition was to highlight an area of glass collecting that hitherto had been largely ignored by the collecting and museum fraternities. It took some eight years to assemble the items. A 40pp catalogue was produced for the event in which Nigel wrote the essays about each manufacturer and Jeanette took the photographs and wrote the captions. Both undertook original research for the exhibition and its catalogue.

The catalogue is full of information and images that have not before been collated within the covers of a book. Whilst there may be pieces
written and illustrated within other publications there is probably more in this compact volume than in all those publications put together on the period 1920 – 1970 about British cut glass.

The exhibition has since received outside recognition as it won the ‘In-House Exhibition of the Year’ Award given by the British Antiques and Collectables Awards (BACA) in August 2004.

"Art Deco to Post Modernism"

The catalogue to the 2003 exhibition and currently the only publication dealing solely about the subject. 

British Manufacturers had maintained that it was traditional 'design' that sold during the 1920's and 1930's and had largely ignored the Scandinavian approach where factories generally employed trained in-house designers. There were exceptions to this, such as Keith Murray an architect who freelanced for Stevens & Williams. Clyne Farquharson of John Walsh Walsh and William Wilson at Whitefriars were successful in-house designers and, as such are highly regarded by today's collectors, along with the work of Keith Murray.

These three designers are generally thought of in connection with British glass design between the wars. There is also- an awareness of Ludwig Kny and perhaps of Reginald Williams-Thomas, but not many will know of J.Cuneen, Freda Coleborn, Deanne Meanley, Doreen Norgrove, R. Pierce, or W. J. Whitworth, to name only a few. Not many will have even heard of some of the major designers who influenced both contemporary and future generations of glass designers, such as David Hammond, John Luxton, Helen Monroe, and Irene Stevens. On the other hand many collectors will know the work of Geoffrey Baxter for Whitefriars, but it is only fairly recently that they have shown interest in his cut glass work.

Available from this site. Email for a copy.

Price: £12.00p +pp

ISBN 0-9545718-1-9

Writing - Articles

Nigel regularly submits articles to the Glass Cone, the quarterly magazine of the Glass Association and contributes information and comment to the Glass Message Board and forums - see links page.

Below is a list of articles that have appeared in various publications. Specially commissioned photographs were used to illustrate a number of the articles. Back issues of some of the magazines may still be available from the publishers.


50 Years of British Glass 1924-1974

Antiquexplorer Magazine No.88 April 2008

pp13 - 15. A fresh look at glass production in Britain during these eventful years, beginning with the 'British Empire Exhibition' held in Wembley in 1924, covering the influentual Harrods exhibition and the subsiquent 'Art in Industry' at the Royal Academy in 1935. There is brief discussion about 'art' cut glass, working through to the beginnings of The Studio Glass Movement with Sam Herman, the Glasshouse, and Michael Harris.   


Scottish Glass - Vasart 

Antiquexplorer Magazine No.88 April 2008

pp 5 - 7.  An overview of the history and identification of Vasart's production.


British 'Art' Cut Glass 1920-1970: A Fresh Look

Visitor Guide "Antiques For Everyone" 27-30 July 2006

pp 8 - 11. An explaination of the exhibition being held at the fair, giving information about how to look at 'art' cut glass by mixing up the manufacturers and designers and placing the items under the headings of, Geometric, Abstract, Figurative, Abstracted and Sculptural. Accompanied with specially commissioned photographs.


Scottish Glass

Antiques Magazine No.1056, 20 Aug – 2 Sept 05

pp 48 & 49. A brief history of a Northern Dynasty discussing the production of the Ysart family of glass blowers and their influence on later glassmakers, such as William Manson and John Deacon, including their paperweights.


Gifts for Christmas

Antiques Magazine No.942, 23 – 29 Nov 02

pp 48 & 49. A light hearted look at what people might purchase for Christmas.


Collecting Twentieth Century Glass

Antique & Collectors Trader, No.42 - Nov 02

pp 1 & 12. An introduction to collecting 20th century glass with tips on isolating potential areas to look out for.


Arts and Crafts Glass in Britain

Antiques Magazine No. 936, 5 -11 Oct 02

pp 56 & 57. An article examining Arts and Crafts glass covering the work of factories other than by James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars), such as Kempton’s, Richardson’s, Stuart & Sons, John Walsh Walsh, and Thomas Webb.


Later Scottish Glass

Antiques Magazine No.925, 29 June – 5 July 02

pp 50 & 51. Tracing the history of Scottish glass from ‘Clutha’, by James Couper & Co., through Monart, Vasart, Strathearn, Edinburgh & Leith and Caithness, with passing reference to John Deacon and William Manson.


Twentieth Century Glass – Collecting and Investing

Antiques Magazine No. 852, 11 – 17 Nov 2000

pp 62 & 63. A brief survey of 20th century British glass and the reasons for collecting and investing.



In addition to acting as consultant on books and to auction houses 20th Century Glass is happy to advise both private and public collections on their aquisitions.

We also provide a sourcing service, please email for details.

UK institutions who have purchased from Nigel Benson include: The Victoria & Albert Museum; The British Museum; Broadfield House Glass Museum; and The Geffrye Museum.

Nigel has advised on, and helped to form, a number of important public and private collections, including a large part of the 20th century section of the renowned Michael Parkington Collection.


Below - Publications we have been involved in through writing and consultancy

Millers Collecting Modern Design ISBN 1 84000 405 3 - available in reprint

Published by Mitchell Beazley ISBN 1 84000 538 6 - Out of Print. A few copies available, see below

Catalogue to the exhibition

A few copies of "Millers Guide to Collecting 50's & 60's Glass" are available. Additionally, copies of the only publication about 20th century British cut glass, the catalogue, "Art Deco to Post Modernism, a Legacy of British Art Deco Glass", with erratum, can be purchased through us

© Pictures and text - Nigel Benson - 20th Century Glass, 2008-2012

e-mail: 20th Century Glass

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