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Stranger than Fiction

Inspired by the Stourbridge 2012 Portland Vase Project

I was asked to be part of the Portland Vase Project because it requires a second furnace to dip case white opal overlay and I willingly agreed.

When Ian Dury had acquired the main people the project was launched with a talk from Graham Fisher who stated that only

Two copies in glass of the Portland Vase have ever been made, one by John Northwood and one by Joseph Locke in 1878. Both replicas are now in the Corning Museum in New York. Well, I was a little intrigued to hear the name Locke because my mother’s maiden name was Locke my maternal grandfather being Arthur Locke.

I am investigating whether there is a link.

Anyway it gets stranger. I asked Ian Dury for permission to film and put up YouTube videos of the progress of the Portland Vase project. He featured in the first one and said the purpose of the project was to promote the many skills of the glass making industry in Stourbridge. As usual, I went off at a tangent and started to do my own thing, really trying to promote the entire industry. I persuaded Plowden & Thompson to donate free the specially designed batch recipe developed by Richard Golding for the colour tests and compatability tests to be done and also for the proper blanks to be made. I filmed what I believed was the background to the project and put that video up. I then filmed the first tests for which I had made a special three chambered glass furnace with pots and put that up on YouTube as well. Then I was asked to stop because the videos were not of a professional quality.

Disappointed? Yes I was a little.

However, I pondered and remembered some years back that I did apply for planning permission to redevelop the site where we have lived for thirty years from a bungalow to a block of flats and I envisaged having an image of the Stourbridge Lion depicted on the side of the building with different coloured bricks. Planning permission for the flats was refused on the grounds of density.

I then conceived

The Stourbridge Lion & Cameo Glass Plaque Project

Looking into the history of The Stourbridge Lion I found it no longer exists and only the boiler is preserved in the Smithsonian Museum in America. However, a full size replica of the Lion is in the Wayne County Museum in the USA.

Another Stourbridge steam loco called the Agenoria, which was possibly the prototype of the Stourbridge Lion, was, after working for thirty years, retired to the York Railway Museum. I made the 310mile round trip to York and came back with a lot of information as well as the full plans of the Agenoria.

I was compelled to take a look at the more famous steam railroad engine, Stephenson’s Rocket, and found that it was actually constructed by combining the best bits from other static steam engines as well as the Lion and the Agenoria. The Agenoria had been working for some six months when Stephenson’s Rocket won the £500 Rainhill Trials and the contract to supply locomotives for the new Liverpool to Manchester Railroad. This next bit is the Stranger than Fiction - On the day of the opening of the L&R line 15 September 1830 George Stephenson drove the leading locomotive “Northumbrian”. Stephenson’s apprentice drove “Rocket”. William Huskisson, who was a serving Member of Parliament, was knocked down and killed by Rocket. The name of the apprentice driving the Rocket was another Joseph Locke.

Joseph Locke 1805-1860 was a notable English civil engineer - Driver of Rocket at the opening of the L&R line September 1830
Joseph Locke Cameo Glass Artist 1846-1936 made Replica of Portland vase 1878