Dartington Glass, as it was known until the 1980s, was born in 1967 as one of the Dartington Hall Trust’s social enterprises in North Devon. It quickly became the most recognised manufacturer of simple yet functional glassware in the UK. Dartington's vision was built on a clean and simple design style, handmade using age-old techniques of Scandinavian roots. For over 50 years, many notable design figures have come together to use their passion and skill to grow the brand into what is now the only remaining factory scale producer in the country.
Our story actually begins in the south of the county in 1920. A wealthy American heiress, Dorothy Elmhurst and her Yorkshireman husband, Leonard founded the Dartington Hall Trust to assist with the economic regeneration of rural areas. Dartington Glass was conceived as one of these Social Enterprises, but it needed to achieve commercial success. This led to the employment of 16 Scandinavian glass blowers who were invited to the UK to teach their English colleagues the skill of making glass.
Design through the decades
Every piece of Dartington Crystal starts its life as the vision of its designer which today, is led by our accomplished head designer, Hilary Green. In 1986 Hilary graduated from the Royal College and was named the winner of the Dartington sponsored RSA bursary. Prior to this, the success of the company is owed to the most accomplished designer of the 20th century, Frank Thrower. Between 1967 and his early death in 1987, nearly every Dartington design is credited to Frank, many of which remain bestsellers. Among his design accolades was the selection of the ‘Sharon collection’ for the ‘100 Best Ever Products’ exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Today Dartington Crystal is not only the leading UK glass manufacturer but we are an award-winning visitor attraction in Devon too. We encourage visitors to take our Factory Tour to gain a behind the scenes look at how our skilled makers turn molten glass into items of true beauty. Our Visitor Centre hosts exhibits and information depicting the six decades of Dartington’s story. As well as supplying retail stores throughout the UK and export markets, we supply many leading businesses and luxury brands with bespoke and exclusive products.
Making Dartington Crystal
In our Torrington factory, around 1400 pieces of Dartington Crystal are made each day, that is about 350,000 pieces a year. While these beautiful glass products start with an inspired design, their creation from molten material requires the skill and artistry of gifted glass makers. Many of our workforce have amassed considerate experience having trained and worked as glassmakers in some areas for 40 years.
White hot molten 24% lead crystal is gathered on a blowing pipe (known as an iron) before it is mouth-blown, and hand crafted into shape. Only basic tools are used to produce the correct form and dimensions, plus a large element of physical effort, skill, precision and judgement. Once cooled at a controlled rate, the item is then finished and carefully inspected with only the finest quality allowed to carry the official Dartington stamp of quality.