Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The 'Chance Brother' of all inventions

It is not an exaggeration to say that Chances were one of the most diverse and experimental of companies. They have an impressive list of accomplishments and here are just a few:

1) They were the first company to introduce sheet glass production to Britain
2) They were the exclusive producers of a very thin glass for use in microslides for over 100 years
3) They were the first company to produce interchangeable barrels and plungers for syringes, revolutionising modern medicine
4) They helped produce some of the first cathode ray tubes for television with John Logie Baird

The records testify to this desire to create new products and improve on others. There are mixture books and reports recording experiments in the laboratory for producing the perfect coloured and textured glass. There are also over 150 patents in the collection for inventions and improvements to glass making processes granted to Chance and its employees. Amongst these are around 20 original letters patents dating from 1842 to 1860 with their original seals and boxes. Letters patents are a legal instrument in the form of an open letter issued by a monarch or government, granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or to some entity such as a corporation. These documents are very large and beautifully illustrated with a large decorative seal attached (please see below). A particular form of letters patent has evolved into the modern patent granting exclusive rights in an invention.

It is also clear from the records that Chances could be ruthless when it came to gaining the trade secrets of other firms. In 1887, Chance director Kenneth Alan Macaulay corresponded with an agent in Belgium called Achille Charlot who had found an ex-employee of a glass manufacturer called Baudoux who would sell their knowledge on how to re-produce Baudoux's ruby glass. Initially, the ex-employee wanted £120 but Charlot managed to bring his price down to £70. This equates to approximately £4,000 in today's money. A bargain for a trade secret, I'm sure you will agree!


  1. good~ keep sharing with us, please....I will waiting your up date everyday!! Have a nice day........................................

  2. I am wondering if you are able to help me, I am doing a research about the lighthouse that was built in 1851 by Chance Brothers Co, in Alacranes reef or scorpions reef in Yucatan, Mexico (arrecife alacranes) in Isla Perez .

    The lighthouse was donated by the Queen Victoria through the Lloyd's insurance company of London to prevent wrecks. Could you please let me know if there are any records, pictures, drafts, plans or documents held on your archives? I would appreciate any kind of information, perhaps you can point me out on the right direction or if I need to approach someone else.

    1. Hi! Unfortunately I no longer work at Sandwell Community History & Archives Service where the Chance Brothers Ltd collection is held. I would advise you to email your enquiry to them and I am sure they will be able to help you. Their email address is